History brought to life at national park discovery day

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A family discovery day celebrating the heritage of the South Downs aims to bring history to life at the South Downs Centre in Midhurst.

Taking place from 10am-6pm on Saturday, September 24 there will be a chance to try out archery and watch falconry displays as well as an opportunity to discover the secret archaeology recently revealed under ancient woodland in the South Downs National Park through CGI animation, augmented reality and an oral history ‘listening tree’.

Local volunteers involved in the ‘Secrets of the High Woods’ project will be on hand to share their own experiences of playing ‘Indiana Jones’ in the South Downs.

The South Downs Folk Singers will perform traditional local songs throughout the day and locally produced food and drink will be available.

The celebration marks the end of ‘Secrets of the High Woods’, a three-year community archaeology project to uncover the lost archaeology hidden under the South Downs National Park’s woodland.

The project used LiDAR technology fitted in a small plane directing a laser at the ground to measure the reflected light.

This data was analysed to create a 3D map showing all the ‘lumps and bumps’ under the trees and local archaeologists and volunteers then worked on the ground to investigate these sites further.

The project trained a volunteer team to undertake archive and photographic research and capture oral histories to build a picture of the human stories linked to our woods.

The project has been led by the South Downs National Park Authority, in partnership with Chichester District Council and supported by West Sussex and Hampshire County Councils and made possible thanks to a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Among the archaeological secrets revealed was prehistoric farming on ‘an astonishing scale’.

The discovery of large scale farming from before the Roman invasion in the South Downs National Park suggested a degree of civilisation closer to ancient Greece, Egypt or Rome than what was known of prehistoric Britain, archaeologists said.

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