A TEAM of archaeologists has been awarded a quarter of a million pounds for heritage activities – including digs and surveys – centred around the Valley of Stones.

Past Participate CIC has received a grant of £249,344 from the National Lottery Heritage Fund for a new project – Living amongst the Sarsens: Revealing the Hidden Heritage of the Valley of Stones, between Littlebredy and Portesham.

The ancient site has an unusual train of sarsen stones – boulders strewn across the valley, tumbled down from the ridge during the last Ice Age.

Experts say it is very likely that some of the stones used in stone circles and standing stones on the Ridgeway came from here.

The project will engage volunteers in archaeological surveys and excavation, and deliver a range of lectures, guided walks and opportunities for people to become involved through art and creative writing activities.

It focuses on discovering evidence of human activity within this part of the Dorset National Landscape and will culminate in new signage at the valley in 2027.

Dr Anne Teather, Executive Director, Past Participate, said: “We are thrilled to have received this support thanks to National Lottery players and are confident the project will engage many more people, both local and holidaymakers, in discovering more about this exceptional local heritage in a beautiful landscape."

Past Participate has partnered with Natural England to learn more about the history of the Valley of Stones landscape.

Dorset Echo: Valley of Stones in west DorsetValley of Stones in west Dorset (Image: Historic England Archive)

Experts from Historic England are contributing to the research, and the group have also received support from the Dorset National Landscape Programme Farming in Protected Landscapes.

Past Participate Volunteer Freda Ellis said“I've walked through the Valley of Stones for years, and always felt it was a very special place with secrets waiting to be revealed. It's a great thrill for me to be able to join in with this exciting project”.

Last year Past Participate discovered a polissoir - a Neolithic polishing stone - in the Valley of Stones.

This extremely rare artefact would have been used to make stone axe heads over 5,000 years ago when axes were vital tools.

Dorset Echo: Polissoir, or polishing boulder was used for make stone axe heads in Stone Age EnglandPolissoir, or polishing boulder was used for make stone axe heads in Stone Age England (Image: Historic England Archive)

Read more: 'Extremely rare' Stone Age discovery made in Dorset

This is not the only archaeology in the Valley of Stones and its landscape, there is also important evidence of farming and monuments, from prehistory through to the medieval period. Despite its rural appearance today, there is also evidence of domestic and industrial life in the past.

Bringing these together in a cohesive interpretation will enrich the experience of people visiting the places today, and for many years to come.

Past Participate is holding a launch event at 7.30pm on Tuesday, April 30 at the Dorford Centre, Dorchester.

Members of the public are invited to come and hear about the project and listen to a talk from Historic England about their recent research using aerial photography to record the archaeology of the Valley of the Stones.

Rob Beard, Reserve Manager Natural England said: “The wealth of earthworks and archaeological remains on the site have a fascinating and complex story to tell and we are really fortunate to have the experts working with us to interpret and understand more fully this special place and the people who made it.”

Read more: Views of historic valley restored after overhead cables removed