MMO1771 - Post-medieval water meadow south of Ashton Farm (Monument)


A post-medieval water meadow of a type known locally as a catchwork or catch-meadow system can be seen on aerial photographs as a series of roughly parallel ditches or channels, on the valley sides to the south of Ashton Farm.

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Type and Period (1)

Protected Status

  • None recorded

Full Description

A post-medieval water meadow of a type known locally as a catchwork or catch meadow system is visible on aerial photographs as at least 7 water channels radiating southwards onto both valley sides, from Ashton Farm, Countisbury parish. The water channels, also known locally as gutters, are centred on circa SS 7856 4845 but cover in total an area of approximately 1.3 hectares. Catchwork systems are usually found on steep combe sides and are designed to irrigate pasture by diverting water from a spring or stream along the valley sides via a series of channels or gutters. This water meadow system was possibly fed from a spring immediately to the south of Ashton at circa SS 7855 4857. When irrigation was required the gutters were blocked, causing water to overflow, 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 at the valley bottom or was removed by a tail drain. The use of a series of roughly parallel gutters to improve the coverage, as seen here, is a common feature of Exmoor systems. Although immediately adjacent to the Farmstead the gutters do not appear to pass through it, and the water meadow is therefore unlikely to be an `integrated system', where the water is passed though the farmstead to pick up manure and subsequently distribute this liquid fertaliser on the slopes. It is more likely to be an example of a `detached system', where the water meadow distributed only what liquid manure was carried to it. Similar systems were operating elsewhere by the 17th Century but this water meadow is probably 19th Century or later in origin, although, this and other water meadows in this area probably continued in use well into the 20th Century (see MMO1726, MMO1728, MMO1731, MMO1720, MMO1753). [1-3] This record was enhanced as part of the National Record of the Historic Environment to Exmoor National Park Historic Environment Record data transfer project. [4]

Sources/Archives (4)

  • <1> Aerial photograph: Various. Various. Vertical Aerial Photograph. NMR OS/72065 078-078 (15 April 1972).
  • <2> Monograph: Cook, H. + Williamson, T.. 2007. Water Meadows: History, Ecology and Conservation. Windgather Press. 1st Edition. 1-7, 28-9.
  • <3>XY Archive: 2007-2009. Exmoor National Park NMP: SS 74 NE. MD002168. [Mapped feature: #33085 ]
  • <4> Digital archive: Historic England. Various. National Record of the Historic Environment (NRHE) entry. 1461591, Extant 9 December 2021.



Grid reference Centred SS 7856 4845 (89m by 243m) Aerial Survey
Map sheet SS74NE

Finds (0)

Related Monuments/Buildings (7)

Related Events/Activities (1)

External Links (1)

Other Statuses/References

  • National Monuments Record reference: SS 74 NE126
  • NRHE HOB UID (Pastscape): 1461591

Record last edited

Dec 9 2021 2:25PM


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