Special Newsletter Edition

 Dodnor Rediscovered

Did you know the Isle of Wight was at the forefront of Victorian Cement production, even making its own type of Medina Cement. Production stopped around the time of the Second World War, but the site continued as a bagging and distribution facility until the 1990s, when all but one small corner was demolished. This part of the site had been derelict for many years and local children used to sneak in and hide in the 'mummies caves'.

These remaining cement kiln structures,  became overgrown and were deteriorating rapidly.

Our project set about halting the decline, recording and interpreting the structures, discovering the history of the site and people and telling the stories.

The site is on a National Cycle Route, so many people pass by each day. We also manage the Local Nature Reserve, Dicksons Copse and Dodnor Creek, adjacent to the kiln site. It is a wonderful wetland reserve and ancient woodland and has Ramsar designation.

However, it owes it's being to its industrial history, the creek is formed by the damming of a stream for flour milling. So this gave a wonderful opportunity to link people, nature and industry all into an interwoven tale.

The nature reserve was very muddy and wet so we thought this would be an opportunity to create a nature trail for year-round use.
With the help of The Heritage Lottery Fund and the players' of the National Lottery, we employed a team of contractors to clear the site, which transformed way the site looked and inded how it could be used. 

But it still needed a bit of fine tuning, so our conservation volunteers then came along. In the meantime, our heritage volunteers (who were all new to archaeology) were snuggly in their classroom learning how to be archaeologists. Our conservation volunteers moved on to the Local Nature Reserve where they improved the fencing and coppiced willow, working in varied weather conditions.

The contractors then came back and realigned the fence. The purpose of this was to create better views of the kiln site and open up space for a public art piece. The weather started to improve and our conservation volunteers were still removing scrub from the archaeology.

By Spring our newly trained volunteers arrived on site and started to dig trenches.

Their confidence grew as they started to hypothesize what they were finding and the purpose it served. We started to improve our paths in the Local Nature Reserve. In the meantime we were taking display boards to local groups, conducting site tours and surveying the site for flora, to inform the Management Plan.

We were struggling to imagine how the kilns would have looked in their heyday. Particularly as the most visible surviving structures the tunnels. Only served the purpose of supports. So we hit on the idea of asking a local artist to illustrate it, based on information from our archaeologist and other experts.

We gave him a bit of artistic licence the bottle kilns and the chamber kilns weren't operational at the same time, but we really liked the result and it proved useful when explaining to the public as well. We later discovered that the North. South chamber kiln had an arched brick roof.

Volunteer efforts were not limited to excavations. Our team did research into patents, and into the bricks used on site, which came from across the country. Our social history team carried out extensive research into the people who worked at the cement mills, as with many Victorian industries, it was a health and safety nightmare and there were many stories of accidents. One of our volunteers found he had several ancestors who had worked on site.
In June 2018 two exciting things happened in quick succession.

Our interpretation boards went in and our bio-receptive sculpture was delivered and installed. It reflects the three phases of the site, milling, cement production and modern wind energy. It is designed to be a home for wildlife and blend into the landscape. And it’s a seat and cycle storage!

In July we had a conference for all involved in the site. It gave experts and volunteers the opportunity to discuss their initial theories about how the site had developed. It was also a chance for the heritage, nature and social history volunteers to all meetup and tell each other about their work. We did this again in October.

The next day was our grand opening event. The volunteers had asked to play an active role in this, they wanted to guide the public around the site. This was pretty amazing as six months earlier none of them had any experience in archaeology.

Over 230 people attended, many did not know about the site or its history. We were really lucky that our HLF case officer came down for the day, and we did the obligatory thing with the great and the good for our local paper. We also had reenactors, music, artists and other activities.

This wasn't quite the end of the project. We still had some nature identification training to do, and yet more path work. You can never do enough path work!

We have arrested the decline in the condition of the historic cement kiln structures.

We know so much more about the history of cement production on the Isle of Wight, some of which is unique. The remaining Victorian structures have been recorded and records are deposited in the Local Historic Environment Record Centre.

We now have an amazing team of heritage volunteers who are excited to engage in more projects.

We have shared the stories we have discovered on interpretation boards and our website.

We have led walks, given talks and invited the public on to an amazing heritage site.

We have improved access along a public footpath from the cycle track to the river.

We have created a receptive rest stop along a National Cycle Route which interprets the built and natural heritage of the site in itself, as well as being a work of art and home for insects.

We have created a nature trail in the Local Nature Reserve.

We have secured the fencing of a Ramsar site to prevent dogs worrying wading birds.

We have refreshed our Site Management Plan to reflect this project.

This has been an inspirational project and we thank Heritage Lottery Fund for their support.

Visit our website to learn more about the site and how you can get involved with us. 
More Gift to Nature news for you next month, so why not forward this one to a friend? New subscribers always make us happy!

Copyright © *Gift to Nature*, All rights reserved

Want to change how you receive these emails?
You can update your preferences or unsubscribe from this list.

This email was sent to <<Email Address>>
why did I get this?    unsubscribe from this list    update subscription preferences
Gift to Nature · Shide Meadows Centre · Shide Road · NEWPORT, Isle Of Wight PO30 1HR · United Kingdom

Email Marketing Powered by Mailchimp