A GROUND-BREAKING archaeological search for an ancient Roman road starts in Purbeck next week.

Experts will excavate part of the straight footpath running through Sandford Heath, known locally as the Roman Road.

Historians hope this dig will, once and for all, answer whether the thoroughfare visible today was constructed over an ancient road built during Dorset’s Roman occupation.

Project officer Ben Buxton said: “We will excavate part of the old road near Sandford, Wareham, to find out if there are any clues to its origins hidden below the surface.

“The Roman Road runs between Sandford and Station Road, Holton Heath. It is an old route which may have been part of the main road between Wareham and Poole in the 18th century, but there is the exciting possibility that a Roman road really does run underneath or nearby.”

Historians believe such a road could have been built by the Roman army during the conquest of Dorset, not long after the Roman invasion of Britain in AD43.

If a road existed, it probably connected a known Roman fort near Wimborne to a possible fort at Wareham, say experts.

Local archaeologist Lilian Ladle will be leading a number of volunteers on the two-week dig, starting next Monday.

On October 15, from 11am until 4pm, the site will be opened to the public, with craft activities for youngsters.

The dig is a short walk from the entrance to Sandford Heath, Station Road, Holton Heath, where parking is possible.