MMO1726 - 19th Century water meadow around Cranscombe Farm (Monument)


A probably 19th Century catchwork system is visible as a series of roughly parallel channels or gutters cut into the hillside. It may have been an integrated system with Cranscombe Farm.

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Type and Period (1)

Protected Status

  • None recorded

Full Description

A water meadow of a type known locally as a catchwork or catch-meadow system is visible on aerial photographs of 1947 onwards as a series of roughly parallel channels, or gutters, cut into the north and west faces of a spur, on the top of which is located Cranscombe Farm. The water meadow is centred on circa SS 7585 4694 but covers in total an area of over 3 hectares. Catchwork systems divert water from a spring or stream along a series of channels or gutters to irrigate pasture, usually on fairly steep combe sides. When irrigation was required the water was caused to overflow from the gutters, thereby irrigating the slopes. This film of water prevented the ground freezing during the winter and raised the temperature of the grass in the spring, thereby encouraging early growth, particularly important during the hungry gap of the March and April. In this instance the system appears to be in operation in April 1947. Any excess water then returned to the feeder stream or was removed by a tail drain. On Exmoor this system was often enhanced by a series of parallel gutters which encouraged a more even flow. This catchwork system appears to be associated with Cranscombe Farm and may be an example of an `integrated system' which was passed though a farmyard to pick up manure, and subsequently wash the now liquid fertilizer onto the meadow sides. This water meadow is probably 19th Century in date, although similar systems were operating elsewhere in the 17th Century. A very similar system to the east at Shilstone Farm (see MMO1728) was probably laid out at a similar time. [1-4] The field gutters are still clearly visible on aerial photographs taken in 2013. [5]

Sources/Archives (5)

  • <1> Aerial photograph: Various. Various. Vertical Aerial Photograph. RAF CPE/UK/1980 (F20) 3046-3047 (11 April 1947).
  • <2> Aerial photograph: Various. Various. Vertical Aerial Photograph. NMR OS/95026 079-80 (12 March 1995).
  • <3> Monograph: Cook, H. + Williamson, T.. 2007. Water Meadows: History, Ecology and Conservation. Windgather Press. 1st Edition. 1-7, 28-9.
  • <4>XY Archive: 2007-2009. Exmoor National Park NMP: SS 74 NE. MD002168. [Mapped feature: #42140 ]
  • <5> Aerial photograph: Getmapping. 2013. Vertical Aerial Photography of Exmoor National Park.



Grid reference Centred SS 7586 4697 (175m by 365m) (Aerial Survey)
Map sheet SS74NE

Finds (0)

Related Monuments/Buildings (1)

Related Events/Activities (0)

External Links (1)

Other Statuses/References

  • National Monuments Record reference: SS 74 NE111
  • Pastscape HOBID (was Monarch UID): 1461355

Record last edited

Jan 5 2021 1:02PM


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