MSO7373 - 19th Century water meadow at Stoke Pero (Monument)


A probable catch water or field gutter water meadow system that likely dates to the 19th Century and is visible as a series of ditches or water channels on aerial photographs.

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Type and Period (1)

Protected Status

  • None recorded

Full Description

A water meadow system was seen on aerial photographs at Stoke Pero. [1,2] Although there are marks on the aerial photograph, they do not have the appearance of a catch-meadow system. [2,3] Aerial photographs examined as part of the Exmoor National mapping Programme reveal that an extensive post-medieval water meadow or field-gutter system was constructed on a northwest facing slope above Dady Combe, to the west of Stoke Pero. The extensive water channels, also known as gutters, are centred on circa SS 877 434, but in total cover an area of over 2 hectares, including a small area to the north of the road at circa SS 8781 4358. It is probable the system is fed by a spring up-slope to the south at SS 8769 4306, which also feeds an extensive headmain or leat which runs to the southwest for almost 1 kilometre, recorded separately. 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 one or more 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 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. Although fed by the spring to the south, this system is also possibly an example of an `integrated system', where the water passed though a farmstead to pick up manure and subsequently distribute this liquid fertaliser on the slopes. Although similar systems were operating elsewhere by the 17th Century, this water meadow is probably 19th Century or later in origin. Similar water meadows on Exmoor continued in use well into the 20th Century (see MMO1726, MMO1728, MMO1731, MMO1720, MMO1753). The water meadow overlies and cuts the earthwork remains of an earlier, possibly medieval field system, recorded separately. [4-9]

Sources/Archives (9)

  • <1> Report: Francis, P.T.H.. 1984. A Survey and Description of the "Catch Meadow" Irrigation Systems Found in the Exmoor Region of West Somerset. 38.
  • <2> Aerial photograph: Various. Various. Vertical Aerial Photograph. LHL/CPE/UK/1980 3172 (April 1947).
  • <3> Verbal communication: Various. Various. Oral Information or Staff Comments. Chris Webster, Somerset HER, 2 December 2005.
  • <4> Aerial photograph: Various. Various. Vertical Aerial Photograph. RAF 106UK/1655 4089-91 (F20) (11 July 1946).
  • <5> Aerial photograph: Various. Various. Vertical Aerial Photograph. NMR OS/73109 850-1 (29 April 1973).
  • <6> Aerial photograph: Various. Various. Vertical Aerial Photograph. NMR OS/79013 255-6 (17 April 1973).
  • <7> Aerial photograph: Various. Various. Vertical Aerial Photograph. NMR OS/79013 258-259 (17 April 1979).
  • <8> Monograph: Cook, H. + Williamson, T.. 2007. Water Meadows: History, Ecology and Conservation. Windgather Press. 1st Edition. 1-7, 28-9.
  • <9> Archive: 2007-2009. Exmoor National Park NMP: SS 84 SE. MD002185.



Grid reference Centred SS 878 434 (355m by 234m)
Map sheet SS84SE

Finds (0)

Related Monuments/Buildings (0)

Related Events/Activities (0)

External Links (1)

Other Statuses/References

  • Exmoor National Park HER Number (now deleted): MMO164
  • Exmoor National Park HER Number (now deleted): MSO11881
  • National Monuments Record reference: SS 84 SE72
  • National Park: Exmoor National Park
  • Pastscape HOBID (was Monarch UID): 36146
  • Somerset SMR PRN (Somerset): 34459

Record last edited

Sep 1 2014 10:33AM


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