Between 17 and 21 September 2003 a wild fire raged across Fylingdales Moor, North Yorkshire. It devastated the vegetation and fragile peat soils of 2.4 square kilometres of heather moorland. However, in the process the fire uncovered an archaeological landscape largely hidden by the heather for decades. Features revealed included prehistoric field systems and rock art, a network of leats associated with the Stoupe Brow alum quarry, and many earthworks left over from military training during the Second World War.
The project was a collaboration between partners, including the North York Moors National Park Authority, English Nature, DEFRA, English Heritage, The Strickland Estate and the Court Leet
A series of oblique air photographs were taken by the English Heritage Aerial Reconnaissance team just a few weeks after the fire. These helped to give a rapid overview of the extent and nature of the archaeological remains. A major concern was that the approaching winter weather would further damage the exposed monuments and soils. It was also clear that the moor would need to be re-vegetated as quickly as possible in order to safeguard its condition. These factors limited the time available to record the archaeology so high quality vertical photographs were specially commissioned.
The vertical sortie was undertaken by Aerofilms on 23 November at a scale of 1:2,500. The level of detail on the photographs is good enough to identify stones as small as 10 centimetres in diameter. An orthophoto was produced by the English Heritage Metric Survey team – now Historic England’s Geospatial Imaging team – using digital photogrammetry. This covered the whole of the burnt area and had an accuracy of 4 centimetres. The orthophoto formed a base map which underpinned other survey work. This included a rapid walkover field survey across the entire burnt area and a more detailed, analytical field survey of a select area. A 3D map of the archaeology was created by the Aerial Survey team using the photogrammetric 3D stereo models.
Regeneration of vegetation to protect the fragile moorland and its archaeology was well underway by 2004. Since then, native species have been recovering and the heather has now returned.
The image below shows how regeneration has progressed. The main image taken in November 2004 shows green vegetation on the recovering moor. A smaller image is overlain on the photo and shows part of the fire damaged moor a year earlier in October 2003.
Results from the aerial investigation of the moor can be found in Stone and Horne, Aerial Survey Report Series AER/07/2003 available from the Historic England Archive.
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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We identify archaeological sites and landscapes using aerial photography, lidar, geophysics, earthwork analysis and excavation.
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The aerial survey of the North York Moors National Park was carried out using National Mapping Programme standards.