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Rescue News

Number 106
Spring 2009

A Barrage Too Far?

Green energy will cost us too much

The Napoleonic fort at the end of Brean Down, where the barrage could range of nearly 50 feet, is the sec- of the barrage schemes. In real- material is currently exposed, it will
leave the English shore to cross some 10 miles of estuary. As well as military ond highest in the world, and means ity the archaeological resource is never again be available for archae-
remains, Brean Down is also exceptionally rich in prehistoric and Roman that there is an extensive and ever- many times larger than these gures ological study. A small consolation
sites. (photos:© Mark Horton) changing inter-tidal zone. The mas- suggest – we need to think of the is that it will probably survive, until
sive currents create scouring and Estuary as some 150 miles of con- the barrage is abandoned in 100’s of
On 27th January 2009, the Govern- The other alternatives include 2 erosion, continuously revealing new tinuous archaeological landscape. year’s time!
ment announced a shortlist of 5 much smaller barrages close to the and unknown archaeological sites The proposed barrages will have a There is however a much bigger
schemes, from an original list of 10 line of the Severn Bridges, and two and features. The Severn Estuary catastrophic impact on this archae- story as to why we need to oppose
options, to construct a tidal barrage tidal lagoons on the Welsh and Eng- and Levels Research Committee ology.
across the river Severn between lish sides. Clearly this is very green the barrage proposals. The Severn
have studied several over the years, The 10-mile scheme threatens the Estuary is an extraordinary natural
south Wales and England. The most energy, but we as archaeologists and the discoveries of Martin Bell English site at Brean Down: one of
ambitious is a 10 mile concrete and should be concerned because these phenomena; it has an amazing tidal
and John Allen of Reading Univer- the classic archaeological sites of range with an ever-changing land-
rock wall extending from Brean schemes will do irreparable to the sity are particularly well known. Britain currently managed by the
Down in Somerset to Cardiff. This historic environment. scape, as the tide comes in and goes
Over the last 20 years the estuary National Trust. The site comprises out, sometimes with currents of over
would cost around £15 billion, is The Severn Estuary is one of the has revealed evidence for Mesolith- sensitive archaeological remains
estimated produce around 8 giga- richest, still largely unstudied ar- 15 miles an hour. The light shim-
ic footprints, prehistoric settlements, from the Bronze Age to the Napo- mering on the sand-ats, and the ex-
watts of electricity – around 5% of chaeological resources in the United prehistoric, Roman and medieval leonic era. Construction work at
the current national consumption. Kingdom. The extraordinary tidal traordinary sunsets across this huge
ships, Roman ironworking sites and Brean Down is likely to have a huge expanse of water will be changed
settlements, as well as more recent impact on these remains, while its forever. The huge and rich wildlife
activities such as quays, sh traps scenic quality jutting out into the that uses the salt marshes will be
and hulks. Sites such as Wentloodge Estuary will be lost forever. radically affected and of course the
levels and Magor are well known for Equally worrying but much more Severn bore will disappear.
providing a completely new insight difcult to assess is the impact of There are alternatives. A range
into the prehistoric coastal econo- the change of sea level within the of new technologies are being de-
mies of southwest Britain. barrage. While there will still be a veloped, to harness the tide using
The English side of the estuary ‘tide’, its range will be very much underwater reefs, turbines and tide
is much less well studied than the smaller, like a neap tide, rather than generators. These could be used, but
Welsh, but an indication of the scale the huge range of spring tides. In the government is much less keen
of the threat is shown by a recent, consequence the land now covered to explore these alternatives and
survey of the Gloucestershire and by spring tides will dry out and turn none of them made it to their nal
Somerset side of the estuary funded from salt marsh to pasture. This ‘dry-
shortlist. Clearly the big barrage is
by English Heritage based largely on ing out’ will mean a huge swathe of
a highly attractive project to help to
air photography, identied over 348 organically preserved material and
solve our renewable energy target
prehistoric, 186 Roman, 631 medi- deposits will be lost; probably the
by 2020, but the cost to the wider
eval and 1798 post medieval sites largest acreage of loss of an archae-
environment, both natural and his-
(see http://www.gloucestershire. ological resource ever to have taken place in this country. toric, will be devastating.
The upper Severn estuary at Lydney, Glocestershire; a typical low tide scene, The survey identied 9 areas where The story at low tide is equally Mark Horton,
showing the remains of 18th and 19th century Severn trows surviving in the the deposits were of national or grim. Because the tide will not Dept of Archaeology and
mud. There are several hundred unrecorded hulks in this area of the estuary. greater signicance; of these 8 will achieve the current low levels, Anthropology
(photo:© Mark Horton) be directly affected by one or other where most of the archaeological University of Bristol

Inside Also featured: ● Finds Research Group AD

● Heritage risk of Heathrow expansion ● Be careful what you wish for: ● Stonehenge Visitor Centre 700–1700
(after the loss of the HPR Bill) ● Marine and Coastal Access ● HMS Victory salvage claim
● Crisis for British Archaeology Bill
● NVQs in Archaeological
● Save Broadeld House Glass Museum ● History of neglect: Labour’s Practice awarded
● The ‘Nighthawking’ report: Illegal record on heritage by
detecting and antiquities trading ● Ilisu Dam halted Jeremy Hunt MP ● BAA winners