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Monday, 14 February 2011

The New Forest coast comes to Lyndhurst

Exploring the seabed of the Solent
The New Forest Centre has become a hub of coastal archaeology thanks to the New Forest National Park Authority.

For the last two years’ Authority archaeologists and volunteers have been investigating the New Forest’s dynamic coastline as part of a joint-funded project.

Their aim was to investigate the 125,000 years of history from the pre-historic period right through to present day.

The ‘Coastal Detectives’ exhibition celebrates the discoveries made and records the unique journey of the project through a series of panels, an interactive game and a series of coastal inspired activities.

‘The New Forest has a vast history, the first people here travelled north from Europe when the English Channel and the Solent were both dry land,’ says the Authority’s Education and Outreach Officer, James Brown. ‘The New Forest provided a good location for a settlement with a wide variety of food, access to fresh water and resources for building. When sea levels rose 7,000 years ago, people settled along the New Forest Coast.’

He continued: ‘With rising sea levels and the risk of climate change it is important that we make a detailed record of the past so that it’s not lost. We’re also looking at how we can predict coastal changes in the future; the New Forest coast is very flat and made mainly from clay and gravel, it’s a soft landscape that can change very quickly. By looking at how change has affected people in the past we can think about how to protect the coast’s future.’

James Brown with volunteers at Hurst Castle
The exhibition is not limited just to dry land. Mark James, Archaeology Project Officer at the Authority, adds: ‘Much of the New Forest’s history is actually underwater, a lot of diving was undertaken to survey known shipwrecks and investigate previously unexplored areas of the sea bed. It is thought that the Solent could have witnessed over 5000 wrecks. There are currently 75 recorded wrecks on the Shingles Bank on the entrance to the Western Solent.

‘This work is so important; the Solent is at risk from offshore dredging, fishing and from the action of the waves, tides and marine life.’

The Coastal Detective exhibition will be at the New Forest Centre in Lyndhurst until the 20 March 2011.

For more information about the Coastal Heritage project visit www.newforestnpa.gov.uk/coastal

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