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Planting the Iron Age – an experiment!

by | Jun 17, 2024

The garden at the Iron Age Settlement is designed to complement the roundhouses, exploring how people would have lived in the Iron Age.

Our volunteers have researched what plants were grown in the Iron Age and are now experimenting to see what will grow in this location. The soil, climate and weather all have an impact on this garden, the same as it would have done over the past few thousand years, so it will be interesting to see which plants thrive.

The garden is designed to be easy to maintain with grass paths and simple beds for the plants as we don’t know much about garden design from that period. Our volunteers learnt how to create the hurdle fencing around the boundaries using willow and hazel harvested on site.

Some Iron Age plants such as Catmint, Foxglove, Raspberry and Gooseberry are very familiar to us in our gardens today. Others such as Angelica, Elfwort and Carlin Pea are less familiar, while many plants are not available now or are unsuitable for the conditions in this part of Stanwick Lakes. The site often floods in winter and is frequented by muntjac and rabbits who like to nibble tasty young plants.

Our Iron Age Settlement is just under a mile from the Visitor Centre, heading North along the main path route. It is open to the public, so please come and explore!

Here you can find out more about the plants in the garden.


St Johns Wort                                                      Tansy

Angelica Flower                                    Cat Mint


English Latin Description
Angelica Angelica archangelica Some species are grown as flavouring agents or for their medicinal properties. Crystallized strips of young angelica stems and midribs are green in colour and are sold as decorative and flavoursome cake decoration material but may also be enjoyed on their own. The roots and seeds are commonly used to flavour gin. Its presence accounts for the distinct flavour of many liqueurs, such as Chartreuse.
Barley Hordeum vulgare Archaeobotanical evidence shows that barley had spread throughout Eurasia by 2,000 BC. Barley beer was probably one of the first alcoholic drinks developed by Neolithic humans; later it was used as currency.
Blackcurrant Ribes nigrum Blackcurrants can be eaten raw but are usually cooked in a variety of sweet or savoury dishes. They are used to make jams, jellies and syrups are are grown commercially for the juice market. The fruit is also used in the preparation of alcoholic beverages and both fruit and foliage have use in traditional medicine and the preparation of dyes.
The leaves can be extracted to produce a yellow dye and the fruit is a source for blue or violet dye.
Catmint Nepeta Best known for its ability to trigger episodes of euphoria in cats
The crushed leaves can also be used to deter insects like flies, mosquitoes and other bugs.
The water-soluble compounds in catnip leaves have potent antibacterial properties and catnip tea was used to rinse and clean wounds.
Chicory Chichorium intybus Salad leaves, root is ground and used as coffee substitute & food additive Also grown as forage crop for animals
Source of inulin and used as a sweetener
Contains essential oils used in Bach flower remedies and can help improve wellbeing
Comfrey Semphytum officianle In folklore, Symphytum officinale roots were used in traditional medicine internally (as a herbal tea or tincture) or externally (as ointment, compresses, or alcoholic extract) for treatment of various disorders
Crab apple Malus sylvestris Crab apples are an excellent source of pectin, and their juice can be made into a ruby-coloured preserve with a full, spicy flavour
Elecampane Inula helenium Also called horse-heal or elfdock, this is a widespread plant species in the sunflower family.
The plant’s specific name, helenium, derives from Helen of Troy; elecampane is said to have sprung up from where her tears fell. It was sacred to the ancient Celts, and once had the name “elfwort”. The plant traditionally was held to be associated with the elves and fairy folk
Nicholas Culpeper considered elecampane to be ruled by Mercury and used it to warm a cold and windy stomach, to resist poison, to strengthen sight, and to clear internal blockages.
In France and Switzerland, it has been used in the manufacture of absinthe. In Apicius it is used for testing whether honey is spoilt or not, the plant is immersed in the honey and then lit, if it burns brightly the honey is considered fine
The root was employed by the ancients, mentioned by Pliny, both as a medicine and as a condiment, and in England it was formerly in great repute as an aromatic tonic and stimulant of the secretory organs. It is used in herbal medicine as an expectorant and for water retention.
Field Bean Vicia faba minor This is the fore-runner of our Broad Bean. Broad beans have a long tradition of cultivation in Old World agriculture, being among the most ancient plants in cultivation and also among the easiest to grow
