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Wednesday, 11 December, 2002, 09:06 GMT
Future assured for ancient rock art
Northumberland rock art
Stan Beckensall spent 30 years studying rock art
The future of some of the world's finest rock carvings scratched on stone thousands of years ago has been assured.

The mysterious prehistoric carvings were etched on exposed outcrops in remote Northumberland and depict abstract motifs and symbols.

They stand on land near the village of Chatton farmed by Duncan Ord, who has signed up to the Countryside Stewardship Scheme which protects traditional farming methods or conserves historical features.

Mr Ord, who runs Chatton Park Farm, has agreed to keep his grazing livestock away from the rock art under the terms of the scheme run by the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).

Without protection the sites were in danger of deterioration, particularly from animals

Stan Beckensall

A trail will be developed to allow people access to the site a few miles from the A1, north of Alnwick.

Rock art expert Stan Beckensall has spent more than 30 years studying the phenomenon across northern England.

He believes the Chatton Park Farm examples were "some of the best in the world".

There has been speculation about the meaning of the symbols.

Theories include that they were maps of constellations, burial markers, and were used in ancient religions.

Wider audience

Examples were first found in Britain in the mid 19th Century and they are believed to date from between 3500 and 2000 BC.

Mr Beckensall said: "Duncan Ord's stewardship is an important step forward in preserving the rock art and bringing it to a wider audience.

"Without protection the sites were in danger of deterioration, particularly from animals.

"These are superb examples of rock art and I would say some of the best in the world."

The proud farmer said he was happy to make the necessary changes to protect the unique art.

'Important markings'

He said: "Chatton Park is a marginal farm where we keep cows and sheep as well as a small arable acreage.

"Our cows were traditionally wintered on the hill where the rock art is, because it offered the animals a sheltered spot whichever way the wind blew.

"But when Stan Beckensall told me how important these markings on the rocks were I was happy to change our husbandry practices."

Neil Clark, a senior adviser at Defra's rural development service in north-east England, said: "The agreement shows the many applications of Countryside Stewardship, not only helping to enhance and preserve wildlife habitats, but also protecting important aspects of our national heritage."


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26 Jul 02 | Technology
19 Apr 01 | Wales
22 Feb 01 | Americas
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