MMO1728 - 19th Century water meadow north and west of Shilstone Farm (Monument)


A catchwork system of probable 19th Century date is visible as a series of roughly parallel channels or gutters cut into the valley side. It may be an example of an integrated system with Shilstone 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 facing slopes of a combe, at the mouth of which is located Shilstone Farm. The water meadow is centred on circa SS 7592 4729 but covers an area of approximately 5 hectares in total. 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. 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. Such an example can be seen in operation at Shilstone Farm in April 1947. This system also appears to be an example of an `integrated system', whereby the water 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 by the 17th Century. A very similar system, to the west at Cranscombe Farm (see MMO1726) was probably laid out at a similar time. [1-4]

Sources/Archives (4)

  • <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: #42133 ]



Grid reference Centred SS 7608 4702 (437m by 710m) (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 NE112
  • Pastscape HOBID (was Monarch UID): 1461359

Record last edited

Jan 5 2021 1:01PM


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