The Avon valley has a rich and diverse history. There is evidence of modern eary human activity from the gravel right up to modern day activities. A brief outline is given below.
The Avon Valley and its tributaries like this is one, the Lin Brook here in flood, are like all river valleys in the south of England, the result of many hundreds of thousands of years of action from ice cap melt water. As the ice from the main Ice Ages and the many “mini Ice Ages” that occurred in between them melted, it sent huge rivers across the northern parts of Europe of which Britain was then a part. These rivers were responsible for tearing the landscape apart, ripping out minerals like flint from the chalk and then depositing them in the valleys it had created. When these rivers were at full power they would deposit large quantities of gravel and as the sea levels rose they slowed depositing sand and silts. When the next Ice Age came along the sea levels would lower and the rivers cut deeper into these deposits causing terraces only to have the whole area disturbed and filled once again with deposits from more melt water. It was on these terraces that the earliest visitors came and settled to hunt by these ancient rivers. Amongst these early humans were Neanderthals and our own ancestors.
The gravels and sands have been extracted for building purposes from the Avon Valley for many years. In the early days it was removed by hand in small gravel pits and as a result many ancient tools were recovered. Over 400 from the Salisbury Avon alone. Even though extraction is now very high tech and few finds are recovered, handaxes still come to light in the Avon Valley.
In the valley and especially in the New Forest to the west are to be found evidence of the hunter gatherers who roamed the dense forests of northern Europe. After the last Ice Age, hunter gatherers roamed the northwest peninsula of Europe that was to become Britain. When the higher sea levels broke through, forming the English Channel and joining the North Sea to the Atlantic, our Island was formed. The hunter gatherers who had up to this time shared the same ways as their kind across Europe and beyond now started to develop an individual culture. This is reflected in the blade technology tool types that now became different here to those on the rest of the continent. Flint core and removed blades
Small blade technology
Small hunting associated flint tools like these microliths used as barbs and arrow tips reflect the skilful use of flint in what was to become a very specialised technology.
At the source of the river Avon on the chalk landscape where it starts to form, there are the great Neolithic monuments of Stonehenge, Durrington Walls and Avebury. A huge Neolithic landscape on the productive chalk farmland greatly prized by these early farming people. In the river valleys also these people settled and farmed and evidence of their presences is to be found in the form of their burial mounds called long barrows in which partial burials were placed representative of the whole group, and in finds such as their own distinctive flint tool types of axes and arrowheads.
Oblique and two leaf shaped arrowheads.
The Bronze Age
With the coming of metals, copper and bronze, Britain found itself slowly being colonised by a new and very different tribal group, beginning with the beaker people. Instead of the community based culture of the Neolithic, a system of hierarchy and a people led by ruling groups or families. Farmers just the same but a people that buried individuals in elaborate graves with grave goods and provisions for the after life. These round barrows can be found in many numbers nation wide. The valley has many ploughed out barrows that show on aerial photos and more extant ones along the upper terraces and across the forest.
There are various types of barrow in the region this is an example of a double barrow.
Barbed and tanged arrowheads (broken barbs from use)
Thumb nail scrapers typically Bronze Age style
Burnt flint from burning mounds (hot rocks thrown into a trough of water as a cooking method) are to be found in large numbers all over the area.
New cultures spread north from their original area in what is now Switzerland. The La Tene culture established itself with the coming of the new metal, iron and would go on to become the Celtic race including the Gauls of France and the many tribal groups that made up the Iron Age peoples of Britain. The valley is guarded over by Iron Age hillforts such as Frankenbury and Castle Ditches in Whitsbury, with smaller forts like Gorley Hill, Castle Piece and Castle Hill in Burley close by. Castle Piece entrance, a small fort on a gentle slope in the woods in the New Forest.
The ramparts on the southern edge.
Early Mid Iron Age pottery from an iron age site on the valleys edge near Woodgreen.
Iron Age linear feature in the forest, probably land division boundaries.
After the invasion the local population soon settles down to Roman rule and many of the local village sites slowly transform into Romanised villages. Villas are built such as at Rockbourne and farms are spread up through the valley about every half a mile. Of course these farms do not just spring up out of nowhere but are rearranged from existing lands that have been farmed for centuries, utilising the fertile soils and water meadows. Sites are many and excavations reveal pottery in large quantities as well as other occupational evidence. The pottery is mostly of the local types from the New Forest Pottery Industry that was established in the forest and supplied much of the south of England with grey wares and very delicate fine wares.
Medieval to Modern
From rabbit warrens to hunting lodges, enclosed forests to bee gardens, as the historic period begins the landscape develops and many different associated landmarks can be found in addition to the developing villages and towns, churches and buildings. Here a pillow mound is testament to the importance of food production as they are the remains of the early factory farming of rabbits.
The photo above shows a medieval bank and ditch enclosure of Ridley Wood.
A Bee Garden
A Bee Garden, an area protected from the animals outside where bee hives were placed.
Turnpike Toll Road defences near Ringwood to stop toll avoidance stretched from the road on both sides down to the marshes below, on either side of the toll gate. Eastern end
“Naked Man” Hanging Tree. All that remains of the Wilverley Plain Hanging tree. A new oak tree has been planted along side.
Forest and Common land boundary markers.
Milestone on the forest.
Wartime use of the valley and forest
Evidence of the use of the forest and Avon Valley are well represented mainly in the form of air fields and their associated buildings, a large bombing range where the bouncing bomb was tested and a prison of war camp. Ibsley Air Field has now been mostly removed in the form of gravel extraction and the many forest air fields have been, according to the wartime contract, returned to heath land. However the control tower at Ibsley is to be rebuilt and preserved and many of the bunkers and pill boxes are still extant and there is a great deal of interest in preserving what is left of this important chapter in our islands history. Rifle shells and bullets from one of the many firing ranges in the forest.
The main bunker on Ibsley Top over looking the Ibsley air field.
Prison of war camp
Prison of war camp at Setley near Brockenhurst
Bomb crater near Hasley Hill.
Stoney Cross Air Field main runway.
Landing light housings.
Derelict air field buildings.
Remains of travelling gypsy communities in the forest.
Old GPO telegraph pole reused as a fence post.
Tractor wheel slowly rotting into the landscape.