ARCHAEOLOGISTS believe they have unearthed a historic cycle track on Portland.

Mystery surrounds the origins of the site on New Ground which was discovered by members of the Isle of Slingers Archaeology Society (ISAS).

The society is now calling on residents to help unravel the mystery and piece together the story surrounding the track.

It is believed the velodrome could have been of a world class standard when constructed but the identity of the people who built it remains uncertain.

Members of ISAS believe the track pre-dates the First World War and may have been used by military personnel based at the Verne before it became a prison.

Portlander and member of ISAS Glyn Bartholomew said the find was a real surprise.

The keen amateur archaeologist said: “It’s really interesting because it’s something I’ve never heard mentioned and I’ve lived on the island all my life. Nobody has ever mentioned it being there and so to have it suddenly turn-up and to produce something that was probably a world class facility at the time was amazing.

“We believe it’s a cycle track because it’s a 400 yard oval track with a slope on it.

“So as far as we can tell it’s pre-First World War so chances are it’s 1880 to 1890.

“There’s not many around because many have been updated or destroyed and turned into something else so it’s an interesting find.

“There’s not a lot you can do with it but it would be nice to see a bit of it put back to how it was.”

The night porter at The Heights on Portland added: “Now it’s a question of doing research or asking people to come forward with any information or photos to help us identify it.

“Who built it is the big question. I think almost certainly it’s something to do with the Verne.”

ISAS member Denene Reilly added: “We spoke to local residents and they thought it could have been an athletics track but we couldn’t find any information so we decided to dig it.

“All we have at the moment is hearsay that it was a cycle track. We can tell it’s what it could have been used for because the track is banked on both sides with a 10 per cent angle.”

IN November 2004 Denene Reilly, then of the Association of Portland Archaeology, helped uncover a number of historical findings when work started on the Royal Manor Arts College playing field.

Remnants of walls and other structures dating from the Iron Age, Roman and Medieval periods were found on land off Weston Road on Portland.

Excavations at the site began in 2005-2006 with support from a number of agencies and a Heritage Lottery Grant and a plaque was unveiled to commemorate the occasion in May 2008.

In 1966 Susann Palmer discovered the Culverwell site near the southern tip of Portland.

Excavation of the site started in 1967 and continued for the next 30 years under Susann’s direction.

The Culverwell site is thought to be one of the oldest known sites in England where there is possible evidence for sedentary, or at least semi-sedentary, occupation all the year round The site, off Portland Bill Road, has been dated to 8,000 and 8,300 years old and is placed within the Mesolithic or middle stone age.

Artefacts found there are now in the British Museum.