Brendon Hills National Mapping Programme project
The Brendon Hills form an elongated ridge located mainly within West Somerset, to the east of Exmoor. The terrain is deeply incised by streams and rivers running roughly southwards to the Haddeo River, a tributary of the River Exe. Parts of the region have a long history of ironstone mining and remains of this industry and its effects on the landscape are still evident. The area has also been subjected to intense agricultural improvement over the last century resulting in very few upstanding archaeological sites surviving and a perception of an area with a generally low monument density.
The Brendon Hills project was an aerial survey using National Mapping Programme (NMP) standards, supporting an extensive programme of field survey across Exmoor. The results were incorporated in the publication The Field Archaeology of Exmoor and have been included in the Exmoor Historic Environment Record.
Archaeology of the Brendon Hills
There are substantial numbers of prehistoric remains scattered across the Brendon Hills, many surviving as well-preserved earthworks.
Industry and agriculture on the Brendon Hills
Lying at the heart of the Brendon Hills is an area where ironstone mining has historically been an important regional industry. The remains of this and associated industrial activities are still to be found, in some cases as the relatively well-preserved stone remains of the main structures.
Elsewhere decades of agriculture have left traces requiring considerably more effort to understand their original nature.
As well as the vestiges of the area's industrial past the remains of post-medieval catch meadow irrigation systems were recorded extensively across this area of Exmoor. The catch meadows are particular to this part of the country, commonly found on the sides of stream and river valleys. These are systems of parallel linear field gutters aligned with the contours (akin to leats). Each system is fed by a pond in which a mixture of water and slurry is collected. This mixture then seeps down-slope out of the gutters, fertilising the pasture. At the request of the Exeter Field Office, all gutters not already recorded on the current Ordnance Survey base map were mapped.
One site initially thought to be the remains of a former garden earthwork were subsequently identified by the field survey as a potential Roman military site, much of which is still visible as earthworks and only partially obscured by the buildings of a post-medieval farm.
Key findings from the project can be found in the 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
Also of interest...
We identify archaeological sites and landscapes using aerial photography, lidar, geophysics, earthwork analysis and excavation.
Historic England experts use airborne remote sensing methods to identify, record and monitor the condition of heritage assets
The Exmoor National Park mapping project aimed to record the archaeological remains of Exmoor from aerial photographs.