Sections of linear boundary dyke in Cow Dale Plantation, Rabbit Dale and Oxland Plantation


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Scheduled Monument
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Ordnance survey map of Sections of linear boundary dyke in Cow Dale Plantation, Rabbit Dale and Oxland Plantation
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

East Riding of Yorkshire (Unitary Authority)
National Grid Reference:
SE 89258 55983, SE 89607 56920, SE 90733 57838

Reasons for Designation

Linear boundaries are substantial earthwork features comprising single or multiple ditches and banks which may extend over distances varying between less than 1km to over 10km. They survive as earthworks or as linear features visible as cropmarks on aerial photographs or as a combination of both. The evidence of excavation and study of associated monuments demonstrate that their construction spans the millennium from the Middle Bronze Age, although they may have been re-used later. The scale of many linear boundaries has been taken to indicate that they were constructed by large social groups and were used to mark important boundaries in the landscape; their impressive scale displaying the corporate prestige of their builders. They would have been powerful symbols, often with religious associations, used to define and order the territorial holdings of those groups who constructed them. Linear earthworks are of considerable importance for the analysis of settlement and land use in the Bronze Age; all well preserved examples will normally merit statutory protection.

The monument is part of a very extensive and important system of linear boundary dykes in this area of the Yorkshire Wolds, dating back to the Bronze Age. Although the sections lying through the forestry plantation do not survive very well owing to planting activity in the past, and the section lying across North Field has been lost above ground level, other sections are well preserved. The section in North Field will retain archaeological remains in the buried ditches below ground level. The whole system is closely associated with other adjacent complexes of linear banks and ditches, which together form an integral system of boundary and defensive earthworks in this region. As such it offers important insights into ancient land use and territorial divisions for social, ritual and agricultural purposes in this area of the Yorkshire Wolds.


