A CAMPAIGN to safeguard nautical relics at Purton has been given a major boost after the site's historical importance was recognised.

Paul Barnett, a local enthusiast, has studied the Purton Hulks, remains of old ships left on the River Severn to protect its banks almost 100 years ago, for eight years.

The vessels were left between 1909 and 1965 during the heyday of Sharpness docks.

The 80 vessels that frame the River Severn range from wooden vessels to concrete barges along the shore, each with a unique history.

Mr Barnett has long been concerned about the vessels, which he claimed had become a target for vandals.

He launched a petition in August to save the Hulks in an attempt to persuade English Heritage to consider the site for special recognition and protection and has collected more than 400 signatures so far.

Mr Barnett took part in a special site meeting at Purton with representatives from English Heritage, Gloucestershire's county archaeologist, British Waterways and Stroud MP David Drew last week to begin preliminary investigations into the Hulks.

British Waterways unveiled a special plaque at the meeting, naming all of the 80 vessels on the site.

It has also been announced that the Purton Hulks have been recognised for their historical importance by the Nautical Archaeological Society (NAS).

Mr Barnett said he was pleased that the campaign was moving forward.

"It really is the pinnacle of what I am trying to achieve. It's moving forward which is exciting.

"All the organisations are coming together to help protect this important site," he said.

The Hulks are the first Foreshore to be given an award by the NAS, as the organisation usually focuses on specific ship wrecks.

Mr Barnett added: "I've got to go to Portsmouth next week to collect the award for Purton.

"It's just more good news for the Hulks. Everyone is pulling in the same direction to protect the site and keep it for future generations.

"The local support has been great and this award and the plaque means the site is going in the right direction."

Mr Barnett said he was now looking into an 'adopt a wreck' scheme for the Purton Hulks, whereby local people and businesses could pay for a plaque to go on the different vessels.