Heathlands are rarely considered as ancient monuments but are in fact a living monument, a living representation of the past. They were the result of the forest clearance and farming practices of the early Bronze and Iron Age communities and were maintained by their continued use and grazing through the medieval period and into the early and mid 20th century. Farmers once placed great value upon heathlands as a source of fuel, grazing and bedding for animals. Great care was taken to manage them properly using rotational burning and extensive grazing.
The heathland quickly became an important component of prehistoric and medieval agriculture, and in turn, farming practices ensured the continued survival of heathland. Gradually a mix of plant and animal species became dependant upon the heathland and the unique human/environment relationship that maintained it.
The rich biodiversity of the NW European heathland is matched by the high number of archaeological sites found within them and their importance as part of the historic environment. The early Bronze and Iron Age farming communities left their mark on the landscape through the creation of stone circles, cairns, field boundaries, roundhouses and the heathlands themselves.
The history of NW Europe has shaped both the people and the natural landscape. This relationship between the natural and historical landscape is a major attraction for many visitors to Cornwall, Brittany and Normandy, yet many people are often unaware that they are walking on a living historical artefact.
The relationship between communities and heathlands was essential to both. The heathland forms a picture of the changing culture and landscape of NW Europe, providing a rare link between the ancient and recent past.