Field Systems NHPP Activity 4F2
Research undertaken between 2011 and 2015 which was concerned with improving our understanding of the significance of field systems within England's historic environment. These are the most widespread type of heritage and field systems have shaped the English landscape over thousands of years. The work formed part of the National Heritage Protection Plan.
Scope of the activity
Fields, field systems, and the farming practices that underpin them have shaped the landscape of England as we see it today, and continue to do so. Recent work undertaken by the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) demonstrated that, despite the rapid growth of towns and cities over the last 200 years, the majority of the country is still rural – agricultural landscapes cover at least 70% of England and are, therefore, the most extensive form of heritage in the country.
Over time, a diverse set of circumstances affected the development of field systems, which may well have started in the early 4th millennium BC. The earliest elements of this process are not at all well understood, but the economic and social well-being of the country depended upon them.
Through this Activity and its projects we aimed to characterise and assess the complexity and extent of “fieldscapes” in the English landscape, address current threats and risks to them and define what makes them so distinctive.
Expected protection results
Generally the remains assessed as part of this activity were not suitable for scheduling, because the scope and scale of field systems generally preclude this option. Instead, we intended that the information that flows from the projects will be used both in the local planning process and also to improve the knowledge base for local conservation schemes such as stewardship agreements.
Projects in this activity
Develop local assessment and monitoring toolkits
An assessment, using historic sources of the Hoo Peninsula was completed. This provided a very useful overview of the development of fieldscapes in a marshland context.
Creation of national significance assessment guidance
Gaining a detailed understanding of the national resource of field systems is crucial: this project will undertook an assessment of the extent, condition, context and significance of fieldscapes across England. It used all existing datasets such as Historic Landscape Characterisation (HLC) and the National Mapping Programme (NMP) and is intended to mesh with Natural England’s National Character Areas. This work aimed towards creating a national database of fieldscapes and 159 individual statements of fields within each of England’s National Character Areas. The latter can be used by individuals and communities to help achieve a more sustainable future for their area. We worked in close close collaboration with colleagues in in the NHPP activity on reural buildings and landscapes and Natural England.
Links to other activities
This activity was closely linked with Rural Buildings and Landscapes, Measure 4 Activity 4F1.
In addition, 4F2 was linked to a number of projects undertaken within other NHPP Activities including: