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.
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.
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.
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.
The site remained a considerable scar on the landscape for many decades and is still visible today.
You can read the findings in the National Forest Mapping Project report:
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.
Historic Places Investigation
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