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Archaeology for all

Joan Cundill is Chairman of New Forest Access For All, a charity highlighting the access problems faced by members of the community in the New Forest.

On a beautiful warm afternoon in early October, a group of people using mobility scooters, wheelchairs and/or pairs of legs assembled at the former World War Two airfield near Beaulieu for a site visit to explore some of the historical features uncovered by the LIDAR survey of the New Forest.  

We were members and friends of New Forest Access For All (NFAFA) and our walk leader was Lawrence Shaw, Heritage Mapping and Data Officer for the National Park Authority, who explained how LIDAR worked and what we were going to look for.  

Our primary interest was in looking for remnants of the old World War Two American air force base, which was in use from 1942 -1950. However, there are many other artefacts in the area; from Bronze Age burial barrows to some features from World War One.

We had great fun trying to spot things using the maps created by LIDAR.  We found the site of the old control tower and two large letters in concrete, ‘BL’, the identifier code for the airfield.  One small grass-covered mound just to the north of the airfield turned out to be the site of the old control centre.  

We also saw hedges and raised earth banks which marked the holding pens where planes were kept spread out around the perimeter, and gravel areas now covered with heathland which marked the old runways.  We will never look at mounds and ditches in the Forest in the same way again.

On the way back, we had to wait while nine New Forest ponies, on their way back from a drink at Hatchet Pond, walked slowly across our path in single file asserting their ancient right of way.

As we returned to the car park, a military helicopter flew very low over us in a personal fly past – it was a wonderful end to the day and a fitting tribute to the ghosts of the old airfield.

NFAFA is an independent charity run by volunteers which works to improve access to the New Forest area. NFAFA was established in 1997 by a small group of people who were determined to improve the quality of life for people with disabilities.  It is run by a committee and has various meetings and events which are open to all.

To find out more email

Photos courtesy of Mike Cundill and Paul Stallard.

This entry was posted by Communications on Thursday 09/10/2014


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