Thanks to a £19,800 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), South Somerset District Council is delighted to announce the Ham Hill Ranger Team will be starting work to restore the Heritage landscape in Witcombe Valley, part of Ham Hill Country Park.
This summer (2016), the Rangers and volunteers will be working together on a practical project to enhance the habitats, wildlife and heritage in the bottom of Witcombe Valley.
They will be digging out the old medieval pond and then bringing to the surface the piped stream that currently runs underground through to the very bottom of the Valley. A series of small ponds and streams will be created, and with new marginal planting, fabulous habitats for wildlife will be created. Early in the year you will see the Rangers starting to pollard the old willow trees that sit in the valley bottom.
Apprentice Ranger Andrew Painting explains “There has been a stream running through Witcombe Valley for centuries. Some locals may remember that it used to run from the pond in the middle of the valley to the brook at the bottom. It was diverted underground a few decades ago to improve the land for farming. The stream is still there – it’s just in pipes below our feet.
“The Valley has a fascinating history including the steep Iron Age rampart slopes of the ancient hillfort and the later medieval village that was deserted in the 16th Century: the pond and stream are at the centre of this social history providing the midden site of the village. We will be working with local archaeologists to better understand its heritage, and also running events and field trips for local schools. The other benefit is that streams are really good for wildlife, from otters to dragonflies to rare plants. We’ll be documenting all of the new species that use the stream with the help of Somerset Wildlife Trust. Finally, we are doing it because we think that it will make an already beautiful area an even more attractive place to visit.”
Councillor Sylvia Seal, Portfolio Holder for Leisure & Culture said, “We are delighted that the Heritage Lottery Fund recognises the landscape and wildlife value of this project. To celebrate the completion of the project in the autumn of 2016 the countryside rangers will be organising a mini medieval fayre in September, with re-enactors and family activities so everyone is invited to come along and explore the new valley feature and its history. Keep an eye out in the press and on our social media accounts for event details”.
The works will take place throughout 2016 and access to the valley should not be affected. The project brings plenty of opportunities for practical volunteering and also school visits. The Rangers are hosting a mini exhibition about the project, at the Ranger’s Office (TA14 6RW) on March 3rdbetween 3.30 – 6.30pm, everyone is welcome to attend to see the plans, discuss volunteering opportunities and plan trips and school visits that link to the curriculum.