Stanwick Lakes: Bronze Age barrow freed from decades of brambles

Irthlingborough Bronze Age bowl barrow

How it looked: Regular visitors said they had no idea a burial mound was hidden under the weeds and brambles

A Bronze Age burial mound hidden under 40 years’ worth of grass, weeds and brambles is being restored as part of a £250,000 ancient history project.

Regular visitors to Stanwick Lakes nature reserve, Northamptonshire, have said they had no idea the site – known as a barrow – was even there.

An excavation in the 1980s discovered human remains and items from graves.

Heritage co-ordinator, Nadia Norman, said the work was intended to preserve the site for another 4,000 years.

Irthlingborough Bronze Age bowl barrow

It has now been cleared as part of a project to tell the story of the people who lived here in the Bronze and Iron ages

Finds from Stanwick Lake Bronze Age burial mound

Archaeologists discovered grave goods in the burial mound, including flints, Whitby jet beads and a Beaker ware pot

The scheduled monument is one of a number of interlinked Neolithic and Bronze Age barrows, excavated ahead of gravel extraction work in the mid-1980s to early 1990s.

Mrs Norman said it is “the only one existing in the county which the public can access by footpath”.

“The excavation found the remains of a man aged 25 to 35, with a Beaker ware pot, jet beads from Whitby and a flint dagger,” she said.

“And there was also a secondary cremation burial, which had a Baltic amber ring and a copper dagger.”

Nadia Norman, heritage coordinator

Nadia Norman hopes the project will help visitors to the Stanwick Lakes nature reserve explore its heritage

Volunteers and rangers spent six weeks in the summer heatwave clearing the site of grass and brambles, as part of the three-year National Lottery Heritage funded project.

The barrow is about 2m (6.5ft) high at its centre and about 40m (131ft) wide, including encircling ditches. It is largely intact – apart from where a Victorian railway line cut through.

Next stages of the work include removing an earth bund, put up to prevent damage from gravel extraction lorries, and protecting it from burrowing rabbits.

The project will also fund the building of a Bronze Age-style boat and an Iron Age farm settlement as the focus of a living history experience – the first Iron Age round house is already being built.

Mrs Norman said it aims to bring the heritage revealed by the excavations to the nature reserve’s visitors.

“The barrow is a really special place with a really special feel to it,” she said.

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