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Country Park secrets revealed

PUBLISHED: 17:07 28 July 2010 | UPDATED: 11:50 23 August 2010

Archaeological secrets of a picturesque country park have been unearthed after a week long dig was extended to become a FIVE year project. Volunteers led by Andrew Mayfield, the community archaeology project leader at Shorne Woods Country Park, have worke

Archaeological secrets of a picturesque country park have been unearthed after a week long dig was extended to become a FIVE year project.

Volunteers led by Andrew Mayfield, the community archaeology project leader at Shorne Woods Country Park, have worked tirelessly to uncover the history buried at the 750-year-old site.

On Saturday sounds of swords on shields could be heard as the woodland was transported back to medieval times in a re-enactment by the Woodville Household troop.

History buffs, amateur archaeologists and families attended to watch an era of jousting, fair maidens and Robin Hood come to life.

But it is the secrets under the ground which give an insight in to the amazing history, with the excavation of a 13th century manor house, owned by the de Cobham Randall family.

The 32-year-old, who started the dig in 2006, said: "Shorne Woods has many secrets. This project has helped bring to life an amazing history in one of the most stunning woodland in the county.

"Next year we hope to form a permanent archaeological group at Shorne."

Artefacts from the prehistoric era and more recently WW11, when the area was used as a RAF camp and home for displaced families during the war, and evidence of clay pit, are also plentiful.

He said: "This is our fifth year and we are now uncovering the courtyard which gives an excellent feel for how the Randall Manor estate was laid out.

"But this is not the only fascinating part of the woodland. There is evidence of pre-historic man. Certainly men and women from thousands of years ago have at different times occupied and passed through this site.

"We have found splinters of flint that were used to make tools and then left behind. At the top of the hill these men would be able to look down across acres of land to hunt. They were certainly highly intelligent and very capable, just like us but without today's technology.

"Boot polish, tins of Brylcream and shrapnel have been discovered showing Shorne's vital role in the war."

Randall Manor is thought to have been occupied between 1250 and 1350 before the family moved to Allington Castle, after which it fell into disrepair and was torn down by locals looking to reuse the stone.

Since the project started the excavation team have found foundations, the main building walls, a medieval toilet and window frames. It also thought a chapel is somewhere on the site.

Thousands of peg tiles and medieval pottery have been carefully removed, with many discoveries on show at the visitor centre, opened in 2005.

Mr Mayfield added: "North Kent has a rich historical past, its closeness to the Thames made it the perfect area to settle. The amount of quarries in the area and redevelopment have started unravelling the county's secrets."

"Television programmes like Time Team have reinvented interest in archaeology. We have a number of volunteers working on the site and we have taken guided tours giving people and schoolchildren a chance to see an excavation taking place right before your eyes. It's been a facinating project."

In June we revealed Neanderthal man lived in Britain up to 40,000 years earlier than previously thought. Tests on sediment found burying handaxes near the M25/A2 junction at Ebbsfleet date back 100,000 years to the ice age.

The Shorne dig closes this week. Plans to create the Shorne archaeology group will be investigated further and it is hoped the site can be opened up again for vistors.

Mr Mayfield wants residents to get in touch with their memories of the country park. Call him at the visitor centre on 01474 823800.

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