Pett Level, East Sussex

One of the best examples of a submerged forest in the UK stretches for nearly 2km along the intertidal zone at Pett Level , East Sussex.  The trunks, branches and boles that can be seen in the woody peat at low tide are the remains of a forest that grew below the cliffs at Pett about 5200 years ago during the Mesolithic period, when sea level was about 30m lower than today. In the 19th and early 20th century submerged forests were thought to represent areas of land that had subsided into the sea; we now know that sea level has risen. Little work had been carried out at Pett Level until 2014 when Dr Scott Timpany of the University of the Highlands and Islands worked with volunteers from local archaeological societies to survey and record over 150 of the trees on the site and to take samples for dating and species identification. Peat samples were also taken to be analysed for pollen, seed, bud, wood and insects; these remains can help build a picture of the nature of the forest .  Full results from Dr Timpany’s work are forthcoming but early results indicate that open areas existed within a woodland that included oak, willow, birch, alder and ash. These open areas might have been deliberately cleared woodland: Mesolithic flint tools discovered in the cave in the cliffs above the forest (Pastscape ID 417398) and an unworn flint flake recovered from the peats on the foreshore certainly indicate human habitation contemporary with the forest and also show the potential for further archaeological material within the eroding deposits.

CITiZAN will be liaising with Dr Timpany and working with local volunteers to expand on the survey and recording work done in 2014. A SUA survey of the whole site will also be carried out; this will provide a detailed orthogonal mosaic image and 3D model. 


Timpany, S. Investigating a lost land: the Pett Level Submerged Forest Survey in Pett and Pett Level Parish News, December 2014