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Living amongst the sarsens: Revealing the Hidden Heritage of the Valley of Stones, Dorset

This is our press release for our new project-

For more information and to book for events please read the project and events pages

Past Participate CIC is awarded a £249,344 grant by The National Lottery Heritage Fund to implement a programme of community heritage activities in West Dorset (Living amongst the Sarsens: Revealing the Hidden Heritage of the Valley of Stones, Dorset).

Past Participate CIC is delighted to announce we have received a grant of £249,344 from The National Lottery Heritage Fund for an exciting heritage project - Living amongst the Sarsens: Revealing the Hidden Heritage of the Valley of Stones, Dorset. Made possible by money raised by National Lottery players, the project focuses on discovering evidence of human activity within this part of the Dorset National Landscape, culminating in new signage at the Valley of Stones in 2027.

We have partnered with Natural England to learn more about the history of the Valley of Stones landscape, and to develop improved interpretations for everyone. The project will engage volunteers in archaeological surveys and excavation, and deliver a range of lectures, guided walks and opportunities for people to become involved through art and creative writing activities. Experts from Historic England are contributing to the research, and we have also received support from the Dorset National Landscape programme Farming in Protected Landscapes.  

Three people are sitting around large sarsen boulder, on which the pollisoir is visible
Hayley, Jim and Anne with the polissoir in the Valley of Stones. Photo © Historic England

Last year we discovered a polissoir (a Neolithic polishing stone) in the Valley of Stones. This extremely rare artefact would have been used to make stone axe heads over 5000 years ago, when axes were important and vital tools. This is not the only archaeology in the Valley of Stones and its landscape, there is also important evidence of farming and monuments, from prehistory through to the medieval period. Despite its rural appearance today, there is also evidence of domestic and industrial life in the past. Bringing these together in a cohesive interpretation will enrich the experience of people visiting the places today, and for many years to come.

Past Participate are holding a launch event at 19.30 on the 30th April at the Dorford Centre, Dorchester. Members of the public are invited to come and hear about the project and listen to a talk from Historic England about their recent research using aerial photography to record the archaeology of the Valley of the Stones. 

To book please visit


Commenting on the award, Dr Anne Teather (Executive Director, Past Participate) said “We are thrilled to have received this support thanks to National Lottery players and are confident the project will engage many more people, both local and holidaymakers, in discovering more about this exceptional local heritage in a beautiful landscape”.

Past Participate Volunteer Freda Ellis said “I've walked through the Valley of Stones for years, and always felt it was a very special place with secrets waiting to be revealed. It's a great thrill for me to be able to join in with this exciting project”. 

Wendy Manning, EuCan and Past Participate volunteer said The Valley of Stones is an ancient and interesting place, "far from the madding crowd" to quote Hardy. It's a hidden gem in the Dorset landscape and it's great that this project will be exploring more of its history. I'm really looking forward to being involved”


Rob Beard, Reserve Manager Natural England said “we are really excited to be working with Historic England and Past Participate to find out more about how people have lived in, worked and shaped the historic landscape at the Valley of Stones for thousands of years. The wealth of earthworks and archaeological remains on the site have a fascinating and complex story to tell and we are really fortunate to have the experts working with us to interpret and understand more fully this special place and the people who made it.”

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