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National Forest National Mapping Programme project

The National Forest National Mapping Programme (NMP) project mapped and recorded archaeology from aerial photographs and rapid walk-over survey. This was done prior to creation of the National Forest, extending across Derbyshire, Leicestershire and Staffordshire. The survey was used to enhance the archaeological record, aid planning and help conserve the area’s heritage. Archaeology recorded ranged from prehistoric settlement and monuments associated with ‘ritual’ contexts to 19th and 20th century industrial remains.

The National Forest extends across a number of different geographical regions and landscapes. These include the centres of two ancient forests, low-lying rural landscapes and part of the Midland Coalfield. Aerial survey mapping was undertaken as part of the National Mapping Programme in 1993.

Colour aerial photo showing an arable field with a farm in the corner; features are visible in the crop as colour differences
A double-ditched barrow and enclosures with a pit alignment, at King’s Bromley, photographed on 08-JUL-2005 (NMR 20337/28). © Historic England

Funerary and ceremonial monuments

Extensive groups of barrows survive along the River Trent and Tame floodplains as soilmarks and cropmarks. Most are considered Bronze Age in date, but the form and context of some funerary monuments may suggest Neolithic origins. At Alrewas, a triple-ditched feature with a central pit lies close to a Neolithic cursus and two causewayed enclosures. The feature may be a barrow or ceremonial monument of either Neolithic or Bronze Age date.

Black and white aerial photograph showing an arable field on the edge of a bend in a river
Triple-ditched barrow or ceremonial monument at Alrewas photographed on 13-JUL-1984 (NMR 2167/1181). © Crown copyright. HE

Medieval castles and formal gardens

Ashby de la Zouch castle began as a fortified manor house in the 12th century and achieved castle status in the 15th century. The remains include an impressive tower, which allows fine views over the 16th century formal gardens. Originally thought to be ornamental ponds, later archaeological investigations suggested the elaborately shaped ‘ponds’ are sunken formal garden features.

Colour aerial photograph showing a ruined building with a large house and church as part of a village
Ashby de la Zouch castle and sunken formal gardens photographed on 17-JUL-2000 (NMR 17464/14) © Historic England

Second World War munitions explosion

The impact of post medieval into 20th century mining and quarrying is clear across the National Forest landscape. However, an event during the Second World War had a similarly huge impact that has scarred the landscape. The Royal Air Force (RAF) used some disused gypsum workings at Fauld as an underground storage depot. On 27 November 1944 an accident led to the detonation of 3,670 tons of explosives. The explosion killed 70 people and left a crater 300 metres across and more than 30 metres deep.

Black and white aerial photograph showing a huge crater and
Wartime photograph taken on 04-DEC-1944 showing the crater resulting from the vast explosion of the RAF munitions store in the Fauld Gypsum Mine (RAF/106G/LA/69 1009). Historic England RAF photography.

The site remained a considerable scar on the landscape for many decades and is still visible today.

Colour aerial photo showing a large crater with trees growing inside; the site is bounded by pasture fields and more woodland
The crater from the Fauld Gypsum Mine explosion photographed on 09-FEB-1994 (NMR 12454/36). © Crown copyright.HE

You can read the findings in the National Forest Mapping Project report:

The National Forest Mapping Project

The National Forest Mapping Project

Published 1 March 1995

Report from the National Forest NMP mapping project.

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 Remote Sensing Team please contact us via email using the link below.

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