Florence fennel Foeniculum vulgare Fennel was prized by the ancient Greeks and Romans who used it as medicine, food, and insect repellent. A fennel tea was believed to give courage to the warriors prior to battle. According to Greek mythology, Prometheus used a giant stalk of fennel to carry fire from Mount Olympus to Earth. Emperor Charlemagne required the cultivation of fennel on all imperial farms
One of the nine plants invoked in the pagan Anglo-Saxon Nine Herbs Charm
Mild anise-like flavour
Fox Glove Digitalis purpurea Extracted from the leaves, cardiac glycoside digitoxin is used as a medication for heart failure. At precisely the right dosage, Digitalis toxin can cause the heart to beat more strongly. However, minute increases in the dosage of these drugs can make the difference between an ineffective dose and a fatal one.
Gooseberry Ribes uva-crispa Gooseberry bushes produce an edible fruit and are grown on both a commercial and domestic basis. Its native distribution is unclear, since it may have escaped from cultivation and become naturalized.
Hawthorn Crataegus monogyna The fruit of hawthorn, called haws, are edible raw but commonly made into jellies, jams, syrups, or wine, or to add flavour to brandy. The petals are also edible, as are the leaves, which if picked in spring when still young are tender enough to be used in salads.
Hazel nuts Corylus avellana The European hazelnut is among the most widely grown hazelnut plants for commercial nut production.
This shrub is common in many European woodlands. It is an important component of the hedgerows that were the traditional field boundaries in lowland England. The wood was traditionally grown as coppice, the poles cut being used for wattle-and-daub building and agricultural fencing.
House leek Sempervivum tectorum Trellis Herber aka “welcome-home-husband-though-never-so-drunk”
Traditionally thought to protect against thunderstorms, decay and witchcraft
Juice used in herbal medicine as an astringent and treatment for skin & eye diseases, to ease inflammation and, mixed with honey, to treat thrush.
Meadowsweet Fillipendula ulmaria Pleasant smelling & tasting herb, used for strewing on the floor to give rooms a pleasant aroma and for
Used to flavour wine, beer and many vinegars
Flowers can be added to stewed fruit and jams to give a slight almond flavour
Many medicinal properties inc for acid stomach, rheumatism, gout, infections and fever.
A natural black dye can be obtained from the roots by using a copper mordant
Pea (Carlin) Pisum sativum Carlin peas are one of Britain’s best-kept secrets, an historic marbled brown pea that’s also know as black peas, grey peas, maple peas or even black badgers, and traditionally eaten as Parched Peas but makes a great substitute for chickpeas in any dish.
Raspberry Rubus idaeus Edible fruit – source of many vitamins and minerals, used in jams and pies and eaten raw. Traditionally a midsummer crop but can now be obtained round the year.
St Johns Wort Hypericum perforatum Common St John’s wort has been used in herbalism for centuries.[53] It was thought to have medical properties in classical antiquity and was a standard component of ancient concoctions. One folk use included the oily extract known as St John’s oil, a red, oily liquid extracted from H. perforatum that may have been a treatment for wounds by the Knights Hospitaller, the Order of St John
Strawberry, alpine Fragaria vesca Juice is a remedy for sunburn, strengthens teeth & gums.
Strawberry tea guards against fevers
Tansy Tanacetum vulgare Tansy was formerly used as a flavouring for puddings and omelettes, but is now almost unknown, except in Cork, where it is used in a sauce to accompany drisheens. For many years, tansy has been used as a medicinal herb (as a painkiller) despite its toxicity. Some traditional dyers use tansy to produce a golden-yellow colour. The yellow flowers are dried for use in floral arrangements.
Wheat, emmer Triticum dicoccon Emmer (in addition to einkorn and barley) was one of the most important cereal species and this importance can be seen to increase from 3400 BC onward. also used for animal feed. Ethnographic evidence suggests that emmer makes good bread (judged by the taste and texture standards of traditional bread)
Wild Basil Clinopidium vulgare The leaves of wild basil are used as an aromatic herb in the preparation of food dishes and to make a herbal tea. They can also be used in the preparation of both a brown and a yellow dye. This plant has traditionally been used as an astringent, a cardiac stimulant, an expectorant, to reduce flatulence and to increase perspiration.
Wild Primrose Primula vulgaris Both flowers and leaves are edible, the flavour ranging between mild lettuce and more bitter salad greens. The leaves can be cooked in soup but preferably with other plants because they are sometimes a little strong. The leaves can also be used for tea, and the young flowers can be made into primrose wine. In the past the whole plant and especially the root were considered to have analgesic, anti-spasmodic, diuretic and expectorant properties
Yarrow Achillea millefolium Yarrow is a food source of many species of insect: in particular, moth larvae, beetles and wasps

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