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Pennine Dales Fringe National Mapping Programme

The Pennine Dales Fringe NMP project covers a transitional landscape lying between the upland and moorland areas of the Yorkshire Dales to the west and the rich arable lands to the east.

It has recorded buried and upstanding features that may date from the Neolithic through to the mid 20th century.

The project was undertaken between November 2013 and March 2015 by Alison Deegan. It was funded and supported by English Heritage and was carried out as part of English Heritage's National Heritage Protection Programme (NHPP).

Colour map showing project maps outlined in red against a grey topographic background
A map of the PDF NMP project area showing the main settlements and its relationship to previous NMP projects. © Historic England

The landscape of the Pennine Dales Fringe

The project area is described as a “transitional landscape”. It lies between the upland and moorland areas of the Yorkshire Dales to the west and the arable lands to the east. Grazing is the main farming activity. There are ribbons of ancient and semi-natural woodlands lining the small rivers and becks and several larger plantations on the broad plateaux.

There are small areas of surviving moorland including the nationally important Brimham Moor with its dramatic natural rock formations. Brimham Rocks is under the guardianship of the National Trust.

In this rural environment the settlements are small in number and size and are widely-spaced, the largest town being Masham and the larger villages Kirkby Malzeard and Grewelthorpe.

A colour aerial photograph showing the natural rock formations amongst heather moorland and woodland
The natural rock formations at Brimham Rocks photographed on 28-MAR-2012 (NMR 28271/072) © Historic England

Prehistoric discovery

By careful and methodical examination, this project has pulled together information from over 2500 vertical air photographs and 800 oblique air photographs.

It has collated this with the data from lidar (airborne laser scanning) to produce a comprehensive map of the visible upstanding and buried archaeological remains.

As a result of this work 940 new monument or monument groups have been identified and recorded across the project area. Many of these relate to medieval or post medieval cultivation but potentially significant earlier monuments and intriguing later sites have also been discovered.

Stylised false colour image showing topography including field boundaries and valley; in centre is trace of curved enclosure
A newly-discovered enclosure of possible Iron Age date near Grewelthorpe. It is visible on a 16 direction hill-shaded model generated from Environment Agency 1m resolution DSM LiDAR data © Historic England; lidar source data Environment Agency

Medieval landscapes

This project has mapped and recorded swathes of well-preserved medieval landscape. Medieval remains are sparse in the south but increasingly extensive and varied further to the north.  In the medieval period this area was under the dual influences of Fountain’s Abbey, which lies just to the east and the Forest of Knaresborough which covered land as far north as the River Nidd.

There are medieval field systems with sweeping plough ridges and dramatic lynchets within and around Swinton Park, to the south of Masham and south-east of Grewelthorpe. Aldfield, High Burton and Low Ellington are each surrounded by the tofts, crofts and housing platforms which reveal the medieval extents of these small living settlements and farms.

Fountains Abbey was supported by a number of granges, several of which were located within this area. There are impressive earthworks at Morker Grange, a close neighbour of the abbey, with its orderly arrangement of buildings and a substantial vaccary but amongst these may also be remnants of the earlier settlement of Herleshow or How Hill.

Complex and significant earthworks have now been revealed at two other grange sites: Nutwith Cote and Aldburgh, which previously had been under-estimated and misidentified.

With the benefit of the consistent and systematic mapping that is now available for the project area it will now be possible to investigate the relationship between the surviving medieval landscapes and the soils, the geology, the contemporary influences and the subsequent land use.

Colour aerial photograph showing a pastoral landscape with medieval plough ridges and lynchets
Looking south across medieval ridge and furrow and lynchets and settlement remains at Low Ellington on 08-JAN-2001 (NMR 17523/12) © Historic England

Post medieval mystery

One of the more intriguing areas in this project is Nutwith Common. Although unenclosed and under rough pasture in the mid 20th century, the common is now under forestry.

Close examination of the historical air photos and recent lidar imagery suggest that it escaped ploughing in the medieval and post medieval period: there is no ridge and furrow.

The historical verticals do however reveal a series of complex and overlapping earthworks. Some of these earthworks are thought to the remains of a prehistoric field system and enclosures. Others are known by from the historical Ordnance Survey maps to be associated with a late 19th century firing range.

However the function of the twelve substantial platforms cut into the north facing slope is not, at this time, known though it is likely that they are of late 19th or early 20th century origin.

Black and white vertical aerial photo composite showing the open ground on the common and enclosed fields around
Multi-period earthworks on Nutwith Common including 12 substantial rectangular platforms of unknown function. RAF/106G/UK/1193 4035 27/02/1946 & RAF/106G/UK/1181 4014 20/02/1946 Historic England RAF Photography
Pennine Dales Fringe NMP Air Photo and Lidar Mapping and Interpretation Project Report

Pennine Dales Fringe NMP Air Photo and Lidar Mapping and Interpretation Project Report

Published 21 May 2015

A summary report on the air photo and lidar mapping undertaken for the Pennine Dales Fringe NMP Project in North Yorkshire (6626)

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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