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Open Country
Sat  6.10 - 6.35am
Thurs 1.30 - 2.00pm (rpt)
Local people making their corner of rural Britain unique
This week
Saturday 10 February 2007
Listen to this programme in full
Oak Woodland
In this week's Open Country, Richard Uridge is looking at the forest and not the trees.

Forests contain some of the best undiscovered clues about our prehistoric past. Those mysterious humps and bumps and unusual ground features in woodlands could be more than land slip. They could be the remains of an ancient settlement.  

Richard meets Dick Greenaway a woodland archaeologist, who teaches Richard how to interpret the lumps and holes found in old woodlands. He’s responsible for helping train volunteers to learn to look at woodlands for traces of history as part of the woodland archaeology project in the North Wessex Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Along with Dick is Janet Welsh , a local botanist. She says knowing what plants inhabit a wood are key to guessing its age. Plants like bluebells and wood rush are usually good indicators that a wood is hundreds of years old.

Richard then meets some of the people who make practical use woodland archaeology. There’s Nigel Petter from the Yattendon Estate – a 9,000 acre estate that contains nearly 2,000 acres of woodlands. He explains to Richard why it makes good business sense to know what, if any, ancient sites are there.

Jim Gunter is one of the volunteers trained by Dick Greenaway. An amateur archaeologist, he takes Richard around a wood in Wiltshire, pointing out features. His ultimate wish, would be to discover the whereabouts of a missing mansion, started by England's  former Lord Protector.

So what sort of people used ancient woodlands? Who left these traces? Professor of Archaeology MikeFulford from Reading University gives some information. From atop a bronze age rampart in Silchester, he shows Richard traces of the sort of people lived in the area prior to it being a woodland.

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