STUDENTS from the University of Winchester have been granted almost exclusive access to a scheduled monument thanks to a partnership with Historic England.

The collaboration focused on Merdon Castle, near Hursley, providing a learning facility for students. In return the heritage organisation benefits from the young people’s research.

The first cohort of archaeology and geography undergraduates have already been able to practice their survey skills at the castle using ground penetrating radar, magnetometers and resistivity meters.

Hampshire Chronicle: University of Winchester students at Merdon CastleUniversity of Winchester students at Merdon Castle (Image: University of Winchester)The site, which is not usually open to the public, is important as it contains the remains of a Norman castle built on top of a Late Bronze Age or Early Iron Age hillfort.

READ MORE: Work to secure remains of historical castle now completed

In addition to learning how to use the various types of survey equipment and to analyse the data it produces, students must also learn how to carry out their work without damaging or disturbing the sensitive site.

Dr Monika Knul, lecturer in archaeological and geographical geomatics, said: “This is a great place for students to participate in real-world research programmes as they would in their professional life.”

She added that the castle could provide a fund of dissertation topics for archaeology and geography students as well as scope for archival research for those studying history, saying: “We are very grateful to Historic England for providing this training opportunity so close to Winchester which feeds into so many subjects.”

Hampshire Chronicle: Merdon CastleMerdon Castle (Image: University of Winchester)Work to secure the remains of the castle was recently completed thanks to £240,700 grants from Historic England. The landowner provided additional funding.

SEE ALSO: Exhibition of work concerning the human body coming to University of Winchester

The work included adding a protective layer of earth and grass to the tops of ruined walls to stabilise the structure and capping and consolidating a 400ft deep ‘bottomless’ well.

These improvements have stabilised the structure so it can be removed from the Heritage at Risk Register.

Elspeth Faulkner, Historic England Architect, said: “Merdon Castle has spent many years on the Heritage at Risk Register, and it was critical that a programme of repairs was undertaken now to avoid further loss. A new partnership with the University of Winchester holds exciting possibilities for discovering more about this historic site while helping students develop important skills.”