Conserving a Roman Road in Branston

April 15, 2023 by Mark Knight

Environmental Conservation and Cultural Heritage: a happy conclusion at Bean’s Covert.

During the course of 2017, a small team of volunteers from the U3A led a project to investigate the long-held local knowledge about the survival in Bean’s Covert of a section of Ricknield Street, the Roman road from Wall to Little Chester.  The project demonstrated that the road had survived and was in reasonably good condition, although declining due to lack of local recognition and damage from a couple of sources.  Transforming The Trent Valley were asked to lead the project to remove scrub, bramble and upgrowth from the known course of Ricknield Street, and in 2022 and 2023 were able to do so with the help of Branston Friends Group and Burton Conservation Volunteers.  The volunteers from Branston Friends were able to learn the basic principles of environmental conservation for heritage and historic monuments.  The course of the road, some 200m through Bean’s Covert in Branston, lies beneath tree cover, and these trees have been left in situ.  The woodland had had a significant amount of rhododendron removed and where these had been, space was left in the hope that woodland wildflowers would grow.  It was not so, and the open spaces had been quickly colonised by bramble.  The bramble, of fairly low ecological value, obscured the line of the road and required management.

Led by TTTV, Branston Friends group, working with local community groups and Burton Conservation Volunteers have managed to reduce the bramble growth on the road almost to nothing, and this, if sensitively managed, will allow celandine and other woodland wildflowers to carpet and protect the site.

Once cleared of bramble and upgrowth, the road is clearly apparent to the eye, the top of the curve of the agger or convex road surface standing up to 45cm higher than the level of the surrounding land surface, and approximately 8m from side to side.  The adjacent ditches or fosses, either side of the road are also visible in places, although very silted due to accumulation of soil and leaf litter over the centuries.  The remaining road does not appear to have been damaged by ploughing.  The trees on the site are protected by a tree preservation order.

Survival of Roman roads in this condition is rare in an urban setting; this remaining section of Ricknield Street in Bean’s Covert deserves care and conservation for current and future generations.

Dr Mark Knight

Cultural Heritage Officer

Transforming the Trent Valley