Bronze Age and Iron Age trackways 600m north east of Northbrook Farm


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Date of most recent amendment:


Ordnance survey map of Bronze Age and Iron Age trackways 600m north east of Northbrook 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)
Sedgemoor (District Authority)
National Grid Reference:
ST 43666 39241

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 monument 600m north east of Northbrook Farm contains information relating to four preserved timber trackways spanning nearly 2000 years. The monument is situated at the base of the Polden Ridge, so the terminals of the trackways could be present here. Much of the projected and known lengths of these trackways no longer survive beyond the monument due to peat extraction. The monument is located 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 contains sections of three Bronze Age timber trackways, the Meare Heath, East Moors and Withy Bed Copse Tracks, and one Iron Age track, the Shapwick Heath Track. It is located at the south end of the Meare Heath Track, at the foot of the Polden Ridge. The four tracks were noted to the north of the scheduled area, in various states of preservation within fields subject to peat extraction, and all have projected alignments within the area of the scheduling. The East Moors Track was noted in a peat field in 1979, 100m to the east of Nine Acre Drove. It was exposed for a length of 70m, exhibiting damage due to peat cutting. The ten sections excavated at the time showed it to be aligned NNE-SSW and made from coppiced hazel brushwood. Occasional transverses were overlain by longitudinals, averaging 40 stems over 0.6m-1m width. Some weaving of stems around the transverses was noted, suggesting a hurdle construction. There were a number of areas of damage and subsequent repair by replacement of the overlying hurdle or panel. The Meare Heath Track has been traced for 2.5km from Meare island in the north east, to the Polden Ridge in the south west. Heavy oak beams were laid transversely at 0.5m-1m intervals, and pegged in place through their perforated ends. Two oak planks were laid longitudinally side by side on top of these, forming a walkway 1m wide. The track showed elements of consolidation and repair, especially where the heavy timbers had sunk into the raised bog. The location of the Withy Bed Copse Track is known from peat cuttings to the west of Nine Acre Drove and directly north of the monument. It consisted of concentrations of material on a NNE-SSW alignment. The wood exhibited different aspects of construction, worked planks of split ash and alder, with brushwood, stakes and hurdling. All the wood was found at the same level within the peat cuts, suggesting contemporaneity. It may be connected with the Shapwick Heath Track. The Shapwick Heath Track is aligned north east-south west to the west of Nine Acre Drove. Noted for a length of 82m, it was recorded in 1944 and 1953. The trackway consisted of longitudinal hazel brushwood with cut ends, held by stakes 0.1m-0.2m in length. Bog myrtle brushwood was overlying this construction. Woodworking waste from the sharpened stakes was noted at the site. No excavations have been undertaken within the area of the scheduling, which is located within the peat extraction zone. 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.

Legacy System number:
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Books and journals
Godwin, H, Prehistoric Wooden Trackways in the Somerset Levels, (1960), 5-6
Coles, J M et al, 'Somerset Levels Papers' in The Meare Heath Track 1985, , Vol. 14, (1988), 6-33
Coles, B J, Dobson, M J, 'Somerset Levels Papers' in Calibration of Radiocarbon dates from the Somerset Levels, , Vol. 15, (1989), 64-69
Coles, J M et al, 'Somerset Levels Papers' in Withy Bed Copse, 1974, , Vol. 1, (1975), 29-42
Coles, J M, Orme, B J, 'Somerset Levels Papers' in The Meare Heath Track, , Vol. 4, (1978), 11-39
Orme, B J, Sturdy, C R, Morgan, R A, 'Somerset Levels Papers' in East Moors 1979, , Vol. 6, (1980), 52-60
flint11796,12303,12054 whetstones 12062,12309,12310,
Godwin, H, Iron age pottery 12058,
SMR entries, flint 11796,12054,12303,whetstones 12062,12309,
SMR entries, flint 11796,12303,12054,whetstones12062,12309,12310,
Withy Bed Copse 10755,


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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