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The Blackdown Hills AONB and East Devon River Catchments archaeological survey to National Mapping Programme standards

The Blackdown Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) is a semi-upland area, defined by steep scarps leading to high plateaux divided into ridges by wooded valleys, on the border between Devon and Somerset. It is a relatively under-studied area and the project will provide good archaeological information to inform land management. This includes potential changes due to initiatives to reduce water pollution from agriculture, targeting the catchments of the rivers Sid, Otter and Axe.

Colour aerial photograph of a rural landscape with pasture fields, woodland and some settlement
A view south over Blackdown Hills towards the confluence of the River Culm and Bolham River and the disused Second World War airfield, RAF Upottery, at Smeathorpe beyond taken on 15-Apr-14 (NMR 27979/15) © Historic England Archive

The project

The survey is examining all readily available aerial photographs and other relevant sources, such as lidar data, for an area of 546 square kilometres. It is taking in the whole of the Blackdown Hills AONB, excluding a small area that was assessed as part of a previous NMP survey.  The area also includes a small part of the East Devon AONB on the southern edge of the survey area and an area to the north and east to take in the section of the A358 between Taunton and the A303 that will be affected by road improvements. Here a specially commissioned lidar survey will enhance the NMP survey by providing much needed baseline data along the route of the A30/A303 in advance of works.

The survey is funded by Historic England and is being carried out by a team from AC Archaeology, hosted by Devon County Council and in partnership with Somerset County Council.

Colour map with extent of survey and AONB delineated against main topographic features such as roads and towns
The extent of the Blackdown Hills AONB NMP survey

The survey will greatly enhance the County Historic Environment Records (HERs) for all periods from prehistory to the Second World War. It began in March 2016 and is due to be completed in the summer of 2018.

Colour aerial photo showing
Iron Age hillfort of Membury Castle photographed on 30-JAN-2008 (NMR 24902/35) © Historic England Archive

Details of the findings from the first phase of the project are available in an interim report

The Blackdown Hills AONB and East Devon River Catchments National Mapping Programme Survey

The Blackdown Hills AONB and East Devon River Catchments National Mapping Programme Survey

Published 1 February 2017

A report on the aerial survey of the Blackdown Hills AONB and East Devon River Catchments.

The images used on this page are copyright Historic England unless specified otherwise. For further details of any photographs or other images and for copies of these, or the plans and reports related to the project, please contact the Historic England Archive.

For further information on a project or any other aspect of the work of the team please contact us via email using the link below. 



Colour photograph of man in a hat

Simon Crutchley

Remote Sensing Development Manager

Simon is a landscape archaeologist and air photo interpreter at Historic England, with over 25 years’ experience of mapping and interpreting features of archaeological and historical interest visible on aerial photographs and other aerial imagery. He has worked in many areas of England including the World Heritage Sites of Avebury and Stonehenge. He has a special interest in “new” technology such as lidar and satellite imagery and its application to archaeological research and investigation.

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