One of the unanticipated legacies of the East Anglia ONE windfarm will be a greater understanding of Suffolk's history.
In the last two years the archaeological works we commissioned have been responsible for uncovering artefacts from the Bronze Age, Iron Age, Roman and Medieval periods, but it seems that the best was saved to last. We worked closely with the archaeologists and made changes to our plans to ensure the Neolithic site could be fully explored.
We commissioned the archaeological work as part of a programme to install underground cables to link our East Anglia ONE windfarm to the national grid at Bramford. Fifty sites along the 37km route were fully excavated following initial investigations along the length of the route, but the final site proved to hold the most significant discovery.
Above: 4,000 year old Neolithic trackway
Around 70 archaeologists at a site near Woodbridge carefully unearthed a 30-metre-long Neolithic wooden trackway and platform, along with numerous other features. Natural water springs, which are still evident in the area, created conditions that led to the incredible preservation of organic materials such as bone and wood. Initial theories suggest the springs could also have been the reason the area was chosen as a special place, over 4,000 years ago.
Beside the platform the skull of an Auroch, an extinct species of large wild cattle, was discovered, and this has been carbon dated to circa 4,300 BC. This is significant because at the time the trackway was built, the skull was already 2,000 years old, suggesting it was an item of great importance. Substantial numbers of white pebbles, not common in the area, were also found beside the track. The positions in which these items were found suggest they were deliberately deposited in a way that had significance to the people at the time.
We commissioned Wardell Armstrong to oversee the entire archaeological work programme, working closely with Suffolk County Council. Up to 400 archaeologists have been involved over the last two years, with a peak on-site workforce of around 250 people at any given time. At the Neolithic site near Woodbridge, Wardell Armstrong supervised teams from Archaeological Solutions (Bury St Edmunds), Archaeology Wales and Cotswold Archaeology, pulling in expertise from across the UK.
It has been an exciting time for the project, preparing for cable installation and unearthing parts of Suffolk’s hidden history. Prior to construction work and the full archaeological works commencing, we commissioned a metal detecting survey along the 37km cable route, followed by 800 small (trial) trenches, for initial excavations to identify any areas of archaeological interest. It was crucial to work closely with the archaeologists, and as a result share in the excitement of unearthing artefacts and sites of historic importance, telling the story of our local prehistory.