Medieval Convent May Halt Turbines; Opponents of Wind Farm Say More Research Needed on Site's History

Article excerpt

Byline: Neil McKay

MEDIEVAL nuns could haunt plans for a pounds 12.5m wind farm in County Durham.

Developer Banks Renewables want to build five 115-metre turbines near Hamsterley Forest, close to the home of TV botanist David Bellamy.

But local residents, supported by archaeologists, say work could destroy the remains of a medieval convent in the proposed site, which is likely to be of at least regional importance.

And Mary Fraser, an archaeologist based in nearby Barnard Castle, said geophysical surveys have indicated there was a convent on the site and more archaeological work needed to be done to establish the exact nature and importance of the settlement.

She said: "I don't believe Banks Renewables has carried out sufficient research to establish the precise location of the convent. There would have been a mixture of buildings, some ecclesiastical, some residential and some agricultural.

"Durham University has carried out a geophysical survey which indicates the presence of a settlement.

"It could well be that a dig is required to find out more about the nature of the site."

Ms Fraser has written a report on behalf of Hamsterley Upper Gaunless Action Group (Hugag), which is fighting the wind farm scheme.

She said the convent was clearly marked on the Ordnance Survey map of 1859.

"The site is crossed by the proposed access track to the wind farm.

"The walls of the convent were said to be still visible in 1853, when they were removed," she said.

"'It is understood that the local farmer has previously commented that he felt there was definitely something in the area because he could feel the plough tugging when he worked this land. …