Historic Desborough Castle site under siege from antisocial behaviour attacks

An aerial shot of the Desborough Castle site

One of Buckinghamshire’s most famous ancient monuments is fighting a modern day battle against the effects of fly tipping and antisocial behaviour.

Desborough Castle in High Wycombe, the site of an ancient hillfort dating back to the Bronze Age, has suffered for years with dumped rubbish, vandalism and countless instances of antisocial behaviour in and around its centuries-old setting.

Such is the concern, Historic England recently added the Castle to its London and South-East Heritage at Risk list, describing the fort as ‘generally unsatisfactory with major localised problems’ including vandalism.

With recent local press coverage branding the area a ‘grot-spot’, Buckinghamshire Council says that although efforts have been made, more is needed to improve the historic community space.

One initiative that’s helped is the National Lottery Heritage funded ‘Beacons of the Past’ project. Managed by the Chilterns Conservation Board, in collaboration with the Council and Chiltern Rangers amongst others, actions have included tree work, the construction of anti-littering measures, a campaign to address antisocial activities and promotion of the history and significance of the site to the local and wider communities.

While Buckinghamshire Council Cabinet Member for Culture Patrick Hogan praised the project, he said it was clear more needs to be done to conquer the problems.

“I’d dread to think what our Bronze Age ancestors would say if they could see the site today. Its last battles should be confined to the history books, not being played out in the modern day with rubbish dumpers and antisocial activity. This site is such a community benefit and it should be a beautiful, tranquil and tidy setting for everyone to enjoy.”

Patrick continued, “Although there’s been concerted efforts to improve things, we need the support and cooperation from everyone to get this situation turned around. For example, there’s really no excuse for the regular fly-tipping when our own High Heavens waste site is less than 2.5 miles away and takes most of the household waste we see dumped for free, seven days a week! We’ve also installed ‘no tipping signs’ to deter dumpers and CCTV has been used, but still we continue to get problems.

“I really hope we can appeal to everyone’s better nature to behave responsibly and do the right thing so this historic site can sit proud once again.”

Speaking on behalf of Chiltern Rangers who manage the site, Operational Director Tony Speight said: “Fly-tipping and littering is a problem we are fighting at all of the woodlands we manage but unfortunately Desborough Castle is probably the worst. It’s so sad to see, it’s harmful to wildlife and it’s ruining a scheduled monument.

Tony added: “How many people are lucky enough to live close to not only a great little woodland where you can see animals including Tawny Owls, but also an ancient fortification? It is hard to understand why anyone would want to deface such an important place. But we can solve this by working together, being responsible and taking pride in our local environment.”

The public can report fly-tipping online 24 hours a day by using the Council’s Fix My Street website at www.fixmystreet.buckscc.gov.uk

Details about how to report anti-social behaviour can be found  at https://www.wycombe.gov.uk/pages/Community/Community-safety/Report-anti-social-behaviour.aspx

The Council say they are happy to investigate fly-tipping offences if evidence is provided by local witnesses who either see someone they can identify dumping or if they find traceable evidence. Fly-tipping officers will also examine dumped waste for evidence that could lead to a conviction, a heavy fine or even a prison sentence.

To find out more about Desborough Castle, please search for it on the Buckinghamshire Heritage Portal at https://heritageportal.buckinghamshire.gov.uk/