VOLUNTEERS have stepped in to protect the best preserved section of an Iron Age monument from further decay.

Just The Job, a social enterprise for adults with special work needs, has started work with English Heritage to clear overgrown scrub surrounding Scots Dyke scheduled monument, in Richmond.

The work is intended to reveal the 2,500-year-old 6m-high dyke and 6m-deep ditch for people to appreciate from the nearby public footpath.

The dyke, which took the Brigantes tribe generations to build the dyke with stones and rubble, runs north for 12 miles from the River Swale near Richmond to the River Tees, near Stanwick, across privately-owned land.

Neil Redfern, English Heritage’s principal Inspector of ancient monuments, said while the dyke may have been built as a tribal boundary, it was possible it was constructed around the time of the Roman invasion as a defence.

He said suggestions that it was built as a defensive wall to ward off invaders were strengthened by Stanwick standing at its northernmost point, which was a stronghold of the Brigantes tribe during the early stages of the Roman occupation of Britain.

Mr Redfern said: “It really was a marker in the landscape and as it was a substantial piece of civil engineering, using hillsides and slopes, which would have required a major community investment both to build and maintain.”

It was identified as being at risk in 2008 because it had become overgrown, with vegetation obscuring the monument, causing erosion and providing cover for burrowing animals which can bring further damage so it is essential to remove such damaging scrub.

Landowners with scheduled monuments, which designated by the Secretary of State due to their national importance, are required by law to undertake appropriate management to ensure their survival.

The owners of land over which a section of the wall runs near Darlington Road in Richmond approached English Heritage for advice and in partnership with Natural England, devised a programme of work supported through a £800 grant.

As heavy machinery could damage the monument, the volunteers are using hand-held tools to tackle the vegetation.

Stephen Biggs, of Just The Job, said: “We were delighted to be asked to get involved at Scots Dyke as it makes a good change for the team from the usual work we do in gardens.”

It is also hoped when the work is completed, an information board will be installed. Richmond councillor Stuart Parsons said: “I hope it will help to make people in the area more aware of the amazing history on their doorstep.”