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English heritage group says neglect, weather and even rabbits put historic sites at risk

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Associated Press Writer

LONDON (AP) -- Neglectful landlords, trail bikers, wet weather, ill-thought development, even rabbits have contributed to endangering one out of 12 historic sites in England, a government report said Tuesday.

English Heritage has surveyed about 70,000 buildings, monuments, parks, battlefields and shipwrecks and says one in 12 is in danger of neglect, decay or "inappropriate change."

The prehistoric Birkrigg Stone Circle in northwest England has been defaced by spray painters; the neo-Gothic Lowther Castle is still imposing despite having no windows or roof to keep out the weather; the 1935 Uxbridge Lido swimming pool in London is the country's only example of a 12-sided "star" pool has closed.

English Heritage chief executive Simon Thurley said these and other monuments -- "the vandalized standing stones, the crumbling pillbox on the beach, the overgrown country park and the rusting colliery winding gear against the sky ... are places, buildings and landscapes that have the potential to shape the quality and even the course of our lives."

The organization said it hopes to compile a database of all threatened heritage sites in the country.

"The results of this first Heritage at Risk report show that everybody must live near, walk past or know of a heritage treasure at risk near them. We believe that our Heritage at Risk register will galvanize the whole nation into doing something about this before it is too late and help us save the best of the past for the future," Thurley said.

English Heritage is the government's statutory adviser on the historic environment, and distributes grants for preservation projects.

"Many of the problems identified are complex and need the efforts of a wide range of people working together, for example, to find a new use for a major ruin like Lowther Castle in Cumbria, or to restore the whole of the majestic Tynemouth Station in Tyne and Wear, or to turn Newbury Battlefield, threatened by development, into a resource that everyone can appreciate," Thurley said.

"Other problems are relatively simple and cheap to resolve, such as clearing scrub growth around the remains of a medieval hall, or putting down wire mesh to prevent rabbits burrowing into ancient earthworks," he said.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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