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Quantock Hills National Mapping Programme project

The archaeological survey of the Quantock Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) comprised three main elements: aerial reconnaissance, the National Mapping Programme (NMP) project, and ground-based survey. It was a partnership between the AONB, Somerset County Council and English Heritage (now Historic England).

Colour aerial photo showing upland landscape with pasture fields yielding to full open moorland and the sea in the background
A typical example of the landscape on the uplands within the AONB as photographed on 31-JAN-2003. The prehistoric enclosure, the Trendle Ring, lies on the hill slope just left of centre (NMR 21957/110) © Crown copyright. HE

Combining techniques

The NMP project area comprised the AONB and a wider contextual area. It divides into three distinct topographical zones:

  • The uplands, including hilltop commons and woodland
  • The surrounding lower lying, settled and cultivated land
  • The coastal zone

As a result, whereas the AONB is mostly made up of open moorland, the wider area examined by the NMP project also contained much enclosed farmland.

The combination of the detailed survey on the ground and the broad overview from the air worked well to produce a comprehensive picture. The features captured were not only ones that remain on the ground today, but also those that have long since been demolished, ploughed away or passed over to another use.

Most of the Second World War military remains in and around the Quantocks, such as the former prisoner of war camp at Halswell or the tank firing range and associated camp north east of Kilton, were removed immediately after the war.

Black and white vertical aerial photo showing fields near the coast with a large triangular structure superimposed on them
Second World War tank firing range and associated camp located to the north east of Kilton, photographed here on 27-AUG-1945 (RAF 106G/UK/738 3019). Historic England RAF Photography.

Hidden landscapes

The archaeological sites mapped in the lowlands are predominantly visible as cropmarks, in particular on the lighter soils along the rivers to the south and south east of the AONB. The map extract below shows a possible Iron Age banjo enclosure situated amid a series of late prehistoric and/or Roman enclosures (in green) along the banks of a river valley in Thurloxton parish.

Colour map with archaeological features in green against a greyscale base map with contours in brown
A possible Iron Age banjo enclosure and other later prehistoric or Roman settlement enclosures.  Air photo mapping © Historic England.  Base map © Crown Copyright. All rights reserved. Historic England 100019088. 2009

The results of the project were incorporated into an English Heritage monograph 'The Historic Landscape of the Quantock Hills' by Hazel Riley. This presents and interprets the Quantocks landscape after a dedicated programme of archaeological fieldwork, air photograph transcription and architectural investigation. Analysis ranges from the prehistoric period, through to stark monuments of the Cold War.

Cover of The Quantock Hills monograph

The monograph was published 15 November 2006, but is now out of print and no longer available from Historic England. An ebook (PDF version) is obtainable from various on-line retailers (ISBN 978-1-84802-164-8 £18.00) or it is possible to download a lower resolution copy for free from the Archaeology Data Service.

Please contact Historic England Publishing if you would like further information.

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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