Thousands of years of history in a dynamic environment
A wealth of information about human development and changing landscapes can be found where the land meets the sheltered waterway of the Solent.
This landscape is constantly changing but along the New Forest coast you’ll find a wide range of environments including open water, extensive mudflat and saltmarsh, offshore sandbanks and tidal estuaries. All of these have been influenced and shaped by the people travelling through and living in the area, their settlements and industries, resulting in a diverse coastal heritage.
The coast’s varied archaeology demonstrates a legacy of human occupation and development from early prehistoric man through to the present day. Our ancestors have left glimpses of their lives littered as archaeology along the coast. These clues build a fascinating picture of coastal trading, warfare and economic activities; developing, thriving and ultimately disappearing along the New Forest coast, including saltworking, shipbuilding, smuggling, iron working, fishing, maritime trade and national defence (see Hurst Castle drone footage above).
Climate change, sea level rise and constant coastal change throughout history and particulary in this modern era are impacting on this archaeology. Sites are being revealed, damaged and in some cases destroyed, so it is important that we learn as much about our history as possible before it is lost.
We learn from the past that people were very adaptive and resourceful. Communities moved with the changing coastline, survived and prospered, developing into the societies we live in today. What tomorrow holds is uncertain, but human nature, endeavour and lessons from the past can help us look forward with a positive attitude and encourage us to make the changes needed to survive and prosper on our coasts.