AN ANCIENT settlement has been labelled at risk from damage and in need of conservation.

The unexcavated Bronze Age settlement is on the English Heritage 'At Risk' Register but experts at the organisation believe it could be restored within a year.

Yesterday (July 8) the Highways Agency, which owns most of the land, told The Villager it would work with English Heritage to protect the ancient site.

The ground above the settlement, which dates from 1000BC, is becoming overgrown with shrubs and trees, the roots of which could grow down and damage the architecture underneath, experts fear.

The site is on the Berkshire side of the county border on the south bank of the Thames and stretches under the M25 bridge.

Dr Andy Brown, regional director of English Heritage for the South East, said: "We are hoping we will be able to persuade the owners to manage the regulation of the land and if this happens hopefully the site can be removed from the At Risk Register next year." English Heritage told The Villager it did not know who owned the land but our investigations revealed most of it belongs to the Highways Agency, which has responsibility for England's roads.

As The Villager went to press a spokesman said: "The Highways Agency is committed to playing its part in protecting the environment. Much land near the motorway is of special value, such as sections of ancient woodland or areas of archaeological interest.

"Where such areas are owned by the Highways Agency, we will work with the relevant authorities to ensure that they are protected or enhanced.

"Such a section of land is the area near the Runnymede bridge near junction 13 of the M25, and we have arrangements in place to ensure it is preserved. We enjoy a close working relationship with English Heritage and will work with them to see that their concerns about vegetation growth on the site are addressed." n A grotto which dates back to 1750 has been restored in the gardens of Ascot Place in North Ascot and has been taken off the list. The Grade I listed monument on privately-owned land was restored last summer.

Dr Brown said: "Grottos are a feature of restoration gardens and add to the diversity of the experience and emotional response of going round a landscape garden."