Viking Barrow Cemetery, Heath Wood

©English Heritage/K Fearn
©Dr Julian Richards

Region: East Midlands

Local Authority: South Derbyshire

Owner Type: Religious Organisation

Funding Body: Forest Enterprise; English Heritage

Year of Intervention: 2002 - 2004

Summary: Heath Wood: Excavation and preservation of the only known Scandinavian cremation cemetery in England.

Description: The site is located at the centre of Heath Wood in Ingleby parish, on the south side of the Trent Valley, 10.5km south of Derby. The cemetery originally comprised some 59 barrows or burial mounds.
Issue: The barrow cemetery is located in woodland originally planted in the C17 and replanted by the Forestry Commission. The majority of the barrows are visible as low earthworks, the condition of which has deteriorated over the years as a result of tree and shrub cover, principally Rhododendron and also from the presence of a large rabbit population. The barrows were also at risk from inadvertent damage during forestry thinning operations. Questions regarding the date and funerary rites practised in the cemetery remained unanswered from early excavations of the site
Strategy: Forest Enterprise and English Heritage produced a five year Management Plan for the monument which commenced in 2000. This entailed initial clearance by Forest Enterprise staff of trees and shrubs from and adjacent to the four principal barrow group. Annual management of re-growth is underway with the aim of creating grassy glades on and around the barrow groups, ensuring protection from further root and windthrow damage. The rabbit population is also being managed. Three seasons of excavation, directed by Julian D Richards for York University and Marcus Jecock, English Heritage, followed the initial clearance to assess condition and further characterise the site.
Outcome: This is a good example of the benefits of working in partnership. The objectives of the Management Plan are being met utilising the skills of Forest Enterprise staff under the supervision of the English Heritage Field Monument Warden. The woodland glades will take several years to establish on the principal barrow groups and will require constant management to prevent woodland regeneration. The Management Plan will be renewed after a review in 2005.

Keywords: Assessment and Characterisation, Management Plans, Preservation and Maintenance

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