Aerial Investigation and Mapping: The South Devon Coast to Dartmoor Survey

The survey will collate information from aerial photographs and lidar to create an archaeological map and descriptions to inform heritage management. The project looks at the area between Dartmoor National Park and the coast. It includes areas of high archaeological potential but much previous work in this area was small scale and site specific. There are increasing demands from agriculture, forestry and development pressures, particularly from housing developments near Exeter. The survey will identify and map buried and above ground archaeological remains to help with decisions on how to manage change in the area.

A close-up, colour oblique aerial photograph of a field, showing the green ditches against a generally paler background.
Prehistoric enclosures, visible as cropmarks near Pitt Farm and photographed on 19 July 2018 © Historic England Archive, image reference 33542_021.

Making Connections

Significant prehistoric field systems survive as earthworks on the limestone plateau in the survey area, and initial work has already enhanced the record for known field systems around Ipplepen, near Newton Abbot. Significantly, the survey will make connections with the University of Exeter’s Understanding Landscapes project, which is excavating a Roman and Early Medieval British site at Ipplepen, placing this ongoing research into its wider landscape context.

A black and white oblique aerial photograph of a rural landscape.
Extensive relict earthwork boundaries of prehistoric or Romano-British field systems are visible on aerial photographs of 1986, on a limestone plateau at Olderpark Copse, Denbury and Torbryan. MDV8615. © Devon County Council. Devon County Council, DAP/HI 14 21-DEC-1986.

Cropmark potential

Good visibility of archaeological cropmarks has been recorded across the southern half of the project area. The Devon Aerial Photograph programme pioneered aerial survey in Devon and is an exception to the trend of small-scale work across the area. However, the systematic assessment of historic aerial photography is already further populating the South Devon landscape with prehistoric and Romano-British activity.

A close-up colour oblique aerial photograph of an arable field, showing the green ditches against a generally yellow crop.
Double-ditched enclosure, visible as cropmarks near Bulland and photographed on 19 July 2018. © Historic England Archive, image reference 33542_033

Project details

The first area will be completed in Spring 2019 and covers Haldon Ridge, south west of Exeter to the Dart Valley (290 square kilometres). Work on a second area between Plymouth, the Avon  Valley and Dartmoor (368 square kilometres) will start soon.

The survey is being carried out by a team from AC archaeology, hosted by Devon County Council. The information gathered for the survey is available from the Devon Historic Environment Record.

Map of project area.
The extent of the South Devon Coast to Dartmoor survey, Area 1. © Crown Copyright and database right 2018. Ordnance Survey 100019783.
Colour photograph of man in dark jacket and cap

Cain Hegarty

NMP Project Manager for AC Archaeology

Cain has worked in archaeology since the late 1990s, beginning his career excavating sites throughout the Midlands. He then branched out into archaeological graphics, visualisation and the archaeological application of GIS. In the early 2000s he began working on large area aerial survey projects and has worked on similar projects to the present day. Recent work has focussed on the landscape of the South-West, from Exmoor National Park to the south coast of Devon.

Contact Cain Hegarty

Research Reports Map


Explore our research reports with this map, which is an on-going project, showing a selection of research reports for place-based projects published after 2006.

We have begun with non-invasive surveys, we will add details of scientific analysis, such as tree ring dating and archaeobotany. Over time we aim to show all reports for place-based projects here.

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