Bronze Age and Iron Age timber trackways, 700m north west of Coppice Gate Farm


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
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Ordnance survey map of Bronze Age and Iron Age timber trackways, 700m north west of Coppice Gate Farm
© Crown Copyright and database right 2019. All rights reserved. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100024900.
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Sedgemoor (District Authority)
National Grid Reference:
ST 42679 39790

Reasons for Designation

Wooden trackways were constructed in the prehistoric period between the Neolithic and the later pre-Roman Iron Age, primarily as communication routes across wet areas of ground and as a means of access to the natural resources of wetlands. Most excavated examples take the form of simple structures of brushwood or hurdlework, although some are of more complex pile, plank and log construction. Wooden trackways normally had a very short active lifespan, leading to the clustering of tracks where a communications route was in existence over a long period; some isolated examples are, however, recorded. Because they were sited in wetland areas, trackways generally became buried by the accumulation of peat soon after their construction, and they are now generally recorded as a result of peat extraction, followed by survey and excavation elsewhere along their length. Approximately 75 examples of either trackways or groups of trackways have been recorded in England. Because of the way in which they are discovered, this is likely to be only a small proportion of those present in the prehistoric period, and some of the recorded examples will have been destroyed or badly damaged by desiccation of the organic components. Over half the recorded examples are from the Somerset Moors. Trackways yield information concerning woodworking, tools, woodland management, and trading or communication routes. They are usually associated with deposits containing well-preserved environmental data such as pollen, beetle, and macro-plant remains, and they may be significant sources of dendrochronological data. As a rare and diverse form of structure used throughout the prehistoric period, all identified prehistoric wooden trackways with surviving archaeological remains, would normally be considered to be of national importance.

The timber trackway site 700m north west of Coppice Gate Farm includes the preserved organic remains of the possible junction and terminus of three prehistoric timber tracks, and associated brushwood structures. The brushwood structures are of interest as they indicate use and occupation of the wetlands in the Bronze Age. The monument lies within the wetlands of the Somerset Levels and Moors, an area of high archaeological value which has seen rapid landscape change over the past 200 years as a result of drainage and intensive peat cutting.


The monument includes sections of three prehistoric timber structures, Nidon's Track, Viper's Track, and Viper's Platforms. The monument is located on Shapwick Heath, 700m to the north west of Coppice Gate Farm. The three structures are dated to the Late Bronze Age/Early Iron Age. Nidon's and Viper's Trackways are projected to converge within the monument, their structure being known from part excavations immediately to the north. Viper's Platforms were located between the two trackways. With ground level rising to the south, it is possible that the terminals of these trackways occur within the monument. Nidon's Track runs north east-south west and was seen by Dewar and Godwin between 1949 and 1959. It consisted of pairs of large stakes or piles 0.6m apart. These appear to have been made from split planks shaped to a point. They were morticed and used in pairs, driven obliquely into the ground so as to converge. The main body of the track was made from longitudinal brushwood or roundwood, and reinforced by pieces of squared timber, occasionally staked. A radiocarbon date of between 710-530 BC was derived from a piece of morticed timber. Viper's Track is aligned NNW-SSE and was first encountered in 1947. It consisted of pairs of vertical piles or large stakes, 0.6m-0.7m apart, with brushwood laid between them over transverse roundwood. The stakes stood proud of the track by 0.2m. Several of the piles exhibited mortice holes below the level of the track. Along each side of the track were laid stringers of twisted bundles of brushwood, occasionally staked. The radiocarbon date range for Viper's Track is between 920-520 BC. Viper's Platforms were located between Nidon's and Viper's Tracks, immediately to the north of the monument. They have been provisionally interpreted as look-out posts, as they are situated on slightly raised ground. A possible total of five similar structures were noted. Peat digging exposed concentrations of wood, one of which was excavated in 1947, showing that the round or oval structure was 2.4m-3m across and 0.2m thick. It consisted of bundles of mostly birch brushwood laid alternately across one another, and pegged in place by stakes. The structure was edged by smaller stakes. Three alder roundwood branches lay parallel over the brushwood, two of them notched at the end, and a further one was found within the brushwood. A radiocarbon date for one piece of timber gives a range of between 610- 400 BC. A trackway was found to be adjacent to one structure, consisting of two irregular lines of stakes, 0.5m-1m apart, with horizontal timbers and brushwood laid between. It could be seen to be running parallel to Nidon's Track. Tully's Track, located centrally within the monument, consisted of miscellaneous decayed timber with little evidence of organised structure and was probably of natural origin. This was located within a wet valley, or lagg, between the bog margin and the hillside. Excluded from the scheduling are all modern fences and posts, though the ground beneath is included.

MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

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Books and journals
Godwin, H, Prehistoric Wooden Trackways in the Somerset Levels, (1960), 1-37
Godwin, H, Prehistoric Wooden Trackways in the Somerset Levels, (1960), 23
Godwin, H, Prehistoric Wooden Trackways in the Somerset Levels, (1960), 1-37
Godwin, H, Prehistoric Wooden Trackways in the Somerset Levels, (1960), 1-37
Coles, J M, 'Somerset Levels Papers' in Archaeology in the Somerset Levels 1978, (1979), 5
Coles, J M, 'Somerset Levels Papers' in Archaeology in the Somerset Levels 1978, (1979), 5
Coles, B J, Dobson, M J, 'Somerset Levels Papers' in Calibration of Radiocarbon dates from the Somerset Levels, (1989), 64-69
Coles, B J, Dobson, M J, 'Somerset Levels Papers' in Calibration of Radiocarbon dates from the Somerset Levels, (1989), 64-69
Coles, J M, Later Bronze Age Activity in the Somerset Levels, (1972)
SMR entries in order of text, 10739,10738,10731,10755,10002,12067,11797,12306,


This monument is scheduled under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 as amended as it appears to the Secretary of State to be of national importance. This entry is a copy, the original is held by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

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