23/11/2017
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New stage of conservation work begins at Ring of Brodgar stone circle at the Heart of Neolithic Orkney World Heritage Site

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The next steps are underway to conserve the 4,000-year-old Ring of Brodgar, one of the largest stone circles in Britain, Historic Environment Scotland (HES) has announced.

The low lying position, exposed terrain and proximity to two major bodies of water have long posed drainage challenges at the site, with the combination of wet weather and soft turf paths resulting in boggy conditions and wear to the turf.

To tackle this, HES began a programme of improvements in 2016, which are now nearing completion, with replacement of some areas of turf and the temporary restriction of the inner circle path. To help keep the locally cultivated turf healthy, £10,000 is to be invested in new equipment for the Kirkwall-based Monument Conservation team.

What conservation work will be carried out?

Stephen Watt, HES District Architect, explained how the work will be carried out: 'We’ve examined techniques used at other Neolithic sites, such as Stonehenge, to create a hidden system that allows natural drainage without disrupting the important archaeological layer.

'By layering with a geotextile membrane, gravel, sand and perforated pipes topped with wear resistant turf, water can be drawn away from the pathways, without the need for deep excavation. We are now working to replace some areas of worn turf, while we allow all of the recently laid turf to bed in over winter and spring.'

Inner path restrictions

Restrictions to the inner path has now begun and signage and fencing will direct visitors to the outer pathway, which affords a clear view across the site.

From spring 2018, restrictions on the inner circle will be lifted and a new management plan implemented. This will see alternating routes round the circle introduced to allow parts of the pathways to rest and the addition of temporary raised walkways over the access causeways, where footfall is concentrated.

Guided walks at Ring of Brodgar

Orkney World Heritage Site Ranger Sandra Miller explained how the new access will work: "The Ring of Brodgar combines a stunning natural beauty with the archaeological legacy left by Orkney’s Neolithic society. We want to make sure that people can keep enjoying it year round, with continued access to the inner ring path. The work that’s been done over the last two years and the new management plan will make sure that visitors can continue to experience the full thrill of the site.

"Our free guided walks will be continuing on through the winter months, with walks on most Thursday afternoons. I'm looking forward to being able to tell our visitors about the latest work.

For more on Ring of Brodgar, visit the Historic Environment Scotland website.

(images copyright Historic Environment Scotland)

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