MMO1944 - 19th Century water meadow west of North Sparhanger (Monument)


A water meadow of probable 19th Century, of a type known locally as a catchwork or field-gutter 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 field-gutter system was constructed on a west facing slope above the West Lyn River at circa SS 7155 4663, to west of North Sparhanger. 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 a 'detached system', where the gutters are not directly connected to a farmstead. The head main gutters of 'Integrated' systems pass through, or are otherwise connected to the farmstead, to pick up manure and subsequently distribute this liquid fertaliser on the slopes. Nonetheless, this small watermeadow is probably associated with the farm at North Sparhanger. A more extensive system can be seen across the river on the east facing combe slopes of the West Lyn River. [1-4] This record was enhanced as part of the National Record of the Historic Environment to Exmoor National Park Historic Environment Record data transfer project. [5]

Sources/Archives (5)

  • <1> Aerial photograph: Various. Various. Vertical Aerial Photograph. RAF 106G/UK/1655 (F20) 3070-1 (11 July 1946).
  • <2> Aerial photograph: Various. Various. Vertical Aerial Photograph. NMR OS/95026 023-4 (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 NW. MD002173. [Mapped feature: #33033 ]
  • <5> Digital archive: Historic England. Various. National Record of the Historic Environment (NRHE) entry. 1465431, Extant 4 January 2022.



Grid reference Centred SS 7156 4660 (71m by 115m) Aerial Survey
Map sheet SS74NW

Finds (0)

Related Monuments/Buildings (1)

Related Events/Activities (1)

External Links (1)

Other Statuses/References

  • National Monuments Record reference: SS 74 NW149
  • NRHE HOB UID (Pastscape): 1465431

Record last edited

Jan 4 2022 3:36PM


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