What historic landscapes mean to us

View over Blackmore Vale from Hod Hill Iron Age Fort © David Noton

View over Blackmore Vale from Hod Hill Iron Age Fort

Over the coming years, we’re carrying out historic landscape surveys on all our sites. We’ll be out in the field making visits, as well as studying archives and aerial photographs to build up a picture of each site's archaeological significance.

So why is this work so important to us, and why do we think it’s important for you too?

Invisible history
Some sites are buried below ground by natural processes, but may contain important artefacts or structural or organic remains. We use aerial photography and site visits to record the condition of these sites and make recommendations for their future management.

Surveys also record the 'ordinary' details of landscape which might otherwise be taken for granted and forgotten. A survey and research into field banks and walls at West Penwith, Cornwall, and in the Lake District, reveal that existing fields reflect the shapes of much earlier ones, and the field walls are actually the 'fossilised' survivals of medieval, sometimes prehistoric enclosures.

Features like these are significant for their local distinctiveness, giving identity and character to a particular area and to the people who belong to it. That's why we value the richness of everyday elements of the landscape as significant parts of the whole, giving local colour and context to the wider picture.

Woods and parks
We also study and record the historic importance of woodlands, wood pasture and parks. Sometimes the woodland covers earlier earthwork remains, such as on the Holnicote Estate in Exmoor, where a recent survey revealed a small medieval settlement, with rectangular building platforms, hollow-ways (sunken ancient tracks), and what looks like a prehistoric enclosure. The discovery of remains like these gives us a clearer picture of the history of a site, and to better understand how it has developed over time.

For more on archaeology, find out about our archaeologists and how they work, or read some case studies of our work in action.