A court has ordered a farmer to pay more than £30,000 (over €36,800) for ploughing historically important fields linked to prehistoric and Second World War periods.
Braunton tenant-farmer, Andrew Cooper of Croyde Hoe Farm, appeared before Exeter Crown Court Exeter Crown Court on June 21st, 2021.
Natural England ordered Cooper to stop when he ploughed and planted fields on National Trust-owned land in September 2017.
However, the farmer ignored the stop notice. The court heard he continued to plough and lime most of a neighbouring field as well by March 2018.
The fields in question, found on the Baggy Point headland jutting out on the North Devon coast, are linked to the Mesolithic and Neolithic eras where large numbers of flint artefacts have been found.
They were also used as training grounds by American forces in the Second World War ahead of the Normandy invasion.
They featured dummy pillboxes, trenches and graffiti left by a soldier killed in the landmark battle.
He pleaded guilty to breaching this stop notice in court earlier this year.
‘It cannot be recreated’
Dawn Enright of Natural England said:
“The historic environment is a finite, non-renewable resource. Once it is lost, it is gone forever. It cannot be recreated.”
She said that impacts from cultivation are irreversible.
Over time, she added, they may lead to the complete removal of archaeological remains and the “significant” displacement of remains such as flint tools.
Bill Horner, county archaeologist of Devon County Council, said:
“The making of stone tools by Mesolithic hunter-gatherers over a long period makes this a particularly important archaeological site.”
“It marks the start of a continuous human presence in Devon after the ice ages.”
“While we regret that the agencies involved, despite their best efforts, were left with no option but to take legal action, we are pleased that the outcome recognises the harm that was being done to this rare and important part of our national heritage.”
Mr Cooper was:
- Fined £7,500 with five months’ imprisonment in default of payment;
- Also, ordered to pay £24,000 costs.
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