The Collected Papers of the English Heritage Countryside Survey Pilot Project: 2002-3

Author(s): Peter Topping, Paul Barnwell, David Graty, Robert Bewley, Duncan McCallum

Between September 2002 and March 2003, English Heritage's (EH) archaeological, aerial and buildings survey and investigation teams from the Research Department, together with staff from the National Monuments Record Centre (NMRC), carried out a trial survey project to test the feasibility of creating a heritage layer for the quinquennial Countryside Survey (CS), scheduled to take place during 2006-7. This Pilot Project sought to parallel the CS and design a methodology to monitor change in the rural Historic Environment and develop a series of robust and testable 'indicators' which could inform Government policymakers and stand alongside those created for the natural environment. The EH Pilot Project undertook the field assessment of 26 of the designated CS square kilometre transects (a 10% sample), chosen to record a range of habitats and provide a geographical spread. The emergent methodology included plough damage and risk assessments for all sites and monuments, thus keying the collected CS Pilot Project field data into wider EH monitoring and management strategies (e.g. the DEFRA Plough Zone Monitoring Project and the 'Scheduled Monuments @ Risk' initiative) and particularly the needs of the SHER (State of the Historic Environment Report) process. All teams involved delivered their work programmes ahead of schedule, demonstrating that the rapid survey methodology was workable and cost-effective. The throughflow of CS Pilot Project field data to the NMR helped to update the national record, fill gaps and provided a useful check of the quality and accuracy of existing holdings. The successful completion of the Pilot Project confirmed that EH had the necessary in-house expertise and resources to undertake the full Countryside Survey and create a baseline heritage dataset. Such data could also usefully inform the separate EH SHER process by identifying headline trends based upon the national indicators of change as recorded by expert field assessment. Unfortunately, the organisers of the CS decided, for various reasons, not to include a heritage layer in the next survey despite their own recognition of the value of such additional data and its potential to add far greater time depth. Consequently, the papers collected here are presented as a record of the rationale behind the EH Pilot Project methodology, alongside the definitions which underpinned the choice of indicators of change. The results of the Pilot Project, a record of the logistics and resources used, together with a sketch of the then potential estimated costs for participation in the full CS complete the collection. The legacy of the EH Pilot Project has been the creation of a rapid, holistic survey methodology which can provide a national overview of rural change, headline trends and threats to the Historic Environment.

Report Number:
Research Department Reports


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