Using innovation and forward thinking Landmarc staff, based at Salisbury Plain in Wiltshire – have achieved a ‘Highly Commended’ Corporate Green Award from The Wiltshire Wildlife Trust in the category of Environmental Land Management, Conservation or Food Production. The award is for our programme of ‘meshing’ scheduled ancient monuments.

As DIO Ops Training’s partner, Landmarc Support Services Limited are responsible for maintaining and managing archaeological features on Salisbury Plain.  There are over 800 tumuli, located throughout the 96,000 acre military training estate, most of which is designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).

In order to protect the scheduled ancient monuments from damage by burrowing rabbits and badgers, staff on Salisbury Plain have been using rabbit netting or chain-link mesh over the past 10 years to cover the monuments – rather like a carpet – to stop the animals destroying the archaeological features.  (As badgers are a protected species Landmarc use one-way gates, under licence from Natural England, to ensure that any badgers present are sensitively excluded.)  Over time the grassland vegetation starts to bind around the mesh which allows grazing to be introduced on the monument as a means of controlling scrub growth and in turn improves the grassland and SSSI.

The programme, which currently covers approximately 50 monuments, is funded using money from DIO Ops Training for improvement works and also from Landmarc’s maintenance budget for archaeology.  Once meshing has taken place, the maintenance costs attributed to that monument are much reduced as no vermin control should be required and the vegetation is easily controlled by introducing grazing.

Grazing is a far more effective and sustainable method of vegetation control compared to mechanical and/or chemical control methods. Grassland areas including monuments can be grazed by tenant farmers on Salisbury Plain without the need to fence off monuments from livestock. The primary purpose of meshing scheduled ancient monuments is to protect the cultural heritage which is so abundant and is an important part of the environment of Salisbury Plain.

The award was presented to Esther Smeardon, Rural Estate Manager and her team by Matthew Powell of The Wiltshire Wildlife Trust.