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Gold Hill's wall gets a weeding
Gold Hill, the iconic Dorset street made famous by a bread advertisment
Gold Hill, the iconic north Dorset cobbled street in Shaftesbury

Gold Hill, the steep cobbled road in Shaftesbury, has had its wall cleaned.

It is also being surveyed as part of a new monitoring process to ensure it is preserved for future generations.

Gold Hill, and its wall, is one of Dorset's most recognisable landmarks - known internationally for its role in a television advert for bread.

The 180-metre-long wall is "well loved" by both visitors and residents, but its maintenance over previous centuries had been more casual.

Weeding the wall

Gold Hill wall in Shaftesbury has its vegetation removed
Special equipment was needed to remove the foliage from the wall

The survey and measuring instruments used during the extensive clean will mean that any changes to the wall's structure can be monitored.

The two-day weeding process involved a team of four men removing all vegetation and roots that had grown along, and through, the wall.

If left unchecked they would have eventually damaged the wall's structure.

The space behind the wall has gradually been filled in with soil, and now reaches near to the top of the wall and forms the gardens of nearby private homes.

Cllr Lester Dibben, Shaftesbury's Mayor and Chairman of Shaftesbury Town Council, said:

"We were getting comments from the public about the amount of foliage on the wall, and if the wall was safe, so we asked the Dorset Countryside Ranger Service to have a look at it.

"We also decided to do a survey of the wall."

Grade I listed

Giles Nicholson and Cllr Lester Dibben, Mayor of Shaftesbury
Giles Nicholson, Dorset County Council, and Cllr Lester Dibben, Mayor of Shaftesbury

Before work on the Grade I listed wall began, the Town Council had to apply to English Heritage for permission, but this is not the first time the 14th Century wall has been worked on.

He said: "We know at the turn of the [19th] Century there were trees coming out of it, and there were attempts to maintain it and look after it before.

"But it's vital the wall is preserved."

The cobbled road of Gold Hill is the responsibility of Dorset County Council.

The properties on the east side of the hill are privately owned.

But the maintenance of the wall itself is being shared between North Dorset District Council and Shaftesbury Town Council, who decided to work on the project together.

They then contacted Dorset County Council to examine the feasibility of cleaning up the wall.

Challenging

Vegetation growing from the wall prior to its removal
The Mayor of Shaftesbury said people had noticed the changes in the wall

Giles Nicholson, Senior Ranger for Dorset County Council, led the work on the wall.

He said: "It was an unusual job for us.

"Normally we work in public spaces and places like nature reserves and this was quite a quirky thing to do, and quite a challenge.

"It's a very steep hill to work on, but we got a kind of 'cherry picker' crane in, which also allowed us to do a survey of the wall."

Now that the wall has been cleared of infant elder and sycamore trees, and weeds, measuring points along the wall will keep track of any changes, and enable regular checks and readings.

"Proud"

Gold Hill wall after its clean, looking up Gold Hill
The 180-metre-long wall was built in the 1360s

Cllr Dibben said: "The wall is looking amazing, it's very interesting to see its structure exposed, and when people visit they see an impressive wall.

"Everyone here is very proud of the wall and concerned that we look after it.

"We don't really know how old it is exactly but we know it's very important to the history of Shaftesbury.

"It doesn't just run up Gold Hill, it runs through the history of Shaftesbury itself, and we need to learn more about it and look after it, so we don't get concerned about it again in the future."

The exact origins of the wall are unknown, but it is likely it was built in the 1360s, after the abbess [or female superior] of the Abbey of Shaftesbury was given royal permission to build town defences.

Of the famous bread advertisement that helped publicise Gold Hill the world over, Cllr Dibben said: [The association with the Hovis ad] has its pluses and minuses - it's surprising how many people think the wall is in Yorkshire rather than Dorset.

"But as the economic recovery continues I hope we can use the wall to better effect in the future.

"We're the wall's custodians and we need to look after it."




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