MSO6763 - 19th Century water meadow south of Wellshead Farm (Monument)
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Type and Period (1)
- None recorded
A water meadow system was seen on aerial photographs around Wellshead Farm. [1,2] A water meadow of probable 19th Century date, of a type known as a catchwork or field gutter system, is visible on aerial photographs as earthworks associated with Wellshead Farm, centred on circa SS 8301 3979. Such water-meadows are typically found on combe or hill slopes and 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. 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. The main body of the system comprises four parallel gutters, covering approximately 5 hectares of the south facing slope above the River valley. A head main or carriage gutter probably tapped a spring-fed tributary to the Exe to the west of Wellshead Farm, supplying the system with water. Before distribution on the combe slope it is likely that the water passed through the farmyard, picking up manure which was subsequently spread as liquid fertiliser. This is a type known as an integrated system. A shorter single gutter is also visible to the east of the farm. [3-6] The field system was altered in this area between the Tithe Map of c 1840  and 1st Edition Ordnance Survey 25 inch map  which may give a time bracket for the construction of the water meadow gutter system. This record was enhanced as part of the National Record of the Historic Environment to Exmoor National Park Historic Environment Record data transfer project. 
- <1> SSO289 Aerial photograph: 1947. LHL CPE/UK/1980. 4316.
- <2> SEM6918 Report: Francis, P.T.H.. 1984. A Survey and Description of the "Catch Meadow" Irrigation Systems Found in the Exmoor Region of West Somerset. 1-7, 28-9.
- <3> SMO4068 Aerial photograph: Various. Various. Vertical Aerial Photograph. NMR RAF CPE/UK/1980 (F20) 4315-6 (11 April 1947).
- <4> SMO4068 Aerial photograph: Various. Various. Vertical Aerial Photograph. NMR OS/73109 1056-8 (29 April 1973).
- <5> SEM7396 Monograph: Cook, H. + Williamson, T.. 2007. Water Meadows: History, Ecology and Conservation. Windgather Press. 1st Edition. 1-7, 28-9.
- <6>XY SMO7574 Archive: 2007-2009. Exmoor National Park NMP: SS 83 NW. MD002191. [Mapped feature: #42179 ]
- <7> SSO205 Map: 1840. Exford Tithe Map and Apportionment.
- <8> SEM6703 Map: Ordnance Survey. 1868-1901. County Series; 1st Edition 25 Inch Map. 1:2500.
- <9> SEM7987 Digital archive: Historic England. Various. National Record of the Historic Environment (NRHE) entry. 974470, Extant 10 August 2021.
|Grid reference||Centred SS 828 398 (691m by 243m) Aerial survey|
|Civil Parish||EXFORD, WEST SOMERSET, SOMERSET|
Related Monuments/Buildings (1)
Related Events/Activities (2)
External Links (1)
- http://www.pastscape.org.uk/hob.aspx?hob_id=974470 (Pastscape entry: 974470)
- Exmoor National Park HER Number (now deleted): MMO382
- Exmoor National Park HER Number (now deleted): MSO11813
- National Monuments Record reference: SS 83 NW41
- NRHE HOB UID (Pastscape): 974470
- Somerset SMR PRN (Somerset): 34391
Record last edited
Aug 10 2021 5:31PM
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