Uncovering Fishpool Valley's hidden past

Fishpool Valley in spring at Croft Castle in Herefordshire

In Spring 2017, a LiDAR (Light, Detection and Ranging) survey was carried out in Fishpool Valley, looking in particular at the chain of dams and pools which are due to be repaired and revived as part of the restoration project.

The results of the LiDAR data have been extremely informative and illuminating. It located subtle earthworks associated with archaeological features, virtually invisible on the ground. This included the positioning of an intricate network of carriage rides and walks (as well as the modern routes and paths) which are believed to have been largely laid out in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.

Airborne LiDAR measures the height of the ground surface and other features in large areas of landscape, particularly those covered in dense vegetation, with a very high resolution and accuracy
Airborne LiDAR survey of Fishpool Valley at Croft Castle in Herefordshire

National Trust archaeologists provided both advice and training to enable a deeper understanding of the historic landscape, while promoting training and engagement opportunities for local volunteers and members of staff.

In July 2017 a one-day workshop was organised to introduce the concept of recording the historic environment using LiDAR and provide practical field experience. The event was attended by 10 people, including members of staff and volunteers and it was fuelled by a variety of cakes which kept our energies high!

Under professional guidance, the team received theoretical and practical training in navigation, feature recognition, validation and recording of features revealed by LiDAR, OS maps (both historic and modern) and other documents. Sitting in the shade of a mature tree in the wonderful gardens of Croft, the day started with a brief introduction to the LiDAR survey and recording techniques.

Our project team outline the purpose of the archaeology workshop to our volunteers
A group of volunteers talk to archaeologists about the Fishpool Valley Project

The practical session took place at the lower pools of Fishpool Valley, where volunteers armed with clipboards, tapes and enthusiasm attempted to locate, identify and record selected features such as coal-burning platforms, tracks and modern hedges.

Together we designed a simple but systematic methodology that will enable non-specialist volunteers to transcribe features in the landscape in accordance with HER (Historic Environment Record) data standards.

If you wish to join or learn more about the Fishpool Valley archaeological team, please email Viviana.culshaw@nationaltrust.org.uk