Flag Fen opens for the summer

Flag Fen, one of Peterborough's main tourist attractions, is re-opening today - thanks to the hard work of a group of volunteers.

There were fears the Bronze Age archaeological site would have to shut permanently when it closed for the winter because of problems with funding - which meant all its paid staff were laid off.

But more than 50 volunteers have been working for free over the last few months to get it ready to open at weekends.

The 3,000 year old mile long ritual wooden walk way is the largest Bronze Age site in Europe. Archaeologists believe half a million trees were used to build it - and it would have taken around 200 years to finish.

Volunteer Acting Manager James Beatty says the fact they have been able to open at all is testament to the hard work of everyone who has been working for free:

"This place has always been kept going by volunteers - and they have been fantastic this year.

"All through the winter they've been making sure the entrances and pathways are safe, the education teams have been taking bookings for schools to come round. Had we just shut up over the winter, none of this would have been done, and we wouldn't have been in a fit state to open.

"They'll be coming in at the weekends to man the tills, making bronze, flint knapping, painting faces, sitting in the roundhouses and telling stories - all the things which make Flag Fen special.

"And it's all because the volunteers don't want to see this place going under."

James has been taking Heart reporter Amanda Akass on a tour of the site.

The line of poles marks the path of the walkway

Click here to listen to James telling the story of Flag Fen.

The 3,000 year old wooden remainsOne section of the site which has been excavated by archaeologists is kept in carefully controlled damp conditions so the ancient wood does not rot in the open air.

Click here to listen to the next part of the tour.

Bronze age roundhouseThe 20 acres of farmland at the site, on the Droveway at the very edge of Peterborough,  have been reconstructed into a Bronze Age landscape - complete with fields, rare sheep, and roundhouses kept warm with log fires.

Click here to find out more about the roundhouses.

James is hoping one day they will be able to secure more permanent funding to allow the site to open throughout the week - and employing paid staff again.

"Every year we've been going out with the begging bowl. But I really look forward to the day it will be free to enter for everyone as part of what Peterborough has to offer.

"Look at it today - it's beautiful. This is a completely natural park and a real historical monument, internationally known as the world's biggest Bronze Age site. Peterborough should be proud of it."

They are hoping to get help from Peterborough City Council in the future - Councillor Matthew Lee, deputy leader of Peterborough City Council, would just say: "Peterborough City Council and the trustees of Flag Fen Archaeological Trust are working in partnership to secure the long-term future of Flag Fen."

Bronze age sheep!You can find out more about Flag Fen by going to their website.

The site opens from 10am - 4pm at weekends.

They also stage regular re-enactment events at the site - Roman gladiators will be visiting on May 2nd and 3rd.

Click here for more news.