MMO1862 - 19th Century water meadow northwest of Thornworthy (Monument)


A water meadow of probable 19th century, of a type known locally as a catchwork or catch-meadow system, is visible as a series of ditches or water channels on aerial photographs.

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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 on the north facing slopes of Barham Hill, Lynton and Lynmouth parish, to the north-west of Thornworthy. The catchwork system cromprises two water channels, or gutters, centred on circa SS 704461, which follow the contours of the hill for over 500 metres from their source, an unidentified location on the Barbrook to the south-east; the gutters are not visible to the south-eastern of a post-medieval enclosure field boundary at circa SS 70554600, but may survive beyond this point. 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. 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 parallel gutters to improve the coverage, as seen here, is a common feature of Exmoor systems. This system also appears to be an example of a `detached system', where the water meadow is not directly attached to its farmstead and only distributed what liquid manure was carried to it. Although similar systems were operating elsewhere by the 17th century, this water meadow is probably 19th Century in origin and probably continued in use well into the 20th Century. [1,2]

Sources/Archives (3)

  • <1> Aerial photograph: Various. Various. Vertical Aerial Photograph. RAF CPE/UK/1980 (F20) 3056-7 11-APR-1947.
  • <2> Monograph: Cook, H. + Williamson, T.. 2007. Water Meadows: History, Ecology and Conservation. Windgather Press. 1st Edition. 1-7, 28-9.
  • <3> Archive: 2007-2009. Exmoor National Park NMP: SS 74 NW. MD002173.



Grid reference Centred SS 7039 4598 (375m by 374m) (Aerial Survey)
Map sheet SS74NW

Finds (0)

Related Monuments/Buildings (0)

Related Events/Activities (0)

External Links (1)

Other Statuses/References

  • National Monuments Record reference: SS 74 NW98
  • Pastscape HOBID (was Monarch UID): 1464609

Record last edited

May 13 2013 10:31AM


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