MMO1859 - 19th Century water meadow east of Woolhanger Farm (Monument)


A possibly 19th Century water meadow of a type known locally as a catchwork or catchmeadow system can be seen as a series of water channels on aerial photographs. It was probably an integrated system with Woolhanger 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 catchmeadow system is visible on aerial photographs as seven or more water channels radiating out onto an east facing valley side from Woolhanger Farm, Lynton and Lynmouth parish. The water channels, also known as gutters, are centred on circa SS 699 453 but in total cover an area of over two 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 was fed from a stream to the southeast, which originates from a spring at circa SS 6922 4438. 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 from March to 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. This system is also possibly an example of an "integrated system", where the water is passed though the farmstead to pick up manure and subsequently distribute this liquid fertaliser on the slopes. Although similar systems were operating elsewhere by the 17th Century, this water meadow is probably 19th Century or later in date, although this and other water meadows on Exmoor continued in use well into the 20th Century. Although largely levelled by ploughing it is still visible as very low earthworks on aerial photographs of 1995. [1-5] This record was enhanced as part of the National Record of the Historic Environment to Exmoor National Park Historic Environment Record data transfer project. [6]

Sources/Archives (6)

  • <1> Aerial photograph: Various. Various. Vertical Aerial Photograph. RAF CPE/UK/1980 (F20) 4083-4 (11 April 1947).
  • <2> Aerial photograph: Various. Various. Vertical Aerial Photograph. RAF 543/2821 (F66) 0181-2 (27 April 1964).
  • <3> Aerial photograph: Various. Various. Vertical Aerial Photograph. NMR OS/95026 011-012 (12 March 1995).
  • <4> Monograph: Cook, H. + Williamson, T.. 2007. Water Meadows: History, Ecology and Conservation. Windgather Press. 1st Edition. 1-7, 28-9.
  • <5>XY Archive: 2007-2009. Exmoor National Park NMP: SS 74 NW. MD002173. [Mapped feature: #33080 ]
  • <6> Digital archive: Historic England. Various. National Record of the Historic Environment (NRHE) entry. 1464569, Extant 4 November 2021.



Grid reference Centred SS 6998 4543 (247m by 266m) Aerial Survey
Map sheet SS64NE

Finds (0)

Related Monuments/Buildings (1)

Related Events/Activities (1)

External Links (1)

Other Statuses/References

  • National Monuments Record reference: SS 74 NE141
  • NRHE HOB UID (Pastscape): 1464569

Record last edited

Nov 4 2021 11:33AM


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