Environmental guidance for your business in Northern Ireland & Scotland

Archaeology for forestry

Forest management: archaeological sites

Activities that cause ground disturbance, such as ploughing and planting can damage archaeological objects and sites. This guidance will tell you how you can avoid damaging archaeological features and what to do if you find any.

What you must do

Is your site designated?

The law protects many sites, buildings and features as Scheduled Ancient Monuments. These include burial mounds, standing stones and building ruins, as well as the surrounding land.

You must find out if your site has any protected archaeological features. Your local authority archaeologist will be able to tell you if your site is designated.

Association of Local Government Archaeological Officers UK

You can use the Archaeology UK website to search for archaeological sites in the UK.

Archaeology Data Service

In Scotland, you can find out if your site contains a Scheduled Ancient Monument at the Pastmap site.


In Northern Ireland the Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA) Built Heritage Department maintains a database of sites and monuments.

NIEA: Northern Ireland Sites and Monuments Record

You will need consent from your regulator for some types of work on or near protected sites.

NIEA: Scheduled monuments

Historic Scotland: Scheduled monuments

If you find human skeletal remains or evidence of a burial ground, you must stop work in that area and contact the police and coroner immediately.

Good practice

If you are applying for grants from the Forestry Commission or the Forest Service to develop woodland or forestry, you will have to follow good practice guidance on protecting archaeological sites.

Archaeological finds

Woodlands may contain a range of archaeological features. These include earthworks, burial sites, standing stones, boundary ditches, pottery and flint.

Most items will be just beneath or within the surface layer of the soil. However, some items may have been buried deeper by tree roots.

Many features will not be visible from the surface and will only be revealed when they are unearthed.

If you find objects such as pottery, flint or bone, which may be of archaeological interest, leave them undisturbed and contact your regional or county archaeologist.

Association of Local Government Archaeological Officers UK

Working in areas of archaeological importance

Do not plough, rip or break up the ground in areas of archaeological interest.

Try to avoid moving machinery across the area. If you do have to carry out tree felling, use brash mats and work during dry conditions to minimise damage.

Cut woody growth and bracken without disturbing the ground surface.

If you have to burn brash or other plant material, make sure that the fire does not get into underlying peat. Get archaeological advice before burning heather.

If you are creating fire breaks or traces in areas of archaeological interest, use tractor-mounted swipes instead of bulldozers.

Restocking after tree felling may lead to more damage. Get advice from the Forestry Commission or the Forest Service before deciding whether to replant or allow natural regeneration.

Forestry grants and licences

Further information

Archaeology Scotland

Forestry Commision: Identifying the historic environment in Scotland's forests and woodlands (Adobe PDF - 4.9MB)

NI Department of communities Historic Environment

Forestry Commission publication: Forests and archaeology


SEE ALSO: Nature conservation and forestry

Environmental News Blog

NetRegs on NetRegs on youTube

View our latest videos & subscribe to our channel.

NetRegs Update Newsletter

Free monthly email newsletter with environmental updates for Northern Ireland and Scotland

Sign up for free today!


NIEA - Apply online

SEPA - Application forms