Quantock Hills Blog

Protecting our Quantock heritage

- Work to protect a scheduled monument on Cothelstone Hill is about to begin.

Iain Porter

Posted by Iain Porter on 16 January 2014

Protecting our Quantock heritage Work will soon be starting on Cothelstone Hill to protect a scheduled monument which currently has a clump of beech trees growing on it near to the Seven Sisters beech trees.

The trees, to the left of the Seven Sisters in the photo,  will slowly be removed over the course of 4 years and a replacement clump planted nearby, away from any heritage assets.It is important to note that these are not the original Seven Sisters beech trees, but the small clump of trees nearby.   The monument is a heritage feature thought by English Heritage to be a medieval pillow mound.  This is a type of artificial rabbit warren used to farm rabbits for their meat and fur which became popular with lords of the manor after the Norman conquest, partly as a way of displaying wealth and status. In Hazel Riley’s book ‘The Historic Landscape of the Quantock Hills’ she writes:
” ..there is a large pillow mound on the top of Cothelstone Hill, within the area of the medieval deer park.  This is one of the best examples of a pillow mound on the Quantock Hills. It is 27m long 12m wide and more than 1m high with the remains of a ditch.” [P.99]

Cothelstone Hill has been managed by the Quantock Hills AONB Service on behalf of Somerset County Council since 1986, and the success of previous agri-environment schemes meant that in 2012 Cothelstone Hill was entered into a Higher Level Stewardship Scheme (HLS). This HLS scheme is in part recognition of the quality of biodiversity at Cothelstone Hill which is important for breeding bird assemblages, especially for species such as Yellowhammer, Redstart and Linnets.  It is also an important site for fungi such as the waxcap species, which are nationally rare.  The scheme has identified restoration works to the heritage features, including the requirement to remove the clump of trees over the scheduled monument.

English Heritage is concerned that the roots of the trees could start to cause damage to the scheduled monument. There is also the risk of wind blow due to the exposed location of the site, where the whole root plate is uprooted which would cause significant damage. Unfortunately damage is already being caused due to erosion of the surface layers of the scheduled monument due to the herd of Exmoor ponies, which use the location for shelter.
The AONB Service has secured funding (through the HLS scheme) for the planting of a replacement clump of beech trees, which will be planted in autumn 2014, near the top of the hill and away from the heritage assets.



Comments in chronological order (Total 3 comments)

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  • No avatar available
    John Fisher

    08 Feb 14

    Before any such action is taken I think it should be more widely publicised.
    I’ve visited the site since 1969. The trees being talked about were planted then deliberately to replace the then-existing full ring of old trees which were reaching old-age, but a really impressive feature. This was a reasonable plan- it has taken the 45 years since then for the ‘new’ trees to reach a more mature size, as the old ones fell and were removed.

    The ‘Seven Sisters’ were always referred to as such, and are a landmark for miles around. Only yesterday I was remarking on them from Ham Hill.
    The top of Cothelstone is a real mixture of man-imposed activites through the last 4 thousand years. If you look on the pioneering HER (Somerset Heritage) website there was no indication of any known warren. Perhaps you are aware too of the hill’s war-time use for example, with ant-aircraft guns against planes attacking Bristol, Cardiff, Swansea and Plymouth- hence the buried iron-mongery on the ridge & the buried corrugated shelter just down-slope where the gunners got some degree of shelter.
    PLEASE issue a press release to local radio, TV & papers. I only heard of this by a chance conversation- it should have been explained in the Gazette before it got to a stage of saying ‘this IS going to happen…’.
    I think you are going to upset a LOT of people.


    PS. Please note I am a great supporter of what the wardens and others do to keep the Quantocks available, attractive & conservation friendly. But this sounds very ill advised….

  • No avatar available
    Christopher Miles

    23 Feb 14

    The Seven Sisters trees have long been an iconic landmark on the Quantock Hills, visible from many miles away and a fitting attribute to an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The trees planted near them were planted many years ago in order to continue the presence of this living landmark when the original Seven Sisters had died or had to be removed for safety reasons. Removing these trees in case their roots ‘might’ possibly cause damage to a hidden ‘Norman Rabbit warren’ is an act of pure vandalism. If you care so little about the beauty of this area you might as well plant wind turbines all over the Quantock hills in order to secure our future power requirements.

  • No avatar available
    Simon Dacey

    09 Mar 14

    This is a very poor decision to remove these trees at a time when they are just ready to replace the 3 remaining Seven Sisters which are on their last legs; thus maintaining the most important visual feature of the Quantock skyline. The ‘thought to be’ ! pillow mound has no real significance apart from being an artificial heap of earth where rabbits may have lived.
    I would have thought there are far more suitable items to concern English Heritage; the lime kilns scattered about the Quantocks which arn’t being preserved, the only mine engine house on the Quantocks at Dodington, Dowsborough Fort to name but three. This is a petty and arbitary course of action on the part of public bodies supposedly serving us, the local people.

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