MMO2987 - Post-medieval water meadow northwest of Lower Mill (Monument)


A water meadow of probable post-medieval date is visible on aerial photographs as earthworks. It is almost on the very bottom of the valley floor and may represent a catchwork system, a bedwork system or a combination of the two.

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Type and Period (2)

Protected Status

  • None recorded

Full Description

A water meadow of probable post-medieval date is visible on aerial photographs as earthworks to the northwest and southeast of Fords, formerly Higher Mill Farm, Exford parish, centred on circa SS 8427 3914. It appears to be a variation of a type known as a catchwork, ditch gutter or field gutter system, possibly a hybrid system operating like both a catchwork and a bedwork system. Catchwork water meadows are usually found on combe or hill slopes. They are designed to irrigate pasture by diverting water from a spring or stream along the slope via a series of roughly parallel channels or gutters. When irrigation was required the gutters were blocked, causing water to overflow from gutter to gutter, thereby irrigating the slopes. In contrast bedworks are more typical of lowland situations and broad river valleys. They operated by diverting water from a major watercourse, either by damming or a weir, and distributing it from a head channel over a gentle gradient via a complex system of sluices and parallel carrier channels. The primary function of both types of water meadow was to cover the ground with a moving film of water to prevent the ground from freezing during the winter and raise the temperature of the grass in the spring, thereby encouraging early growth. This was particularly important during the hungry gap of the March and April. The low lying situation of this system is somewhat unusual, but it appears to be of sufficient elevation, dropping between roughly 270 and 265 metres above Ordnance Datum, to allow the required flow of water. [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. NMR RAF CPE/UK/1980 (F20) 4281-2 (11 April 1947).
  • <2> Aerial photograph: Various. Various. Vertical Aerial Photograph. NMR RAF 543/2821 (F63) 0159-160 (27 April 1963).
  • <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 83 NW. MD002191. [Mapped feature: #43102 ]
  • <5> Digital archive: Historic England. Various. National Record of the Historic Environment (NRHE) entry. 1488154, Extant 30 August 2021.



Grid reference Centred SS 8428 3912 (241m by 355m) Aerial Survey
Map sheet SS83NW

Finds (0)

Related Monuments/Buildings (0)

Related Events/Activities (1)

External Links (1)

Other Statuses/References

  • National Monuments Record reference: SS 83 NW85
  • NRHE HOB UID (Pastscape): 1488154

Record last edited

Aug 30 2021 10:29PM


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