MMO1967 - 19th Century water meadow west of Hallslake (Monument)


A catchwork or field-gutter system is visible as a series of parallel ditches or water channels on aerial photographs and may be an integrated system with the farm. The arrangement of gutters in a lateral arrangement to the head main is unusual.

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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 north-west facing slope above the East Lyn River at circa SS 74524802, to the west of the farm at Hallslake, Brendon parish. 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 is a common feature of Exmoor systems. However in this instance the arrangement is slightly unusual. The main water meadow is fed by a channel currently mis-labelled on the Ordnance Survey base map as a drain. This channel is in fact a type of gutter known as a head main which feeds an arrangement of several lateral gutters within a very shallow combe. The source of the water is probably a spring within the farmyard at Hallslake. A second channel or head main, almost flush to the field boundary to the south, is inferred from a visible slick of water the on photographs but was not visible to transcribe from the availabel aerial photographs due to heavy shadow. This system may be an integrated system where the water picks up manure as it passes through the farmstead and subsequently distribute this liquid fertaliser on the slopes. [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 CPE/UK/1980 (F20) 4046-7 11-APR-1947.
  • <2> Externally held archive reference: Externally held archive. P 1: almost flush to the field boundary to the south [? - data from SEM7987].
  • <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: #42138 ]
  • <5> Digital archive: Historic England. Various. National Record of the Historic Environment (NRHE) entry. 1465675, Extant 10 January 2022.



Grid reference Centred SS 7451 4804 (209m by 107m) Aerial Survey
Map sheet SS74NW

Finds (0)

Related Monuments/Buildings (1)

Related Events/Activities (0)

External Links (1)

Other Statuses/References

  • National Monuments Record reference: SS 74 NW172
  • NRHE HOB UID (Pastscape): 1465675

Record last edited

Jan 10 2022 1:41PM


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