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Search for Cannock Chase’s Hidden History

 

Thousands of years of history could be uncovered in a new project at one of Staffordshire’s natural treasures.

Cannock Chase has one of the best preserved Great War training landscapes in the country and is the largest remaining area of heathland in the West Midlands, but lost beneath the vegetation are prehistoric burial mounds, early industrial sites, remnants of a medieval hunting forest as well as evidence of a nation making ready for war.

Of particular interest at present are many missing Great War model and practice trenches which now lie hidden by vegetation.

The ‘Chase Through Time’ Project will make use of state-of-the-art LIDAR (light detection and ranging) technology attached to an aircraft to survey the area from several thousand feet. It can reveal the landscape’s archaeology, much of which often survives as earthworks hidden beneath vegetation; all without damaging or removing the familiar trees and plants of the Chase.

Staffordshire County Council, in partnership with Historic England will deliver the project with a £96k grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF).

Mark Winnington, Cabinet Member for Economic Growth at Staffordshire County Council said:

Cannock Chase is a jewel in the crown of Staffordshire. It’s a well-loved Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, but it is also a rich tapestry of undiscovered history and could be hiding some of the best preserved Great War archaeology in the country.

The best part about this project is that using state-of-the-art technology we can uncover some of the county’s lost past without digging up and damaging any part of it. It’s a great step towards protecting the Chase’s natural splendour and preserving its history for the future.

Photographs from the Chase’s history will also become very important as this project goes on. If you have any old photos of the Chase, please get in touch and help us piece together the stories we find.”

Helen Winton, Aerial Investigation & Mapping Manager at Historic England said:

Historic England is excited to be a partner on the Chase Through Time project.

Cannock Chase has some of the best preserved archaeological remains relating to Great War army training in England and we look forward to discovering further evidence of its rich past, to help tell its story and to ensure its future protection, particularly during the centenary commemorations.”

The aerial survey was carried out in May.  Following this, a team of trained local volunteers, working with specialists, will visit potential sites identified by the LIDAR to investigate and record their findings.

A programme of documentary research, to be hosted at the Staffordshire Record Office, will also help to tell the story of the Chase through the last three to four hundred years.

All of this work will culminate in a touring exhibition, mobile app and other interpretive material. Working with colleagues and historians, a commemorative event to mark the centenary of the Battle of Messines in 2017 is planned, a battle to which Cannock Chase was closely linked following the discovery of a model terrain of the Belgium town in 2012 which was used to train troops.

Anyone interested in getting involved in the project, or who has any stories of the effect Cannock Chase has had on their family or indeed would like to share any old photographs please email Stephen.dean@staffordshire.gov.uk.

Ends

Notes to Editor:

About Cannock Chase:
Cannock Chase was designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) in 1958 under the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949 in order to conserve and enhance its natural beauty for future generations. The designation recognises the national and international importance of the landscape. Cannock Chase is part of a family of 46 AONBs in England and Wales.

About the Heritage Lottery Fund
Thanks to National Lottery players, we invest money to help people across the UK explore, enjoy and protect the heritage they care about – from the archaeology under our feet to the historic parks and buildings we love, from precious memories and collections to rare wildlife. www.hlf.org.uk @heritagelottery @HLFWestMids