The Sweet Track is an ancient trackway, or causeway, in the Somerset Levels, England, named after its finder, Ray Sweet. It was built in 3807 BC and is the second-oldest timber trackway discovered in the British Isles, dating to the Neolithic. A reconstruction has been made on which visitors can walk, on the same line as the original, in Shapwick Heath National Nature Reserve.
About Sweet Track in brief
The Sweet Track is an ancient trackway, or causeway, in the Somerset Levels, England, named after its finder, Ray Sweet. It was built in 3807 BC and is the second-oldest timber trackway discovered in the British Isles, dating to the Neolithic. The track extended across the now largely drained marsh between what was then an island at Westhay and a ridge of high ground at Shapwick, a distance close to 2,000 metres or around 1. 2 miles. Construction was of crossed wooden poles, driven into the waterlogged soil to support a walkway that consisted mainly of planks of oak, laid end-to-end. It is now known that the Sweet Track was predominantly built along the course of an earlier structure, the Post Track. A reconstruction has been made on which visitors can walk, on the same line as the original, in Shapwick Heath National Nature Reserve. A group of mounds at West hay mark the site of prehistoric lake dwellings, which were likely to have been similar to those found in the Iron Age Glastonbury Lake Village near Godney. The remains of similar tracks have been uncovered nearby, connecting settlements on the peat bog; they include the Honeygore, Abbotts Way, Bells, Bakers, WesthAY, and Nidons trackways. Sites such as the nearby Meare Pool provide evidence that the purpose of these structures was to enable easier travel between the settlements.
Dendrochronology of the timbers has enabled precise dating of the track, showing it was built in3807 BC. The track was used for a period of only around ten years and was then abandoned, probably due to rising water levels. It has been left in its original location, with active conservation measures taken, including a water pumping and distribution system to maintain the wood in its damp condition. The wood used to build the track is now classed as bog-wood, given the name for long periods of time when it has been buried in peat bogs and kept from decaying from decaying and acidic conditions by the tannins in the bog. The original trackway was discovered in 1970 during peat excavations and is named after Ray Sweet, who worked for E. J. Godwin’s company. The company sent part of a plank from the track to John Coles, an assistant lecturer in archaeology at Cambridge University. Coles’ interest in the trackways led to the Somerset levels Project, which ran from 1973 to 1989, funded by various donors including English Heritage. The project established the economic and geographic significance of various trackways from the third and first millennia BC.