COUNTRYSIDE activists are delighted after a grant of more than £8,000 was awarded in support of their project to study and explore one of England's oldest recorded boundaries.

The ancient Black Hedge, which surrounds the parish of Monks Risborough, was first identified in the historic Charter of 904AD.

The 14-mile hedgerow originally circled a Saxon estate but over the last 20 years it has become damaged and badly in need of conservation work.

The cash, awarded by the National Lottery-sponsored Local Heritage Initiative (LHI), will fund a three-year project involving more than 50 members of the Risborough Countryside Group. The group will survey, record and monitor the hedge - which has been recognised as of national historical importance by the LHI.

Steve Jeans, treasurer of the Risborough Countryside Group, said: "This grant will fund the equipment and maps for our field work, the professional database that will record the findings, and a range of leaflets, educational material and finally a book to create greater awareness of this important local landmark."

He added: "This is an exciting project that is being delivered by local people."

Because of the importance attached to the site all material produced by the group will be examined by an expert appointed by Buckinghamshire's county archeologist.

Francis Gomme, rural projects officer at Buckinghamshire Community Action, advised the Risborough Countryside Group on their application for funding. He said the project was a prime example of successful local action and added: "This initiative will create a greater awareness of local distinctiveness and will support the national campaign to secure hedgerows."