Tree Graffiti on Barrow Clump

Project Florence volunteers Kathy and Roger identified some interesting tree graffiti when working out on site at Barrow Clump. As a keen members of the Bulford Conservation Society, they recorded these pictures and messages, known as arborglyphs, and wrote about them for our blog:

Arborglyphs are pictures, words or numbers carved on tree trunks. They are most commonly carved on beech, lime, or aspen trees because of their smooth bark and are created using a bayonet or some form of knife. Those found around Salisbury Plain have so far been found on beech trees.

The arborglyphs found at Barrow Clump include pictures (an eagle and a phoenix like creature), names and dates. These arborglyphs are all military based and made by soldiers possibly when on exercise. The earliest dated to 1916/17 and were carved by the New Zealand Imperial Forces, who were probably based near the Kiwi at Bulford Camp. Arborglyphs are a useful tool for archaeologists and local historians, as messages can be as old as 250 years, at which age beech trees reach maturity.  

645 Arborglyphs at Barrow Clump

Dan Miles from English Heritage, and two members of the Bulford Conservation Group surveyed and recorded the arborglyphs at Barrow Clump during the Operation Nightingale excavation. When recording, there may be more than one arborglyph per tree, so we begin by attempting to separate each message from the others. The letters/numbers of each message are written down on the recording sheet and then the complete arborglyph is measured and photographed. The tree is identified by a photograph which includes a measuring rod, and its circumference is also measured. Some of the markings may have deteriorated but these are photographed too as sometimes the letters/numbers may be clearer on the photograph. Civilian arborglyphs are also found, usually in the form of a romantic message e.g. John loves Jane, and may include a date. It is sometimes possible to find information about the names on the trees through further research.

646 Kathy teaches members of the Young Archaeologists' Club about the Barrow Clump arborglyphs

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