Become an Indiana Jones of the South Downs

Volunteers asessing archeological sites.
Volunteers asessing archeological sites.

The lost history hidden beneath the South Downs National Park’s ancient woodland is about to be unlocked by a team of volunteer archaeologists and historians.

Land owners and members of the local community are being asked to help.

While the South Downs is famous for Iron and Bronze Age monuments such as Cissbury Ring and Winchester Hill, a large part of the central areas of the National Park lie under forests or woodland, meaning that almost nothing is known about their ancient history.

Using the same airborne laser technology that recently uncovered the remains of a huge city at Ankor Watt in Cambodia, the Secrets of the High Woods project has created a 3D map showing all the ‘lumps and bumps’ under the trees. Local archaeologists and community groups will now go out to investigate these sites further.

Rebecca Bennett, who manages the Secrets of the High Woods project, said: “This is a unique opportunity to help unlock the secrets underneath these ancient woods. There are a few archive aerial photographs of this area capturing a tantalising glimpse of features revealed by felling during WWII, but there is so much that we don’t know about the history of the people who’ve lived here over 6,000 years.”

No previous experience is needed as training will be provided and volunteers can choose from hands-on site work, archive research or collecting stories from local people.

Find out more at a special event at the South Downs Centre in Midhurst on November 8 or at

Secrets of the High Woods is led by the South Downs National Park Authority, in partnership with Chichester District Council and supported by West Sussex and Hampshire County Councils. It has been made possible thanks to a £661,800 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund.