Lottery grant for £660,000 virtual dig of South Downs

PLANS to uncover the secret history of the South Downs National Park using airborne laser technology (Lidar) and communities on the ground have won £661,800 backing from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

While the South Downs is famous for Iron and Bronze Age monuments, more than 17,000 hectares of the national park lies under ancient forest and almost nothing is known about this area.

The ‘hidden landscapes of the High Woods’ survey will look at the most densely wooded area between the river Arun and the A3.

Anne Bone, cultural heritage officer for the national park authority said: “This is the first time the area under the trees will be mapped in such detail. Lidar technology in a small plane will direct a laser at the ground and measure the reflected light.

“This data will then be analysed to create a 3D map showing all the ‘lumps and bumps’ under the trees. In the final stage we will be working with archaeologists and community groups on the ground to investigate further.

“There are a few aerial photographs of this area which open a tantalising window into the hidden past of the South Downs. There is so much we don’t know about the history of the people who lived here and if we don’t know what’s there, how can we protect it for the future?”

The project will be led by the national park authority, in partnership with Chichester District Council and the support of West Sussex and Hampshire County Councils.

James Kenny, archaeology officer at CDC said:“We particularly value the potential for community involvement and the better understanding of our shared heritage it will promote.”