Added to our Ranger Team's programme of clearance in November 2020 this prehistoric entrance grave, on Porth Hellick Down, has been cleared of Bracken and Gorse and will continue to be actively managed and looked after by the Isles of Scilly Wildlife Trust Team, with follow up finer clearances from our local Community Archaeology Group.

This Scheduled Ancient Monument (SAM), found on Porth Hellick Down, St Mary's, includes a prehistoric entrance grave and forms part of a "cairn cemetery" containing at least eight other cairns dispersed across the central area of Porth Hellick Down.  

The cairns in this cemetery vary in form but at least six of these are entrance graves, forming one of the largest surviving groupings of this type of monument. ~ Historic England

As with many of our ancient sites SAM 1011947 had been enshrined in Gorse and Bracken for a number of years; with just a capstone visible above the vegetation. So overgrown in fact that many were probably unaware of it’s existence.

Archaeological and historic sites provide us with a tangible link to our past and, once destroyed, they cannot be replaced. They contain a veritable treasure trove of information about how our ancestors lived and died, how they managed the land and how they shaped the landscape that we live in today.

Some may question why time is spent clearing such monuments, assuming they are better protected covered in vegetation and hidden from view; however this is not always the case.

Many of our Islands' Scheduled Ancient Monuments are included on the Heritage at Risk Register as a result of the damage caused, either directly or indirectly, by vegetation.  Bracken & Gorse can obscure sites making them harder to monitor and more vulnerable to
accidental damage; additionally the plants’ roots are substantial and penetrate the ground deeply which can cause extensive damage both below and above the ground.

As well as damaging the monuments Bracken & Gorse grow rapidly and out compete our smaller heathland plant species; thus creating habitats that are less interesting ecologically and less likely to support a wide variety of different animal and plant species.  It is hoped that, in time, a more diverse selection of our Islands’ smaller plants (whose root systems are less damaging) will start to return to this exposed archaeological, heathland site; including species such as Tormentil, Heather, Sheeps-bit, Heathworts, and Lousewort.

These tiny flowering plants will improve the floral diversity of the area, complimenting the remaining patches of Gorse & Bracken, as well as ensuring this newly uncovered Scheduled Ancient Monument remains visible for all to see, as they walk across Porth Hellick Down.

“This entrance grave on Porth Hellick Down has survived well, retaining clearly the original form and construction of its mound and its chamber. Its good survival is reflected in this monument being quoted as an exemplar of the boat-shaped chamber plan in the recent study of this monument class.” ~ Historic England

You can help ensure that this, and other vital conservation work across our islands, can continue for the benefit of wildlife and people, now and for future generations by donating, becoming a Member or a Friend; safe in the knowledge that every penny donated is spent on conservation work in Scilly. 

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