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What historic landscapes mean to us

Sunset view from atop a ridge of grassy hill curving around a flat area with a few trees on the lower ground
Hambledon Hill, Dorset | © National Trust Images/Ross Hoddinott

We carry out historic landscape surveys on all the sites we look after. We make field visits, study archives and aerial photographs to build up a picture of each site's archaeological significance. Here's why this work is so important to us, and why 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 places and make recommendations for their future management.

Surveys also record the 'ordinary' details of landscapes which might otherwise be taken for granted and forgotten. A survey and research into field banks and walls in 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.

Archaeologist revealing a mosaic floor in the northern wing at Chedworth Roman Villa, Gloucestershire

Archaeological work

We look after many rich and diverse archaeological sites. Archaeology helps us to learn more about them and protect them for the future.

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