MMO2354 - Post medieval water meadow system Prayway Meads to Warren Farm (Monument)

Summary

An extensive post medieval water meadow system, known locally as a catchwater meadow, is visible on aerial photographs extending across Prayway Meads to Warren Farm, covering an area of over 27 hectares. Several leats within the system have been recorded as individual monuments but are quite clearly part of the same system. A series of approximately parallel gutters were used to distribute flowing water evenly over the surface of a meadow in order to prevent freezing in winter and encourage early growth in spring, thereby providing extra feed for livestock. This system does not appear to be connected to any local farmyards, suggesting that this was a detached system which only distributed water to the fields and not liquid manure or other fertilisers.

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Type and Period (2)

Protected Status

Full Description

An extensive post medieval water meadow system, known locally as a catchwater meadow, is visible on aerial photographs extending across Prayway Meads to Warren Farm, covering an area of over 27 hectares. Beginning at approximately SS 7694 4119 and continuing east as far as SS 7958 4062, the area covered measures some 2.7 kilometres in length, making this one of, if not, the largest water meadow system on Exmoor. The main carriage gutter, or headmain, which supplied water to the system can clearly be distinguished by its size. It begins at SS 7694 4119 and runs eastward as far as SS 7835 4122, following the line of the 410 metre contour. It is the widest of the gutters, measuring up to 2.5 metres wide, compared with an average width of 1.5 metres for the rest of the gutters. The system appears to have been fed from the River Exe itself, possibly beginning at Exe Head. In places the gutters appear to have been recut several times, resulting in less clearly defined gutters. They also cut through several other features in the area, such as field boundaries and pillow mounds, which suggests that the system was laid out after the farm was settled. Several leats within the system have been recorded as individual monuments but are quite clearly part of the same system. Catchwater meadows used a series of approximately parallel gutters located on a slope to distribute flowing water evenly over the surface of a meadow in order to prevent freezing in winter and encourage early growth in spring, thereby providing extra feed for livestock. This system does not appear to be connected to any local farmyards, suggesting that this was a detached system which only distributed water to the fields and not liquid manure or other fertilisers. Warren Farm was constructed by the Knight family in the mid-19th century following their acquisition of the former Royal Forest, and the land around was substantially improved by the family. In 1848, the family hired a land agent, Robert Smith, who was considered to be an expert on irrigation and water meadows. Smith conducted experiments to test the temperature of flowing water in the River Exe and its tributaries, and it seems likely that the water meadow system at Warrren Farm was the result of one of his experiments.

Sources/Archives (8)

  • --- Aerial photograph: Various. Various. Vertical Aerial Photograph. NMR OS/73109 934-36 29-APR-1973.
  • --- Aerial photograph: Various. Various. Vertical Aerial Photograph. RAF 543/2821 (F64) 167-68 27-APR-1967.
  • --- Aerial photograph: Various. Various. Vertical Aerial Photograph. RAF CPE/UK/1980 3157-59 11-APR-1947.
  • --- Aerial photograph: Various. Various. Vertical Aerial Photograph. RAF 106G/UK/1501 4090-92 13-MAY-1946.
  • --- Aerial photograph: Various. Various. Vertical Aerial Photograph. NMR OS/95026 134-36 12-MAR-1995.
  • --- Externally held archive reference: Externally held archive. Orwin, C.S. 1929 "The Reclamation of Exmoor Forest" Oxford University Press, London, page(s) 55, 77.
  • --- Externally held archive reference: Externally held archive. Cook, H. and Williamson, T. 2007 "Water Meadows; History, Ecology and Conservation" Windgather Press.
  • --- Archive: 2007-2009. Exmoor National Park NMP: SS 74 SE. MD002183.

Map

Location

Grid reference Centred SS 7826 4091 (2648m by 778m) (Aerial Survey)
Map sheet SS74SE
Civil Parish EXMOOR, WEST SOMERSET, SOMERSET

Finds (0)

Related Monuments/Buildings (2)

Related Events/Activities (0)

External Links (1)

Other Statuses/References

  • Exmoor National Park Authority HER number: MSO6891
  • Exmoor National Park Authority HER number: MSO6892
  • Exmoor National Park Authority HER number: MSO6893
  • Exmoor National Park Authority HER number: MSO6908
  • Exmoor National Park Authority HER number: MSO6910
  • Exmoor National Park Authority HER number: MSO6911
  • Exmoor National Park Authority HER number: MSO6912
  • Exmoor National Park Authority HER number: MSO6913
  • Exmoor National Park Authority HER number: MSO6914
  • Pastscape / NRHE HOB UID: 1475879
  • Somerset SMR PRN: 33078
  • Somerset SMR PRN: 33079
  • Somerset SMR PRN: 33080
  • Somerset SMR PRN: 33081
  • Somerset SMR PRN: 33082
  • Somerset SMR PRN: 33083
  • Somerset SMR PRN: 33084
  • Somerset SMR PRN: 33085
  • Somerset SMR PRN: 33086
  • Somerset SMR PRN: 33087

Record last edited

Apr 6 2021 7:43PM

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