Shropshire Star

Sunrise vigil planned to protect Oswestry hillfort site

Campaigners battling plans for for a large housing development in the shadow of Oswestry's ancient hillfort will hold a sunrise vigil at the site on Sunday.

Impressive aerial view of the Old Oswestry Hillfort which is under threat

The early morning procession is being organised by members of Hands Off Old Oswestry Hillfort, a group campaigning against proposals for new homes to be built close to the 3,000-year-old Iron Age monument.

The campaigners are inviting residents to attend and to retrace the steps of their ancestors in a walk around the hillfort to mark the Celtic celebration of Imbolc.

Imbolc, also known as Candlemas or Brigid's Day, follows the winter solstice, signalling the first signs of Spring and the return of light to the world.

From the top of Old Oswestry at around this time of year, the sun can be seen rising over The Wrekin, another very important Shropshire hillfort.

Organisers say the alignment of the sun between the two earthworks would have been significant to their tribal inhabitants, as was the view between the hillforts across the uninterrupted Shropshire plain.

Campaigner and organiser Maggie Rowlands said: "In keeping with ancient tradition, we will walk clockwise around the hillfort."

Ms Rowlands added: "People can bring snowdrops in pots, lanterns and drums just as our ancestors would have done to welcome in the beginning of spring."

The Hands Off Old Oswestry Hillfort group has set up a petition against plans for housing near the ancient monument.

Areas of land around the landmark have been put forward as potential development sites for housing under Shropshire Council's SAMDev planning process which will govern where houses are built in the future.

The move sparked an online petition which attracted nearly 8,000 signatures against the plans.

The campaigners are urging for the hillfort's setting and views from and to it to be safeguarded from development.

They say that there should be a full archaeological assessment made before any decision is made on whether three parcels of land near the hillfort which are proposed for development should be put forward as potential sites in the SAMDev process.

Campaigners told a packed town council meeting on Monday, called to look into the SAMDev proposals, the hillfort site could be developed into a tourism magnet while others said the hillfort is second only in importance to Maiden Castle, near Dorchester.

The sunrise event on Sunday is free of charge.

Anyone wishing to join the event should meet at Old Oswestry's western entrance at 7.30am in plenty of time to be able to catch views of dawn breaking at about 7.55am.

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