The monument includes two long sections of Bronze Age linear boundary banks and ditches (also known as dykes), divided into three separate areas, with a combined length of 3.41km, running through Cow Dale Plantation due south west and then turning south through Rabbit Dale towards Oxland and Shortlands Plantations. In addition it also includes a further 650m length of linear boundary dyke surviving in the form of buried ditches revealed by aerial photography, lying perpendicular to the main southern section, north west- south east across North Field and finally another short 150m section of bank and ditch parallel to the southernmost end of the main dyke section in Oxland Plantation. Lying close to an ancient trackway on the western side of the Wolds, the surviving part of which forms the present-day Wolds Way, the monument is part of a complex of linear banks and ditches running from Horse Dale through Harper Dale eastwards in the direction of Bottlands and Middleham Plantation, and further south along Cow Dale and Rabbit Dale, north east of Huggate village. The whole system is associated with other complexes of single and double linear bank and ditch systems further to the west along Huggate Pasture in Frendal Dale and its junction with Tun Dale, stretching south in the direction of Pasture Dale, Millington Dale and Cow Moor, linking up with the systems of boundary dykes in those areas. It lies parallel to a related system running due north east-south west through Middleham Plantation around 600m to the north. These dykes were used to enhance the natural topographical barriers of spurs and ridges between valleys, with the additional physical barriers of banks and ditches. Natural conduits along the floors of the dry valleys were then `blocked' by other bank and ditch systems acting to control access. Well preserved sections of these linear boundaries are the subject of separate schedulings, and in some cases, adjacent monuments may physically abut. This elaborate complex of boundary earthworks is one of the best preserved remnants of the original more extensive systems recorded and mapped as extending across large areas of the Wolds by early antiquarians such as J R Mortimer in the 19th century. Excavations and observation of spatial relationships with other earthworks of known date demonstrate this Wolds complex of earthworks to have originated in the later Bronze Age, with several subsequent phases of elaboration and augmentation. The monument also forms part of a broadly related and extensive complex of multi-period prehistoric earthworks, including bowl barrows, barrow cemeteries, linear bank and ditch systems, trackways and enclosures dispersed across Huggate and Warter Wolds, and Huggate and Millington Pastures. The first section includes a 1.75km section of bank and ditch running through Cowdale Plantation in Cow Dale. It is discontinous, being broken in places with later period cuts made to facilitate passage across the monument. The north eastern end of the monument is poorly preserved and ill defined, with the bank no more than 0.3m high and up to 5m wide, situated along a low rise in the land, with an infilled ditch 2m-3m wide to the north, on the edge of the down slope. This end is not thought to be an original terminus as aerial photographs reveal the crop marks of buried linear ditches on this same alignment, further north east towards Wetwang. Further west the monument gradually becomes a little better preserved and defined, although the ditch to the south is still poorly defined as it is mostly infilled. The south western end of this section to the north of Hall Slack is defined by a later period break in the line of the bank and ditch. There is a small northward pointing projection of bank about 20m in length surviving around 300m east of the end of the first section, which may also once have formed part of another cross valley dyke at here, although aerial photographs have not revealed this. The second section commences after a 20m break in the monument, of a later period, to the north of Hall Slack, in a plantation to the north eastern end of Rabbit Dale, south west of Painslack Farm, and includes a 320m long section of low bank and ditch running through woodland until it emerges onto downland along the southern side of Rabbit Dale. Here it is much better preserved and fairly well-defined for a length of about 600m, with a short section of double ditch and central bank running south west for 500m, before turning nearly due south and disappearing once more into fields to the north of Oxland Plantation, east of Rabbit Hill and Rabbit Wood. The bank of the central and better surviving portion of this second section is about 1.25m in height and also in width at its top, and 4m wide at its base, with a shallow `U' shaped ditch both to the south and north, both up to 2m in width. The earthwork system becomes more complex here, with a short length of visible bank and ditch, representing the surviving, truncated remains of an original cross dyke dividing the valley bottom, and probably later reused as a hollow way, climbing up from the direction of Rabbit Dale valley and North Field and then merging with the line of the monument's bank and its ditches, the latter of which possibly served the dual purpose of a droveway during this later period. Although agricultural activity has destroyed the above-ground earthwork remains of most of this section of the cross dyke lying across North Field, between Harper Dale and Rabbit Dale, aerial photographs clearly reveal the existence of its buried ditch, which lies perpendicular to the main section, connecting the dyke sytems of Rabbit Dale with those to the north in Harper Dale, the latter of which are the subject of separate schedulings. As the main dyke system of Rabbit Dale turns south before disappearing into the line of arable fields here, the bank reduces in height again from 1.25m high, to between 0.5m and 0.75m in height and about 4m in width, with a single, shallow `U' shaped ditch lying about 1.5m wide lying to the south. Although once again, agricultural activity has caused the destruction of the monument above ground here, archaeological deposits will remain in the buried ditch fills across the line of the arable fields, and appear as crop marks clearly revealed by aerial photography. The bank and ditch finally re-emerges as an earthwork feature along the eastern edge of Oxland Plantation, and the north eastern side of Oxlands Dale, although the monument survives less well here, and is difficult to see, particularly where it merges with the line of a woodland path leading south to Shortland Plantation and Shortlands Dale. Finally, there is a 150m long section of bank and ditch lying parallel with and about 80m to the west of the southernmost end of the first upper system, which is thought to be the surviving end of a second dyke system lying part the way down the eastern side of Rabbit Dale. This short section of bank and ditch survives more clearly than the main section higher up, being visible up to 0.75m in height and around 4m wide at its base, with a shallow infilled ditch to the east, around 2m wide. Beyond this point, the monument dwindles once more and finally disappears, but this is not thought to be an original terminus, as it is thought that the monument would have continued further south towards Shortlands Plantation, parallel to the system lying above it. Modern post and wire fencing, animal feed and water dispensers and other modern farm or game bird husbandry constructions and equipment are excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath them is included.

MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract. It includes a 2 metre boundary around the archaeological features, considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.


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

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Books and journals
Mortimer, J R , Forty Years Researches in British and Saxon Burial Mounds of East Yorkshire, (1905), 365-380
Dent, J, 'Archaeological Journal' in The Yorkshire Dykes, , Vol. 141, (1984), 32-33
Halkon, P, 'Prehistory Research Section Bulletin' in The Huggate Dykes, , Vol. 30, (1993), 10
Manby, T, 'Current Archaeology' in The Yorkshire Dykes, , Vol. 67, (1979), 233
Bastow, M, AM 107, (1988)
Humberside SMR, Sites and Monuments Records Sheet, (1994)
Humberside SMR, Sites and Monuments Records Sheet, (1994)
Humberside SMR, Sites and Monuments Records Sheet, (1994)


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

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