MMO1900 - 19th Century water meadow northwest of South Sparhanger (Monument)


A water meadow of probable 19th Century, of a type known locally as a catchwork or catchmeadow 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 was constructed on a south-west facing slope above the West Lyn River at circa SS 71784613, to north-west of a farm at South Sparhanger, with which it is probably associated. 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 may be 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 a similar system attached to a neighbouring farm to the south can be seen in operation in April 1972, by this time this system may have passed out of use and appears to have been at least partly damaged by agricultural improvements of the pasture. [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 106G/UK/1655 (F20) 3071-2 (11 July 1946).
  • <2> Aerial photograph: Various. Various. Vertical Aerial Photograph. RAF 540/910 (F20) 3158-9 (17 October 1952).
  • <3> Aerial photograph: Various. Various. Vertical Aerial Photograph. NMR OS/72065 190-191 (15 April 1972).
  • <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: #33057 ]
  • <6> Digital archive: Historic England. Various. National Record of the Historic Environment (NRHE) entry. 1464993, Extant 17 December 2021.



Grid reference Centred SS 7179 4614 (301m by 269m) Aerial Survey
Map sheet SS74NW

Finds (0)

Related Monuments/Buildings (3)

Related Events/Activities (1)

External Links (1)

Other Statuses/References

  • National Monuments Record reference: SS 74 NW120
  • NRHE HOB UID (Pastscape): 1464993

Record last edited

Dec 17 2021 10:36AM


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