History is on our side, say opponents to 300-home housing scheme on woodland

Basingstoke Gazette: Historian Zoe Smith with some of her finds at Great Covert Historian Zoe Smith with some of her finds at Great Covert

THERE are calls for centuries-old woodland threatened by unplanned housing development to be classified as an ancient monument.

Sandra Smith and her daughter, Zoe, claim the area around Great Covert covering the parishes of North Baddesley and Valley Park is known to be a rich source of archaeological finds.

They believe that Taylor Wimpey’s plans to build 300 homes in woodland off Castle Lane could damage the area’s rich past and want English Heritage to look into whether the area around Castle Hill is worth ancient monument status.

Mrs Smith has already sought the support of Valley Park Parish Council chairman and Test Valley Borough Councillor, Alan Dowden.

Both Sandra and Zoe are avid historians and have been logging North Baddesley’s past for many years.

Zoe, 46, has spent hours walking fields and byways in the area looking for artefacts and she has picked up ancient tools and other old treasures.

“My daughter has found hundreds of flint tools and she is totally convinced that the whole area of the ridge from Castle Hill to the old church (St John’s at North Baddesley) was once a Stone Age village and that it should be declared an ancient monument and I agree with her,” said 71-year-old Sandra, who has lived at North Baddesley for 43 years.

“This is a place with a lot of history which should be protected. Zoe has tons of finds that she has discovered in the whole area around Castle Hill. The numerous flint tools that can be found over the length of the ridge would seem to indicate a very large ancient settlement,” said Sandra.“Zoe hasn’t done any excavations, just field-walked the whole area and picked up the tools from the surface.”

Pledging to do all he can to get experts in to look at the area’s archaeology, Mr Dowden said: “I don’t know what is there but they should be doing some investigations before even thinking about building there. I hope that English Heritage do look at it.”

Mr Dowden has asked Hampshire County and Test Valley Borough Councils to ask English Heritage to carry out a survey of the area.

“Mistakes were made in the past with certain areas of Knightwood, Valley Park, and many important sites have now been built on. We must make certain the local gap between Valley Park and North Baddesley is fully investigated and any findings recorded and designated,” added Mr Dowden.

In a 1998 report published by Wessex Archaeological acknowledges that in an assessment of the North Baddesley region “five areas of high archaeological potential” were identified.

This included an area south of Zion Hill Farm which the report says “may have contained evidence for Romano-British activity, including pottery” and areas south and east of the village “may have contained evidence for medieval settlement”.

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