1066 battlefield expected to reopen in the spring

THE 1066 battlefield looks likely to reopen to the public this spring - 18 months after the site was seriously damaged by wet weather.

Visitors to Battle Abbey were restricted to where they could walk on the site and all major events cancelled after the wet weather took its toll on the field.

The 2012 Battle of Hastings re-enactment, coupled with a torrential downpour, left the battlefield resembling a mud bath.

As a result, English Heritage, which owns the site, took the decision to cancel the second day of the re-enactment for safety reasons, citing ‘unacceptably high levels of mud’.

This had a knock-on effect with the town’s bonfire celebrations forced to relocate from the battlefield at short notice because of the poor state of the field.

No major events took place on the battlefield in 2013, to allow time for the area to be re-seeded and rested following expert advice.

The restoration work left English Heritage with a £50,000 bill.

But after months of hard work, property manager Jo Stewart is hopeful the site will be ready for when Battle Abbey switches to its summer opening hours on April 1.

Jo told the Observer: “The repairs are almost completed but we still have a few more repairs to do.

“At the moment I’m hoping that by the new season we will be completely open.

“But of course that is weather dependent.”

Recent heavy rainfall has left the battlefield in a sodden state, while strong winds have uprooted a number of trees on the site.

Jo says English Heritage has to exercise caution when the field does reopen to visitors.

Recent archeological digs on another part of the battlefield uncovered artefacts from the 13th, 14th, 15th and 16th centuries.

Jo said: “It means that just below the grass there is some archaeology which is important.

“So whatever the image (Channel 4 documentary) Time Team give off, we have got to be more careful than ever because there is archaeology down there, from all parts of time.”

So far English Heritage has been unable to confirm whether major events, such as the Battle of Hastings re-enactment or Battle Bonfire, would be able to return to the field in 2014.

Plans for the re-enactment are currently under discussion.

Jo said: “We definitely want to do it, but we really have to rethink how we do it.

“We have to be careful about where we position everybody and how we get lorries and other vehicles on and off the site.

“We intend to have a battle this year and events all over the site, but it needs a lot more planning and thinking.

“We have to be extra mindful because we do not want to get back in the situation we had last year.”