MMO1976 - 19th Century water meadow at Higher East Lyn (Monument)


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

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Type and Period (1)

Protected Status

Full Description

A post-medieval water meadow of a type known locally as a catchwork or field gutter system was constructed on both valley slopes above Ladycombe Lake at circa SS 7342 4834, to the northwest of Higher East Lyn, Lynton and Lynmouth 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, as seen here, is a common feature of Exmoor systems. The system is probably fed from a number of springs, two to the south of Lower East Lyn and one to the northwest, probably the source of Ladycombe Lake. It is not apparent from the aerial photographs alone if the water meadow is associated only with Lower East Lyn, or whether the eastern gutters were maintained by Higher East Lyn. As the water source may have passed through the farmsteads, this water meadow may be an integrated system where the water picked up manure and subsequently distribute this liquid fertaliser on the slopes. [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) 4048-9 (11 April 1947).
  • <2> Aerial photograph: Various. Various. Vertical Aerial Photograph. RAF 540/910 (F20) 3066-7 (17 October 1952).
  • <3> Aerial photograph: Various. Various. Vertical Aerial Photograph. NMR MAL 76071 017 (16 August 1976).
  • <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: #33021 ]
  • <6> Digital archive: Historic England. Various. National Record of the Historic Environment (NRHE) entry. 1465915, Extant 10 January 2022.



Grid reference Centred SS 7340 4823 (501m by 532m) Aerial Survey
Map sheet SS74NW

Finds (0)

Related Monuments/Buildings (0)

Related Events/Activities (1)

External Links (1)

Other Statuses/References

  • National Monuments Record reference: SS 74 NW181
  • NRHE HOB UID (Pastscape): 1465915

Record last edited

Jan 10 2022 2:09PM


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