Timber trackways at Moor Drove, 800m east of Brentsfield Bridge
Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number: 1014872
Date first listed: 20-May-1996
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.
District: Sedgemoor (District Authority)
National Grid Reference: ST 34840 36180
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
The trackways near to Moor Drove have well preserved organic remains in a stable undisturbed environment. Limited excavation has demonstrated the potential for excellent survival of the structures, the dates for which have indicated their construction to be within the Early Neolithic period. The monument lies within the Somerset Levels and Moors, a wetland area of high archaeological value which has seen rapid landscape change over the past 200 years as a result of drainage and intensive peat extraction.
The monument includes two lengths of prehistoric timber trackway, to the south
of Moor Drove, on Lang Moor.
The two trackways, Moor Drove 1 and 2, were recorded from a drain section when the water level was lowered in the spring of 1980. They were located 45m-50m from the north west corner of the monument along the south facing section of the ditch to the south of Moor Drove. This site is below the water level for much of the year.
It is believed that the tracks are contemporary, and that they converge beneath Moor Drove, and extend southwards from the sand island of Chedzoy, across the low lying peat of Lang Moor to the Burtle Sands at Westonzoyland, a distance of approximately 1km.
Two radiocarbon dates are available, both indicating an Early Neolithic date for the tracks.
The structure of Moor Drove 1 consists of longitudinally laid roundwood and brushwood, 1.2m wide, up to 0.4m thick, at a depth of 0.9m below the level of Moor Drove. Made of uncoppiced hazel, the largest timbers were 10cm-15cm in diameter and up to 30 years old. Some of the brushwood was laid across the roundwood timbers, some of which were pegged. It presented an uneven surface, suggesting that it may have been dismantled or damaged by floodwater. The base of the structure lay permanently below the water level and could not be recorded. It is orientated WNW-ESE.
Moor Drove 2 was located 4.5m to the south west of Moor Drove 1, and 0.85m below the level of Moor Drove. The trackway was 1.1m wide and 0.3m thick. It consisted mostly of longitudinally laid roundwood hazel timbers, 5cm-9cm in diameter, overlying brushwood and twigs, with possible remains of lateral timbers noted in the lower part of the section. Pegs were also present, some of which were overlain by the upper longitudinals, suggesting a rebuild or reinforcement of the trackway. It was orientated SSE-NNW.
The upper timbers were in a poor state of preservation due to weathering and root damage, but the lower timbers were well preserved.
The monument to the south of Moor Drove is waterlogged for much of the year.
Excluded from the scheduling are all modern fences, posts and troughs, 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: 27974
Legacy System: RSM
Books and journals
Norman, C, Timber structure in the peat to the south of Chedzoy: Moor Drove: Volume 124, (1980), 159-163
Coles, B J, Dobson, M J, 'Somerset Levels Papers' in Calibration of Radiocarbon dates from the Somerset Levels, , Vol. 15, (1989), 67
SMR No.: 11730,11731 wood, 12104 stakes, 11728 flint scatter,
SMR No.:11861 field system, 11852 Neolithic cursus,
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.
End of official listing