Colour aerial photo showing a village centre with a church, manor house and houses bordering a central market square
Aerial view of Cranborne Abbey and Manor taken on 18 November 2005 (NMR 24135/42) © Historic England Archive
Aerial view of Cranborne Abbey and Manor taken on 18 November 2005 (NMR 24135/42) © Historic England Archive

Dorset Lower Stour River Catchment Archaeological Survey to National Mapping Programme Standards

The Stour Valley Catchment is an important area of the country, with a number of potential threats to archaeological remains. The project will use aerial photographs and lidar data to explore this area that includes part of the nationally important Cranborne Chase.

Project aims

The Avon and Stour Valleys are areas of under-recording in terms of their historic environments and have been identified as high priorities for for mapping from aerial photographs and lidar (airborne laser scanning) data. These areas are also subject to potential threats such as:

  • aggregate extraction
  • urban expansion
  • modern destruction
  • farming practices
  • major changes in land-use

Known archaeology

The diverse landscape character of the project area has seen rich and varied historic land use. The southern section includes the heathland and forest mosaics to the north of Bournemouth, interspersed by farmland, and valley pastures along the Stour and Avon rivers and their tributaries. The heathland and former heathland areas within the proposed project area are among those known to retain good preservation of historic landscapes.

The north-western edge of the project area will take in the southern edge of Cranborne Chase. This nationally designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty is a diverse landscape of rolling chalk downland, ancient woodlands and chalk river valleys.  The area is extraordinarily rich in terms of archaeological monuments.  The mapping project will include the area around Knowlton in the parish of Woodlands.  Knowlton is home to an important group of scheduled monuments which include Neolithic henge monuments, Bronze Age round barrows, a Saxon cemetery and a Norman church. 

Project details

This NMP project will comprise an archaeological survey of 293 sq kms of east Dorset based on a review of all available aerial photographs and Environment Agency lidar data. The project will enhance our current knowledge of the archaeological resource of this important area of the country which is currently under multiple potential threats from aggregate extraction, urban expansion, modern destruction farming practices and other major changes in land-use. It will update the Dorset county historic environment record (HER) as well as assess new sites for statutory designation (scheduling).

The project will be carried out to National Mapping Programme (NMP) standards between February 2017 and December 2018. Cornwall Archaeological Unit, Cornwall Council will carry out the work with funding from Historic England through the Heritage Protection Commissions Programme (No: 7296). They will input data resulting from the survey directly into the Dorset County Council HER.

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.


Simon Crutchley

Remote Sensing Development Manager, Historic England

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.

Contact Simon Crutchley