AN ancient earthen rampart dating back more than 2,000 years is at risk of neglect due to littering and graffiti, a frustrated councillor has claimed.

Martyn Warnes, Colchester councillor for Berechurch ward, has called for action to tackle issues plaguing the area around Berechurch Dyke, sited off Berechurch Hall Road.

The dyke formed part of an Iron Age stronghold which stretched nine square miles between the Colne and Roman rivers, centred upon what is now Gosbecks Field.

A road now runs along the top of the rampart for around two thirds of its length, while some of the structure has completely disappeared and its course can only be traced by a treeline.

Mr Warnes called on the landowner, the Ministry of Defence, to take more care in preserving the setting surrounding the “nationally important piece of heritage”.

He cited a range of problems, including flytipping, littering, graffiti, felled trees and the “inappropriate” placement of concrete blocks along the line of the rampart.

He said: “It is situated along a public footpath, upon which residents and visitors alike should be able to walk and enjoy what remains of these Iron Age defences, without its setting becoming neglected and an eyesore.

“After all, the dyke was once part of the biggest earth defence works of its time.”

The dyke constitutes one of only a handful of earth works still in existence in England.

It takes the shape of a linear bank and a v-shaped ditch, thought to have once been be 44ft wide.

The bank was made from earth dug out to form the ditch and may have had wooden palisades on top, with gateways to control and protect grassing animals and to ward off attacks from others using chariots.

As a scheduled monument, it has legal protection.

If placed end to end, the dykes surrounding the ancient settlement of Camulodunum would extend over a total distance of about 25km.

Some 6km now survive as visible earthworks, and many other sections are known to survive as buried features.

Mr Warnes said: “In many ways, it is one of our heritage jewels.

“Apart from Historic England, the MoD decides who it wishes to consult, and at the moment that does not include local government or councillors.

“I would very much like ward councillors and Colchester Council to be included in any consultations concerning this important piece of the nation’s history that lies within our town boundaries.”

A Ministry of Defence spokesman said: "The MOD takes its duty of care towards the historic environment very seriously and any incidents of vandalism or anti-social behaviour to our sites are dealt with as soon as possible.

"We have carried out scrub and tree removal to protect the monument at Berechurch, however some of the scrub in the ditches provides an important habitat for Nightingales and so cannot be disturbed by law. 

"We have worked closely with local wildlife experts to identify sensitive ecological areas.

"The MOD carries out regular management works including scrub and vegetation clearance, erosion control and maintenance. Where scheduled monument clearance is required, we liaise with the relevant statutory bodies to ensure full compliance.

"The MOD works closely with Historic England, Natural England, local conservation groups, and the local authority to ensure that our policies, national legislation, and local conservation factors are taken into account."