Good news!

Yesterday I was really pleased to receive a positive reply to my proposal to excavate the site of Newmarket Farm from Natural England’s, Senior Reserves Manager, Malcolm Emery.

I wrote my proposal to conduct an archaeological dig shortly before Christmas, and sent a copy to Malcolm Emery, who is responsible for Castle Hill National Nature Reserve where the proposed dig site is located.

Possible dates have now been set for volunteers to clear the site of its rank vegetation over the next month or two (weather permitting!); the clearance of the brambles and nettles on that part of the nature reserve is already part of the management plan.

The nature reserve is both an SSSI (a Site of Special Scientific Interest) and an SAC (a Special Area of Conservation), and as such is an area which has been given special protection under the European Union’s Habitats Directive. It is understandable that metal detectors are forbidden without formal permission. Many of the rare plants found on the nature reserve only grow on undistured soils. Because of this, I have made sure that the dig site has been very carefully delineated to ensure that none of the protected species and habitats are disturbed. The use of a metal detector is standard policy for an archaeological excavation;

  • to scan the spoil from trenches for metal objects
  • as an aid to identifying possible trench locations (‘geophysics’)
  • they may also help identify the locations of potential unexploded WWII ordnance (the farm was used for artillery practice during the war)
  • they should not be used merely to prospect for ‘treasure’ as part of a planned excavation.

I was therefore pleased that Malcolm Emery intends to forward copies of my proposal to his colleagues who share responsibility for various aspects of the Castle Hill SSSI / SAC.  They are Susan Simpson (Adviser with responsibility for the SSSI/SAC) and Kristoffer Hewitt (Team Leader for the Land Management Team covering the area). Between them, and using the information I sent him in my “meticulous project report” (as you may have gathered – I have a tendency to go on a bit!), the Appropriate Assessment will be completed and he will forward it to me. This is required to secure permission for the excavation under the SSSI / SAC legislative requirements, to ensure that the excavations and associated works will not have an adverse affect upon the notified natural features of the SAC.

He also plans to talk to the neighbouring farmer in the hopes of negotiating terms for easier access. The most direct route to the site is across the field from the radio mast on top of Newmarket Hill. If this agreement is secured, he could get a ‘poor man’s gate installed in the fence line to avoid any need for climbing over it.

Whilst I have been involved in a wide variety of projects in the past, several of which involved liason with a number of different agencies, this is certainly the most exciting. So a big thank-you to Malcolm Emery for helping to make it happen.


Welcome to Newmarket Hill – a South Down Blog!


Two hundred metres above the nearby English Channel, Newmarket Hill crowns that part of the South Downs which lies between the towns of Brighton to the west and Lewes to the east, and between the villages of Rottingdean to the south and Falmer to the north. It’s top is in the parish of Kingston near Lewes, the village of which is about a mile and half away. However, it is now only about a mile to the north-east of the relatively modern village of Woodingdean and a mile and a half to the north-west of the deserted medieval hamlet of Balsdean. Its south-eastern slopes form a part of Castle Hill National Nature Reserve which is a site of European importance. This blog is about the history and ecology of its surrounding downland.

Newmarket Farm by Douglas Holland

Newmarket Farm by Douglas Holland.

In April 2013 I managed – as a volunteer for Natural England – a community based excavation of the site of a 19th century farm labourer’s cottage, farmyard and barns called Newmarket Farm, just inside Castle Hill NNR, near the summit of Newmarket Hill. It was built in 1830 and was the birth place of my mother in 1942, shortly before it was requisitioned for military training by British and Canadian troops stationed both locally and further afield in SE England.

Newmarket Farm location

Newmarket Farm location. Overlay of old and new O.S. maps and Google satellite images.

Some Recommended Blog Entries

Some post-dig updates

Talks, related projects & research

Reports & book

David Cuthbertson:

Some dates for your diary (best viewed by clicking on ‘Agenda’ tab):