Many historic and archaeological sites are well preserved under permanent pasture, with appropriate stocking levels. However some farming practices inevitably have an impact on the Historic Environment. Often this can be because the landowner is not aware of the archaeological remains, or the effect of even shallow cultivation on below-ground archaeology.
- Cultivation has been assessed as the single biggest hazard facing monuments
- Archaeological remains are unique and cannot be replaced once lost. They are often fragile and, even though they may have survived for millennia, can be completely destroyed by a single event or by years of cumulative damage (Ripping up History, 2003).
- Some archaeological sites are highly visible, whilst others are hidden and only revealed through accidental discovery, archaeological excavation or aerial photography.
See the Farming and Archaeology in Devon Information and Advice Note for more details.
Historic environment protection is a clear component of the Code of Good Agricultural Practice for farmers, growers and land managers (‘CoGAP’).
Protecting archaeology on farmland
Many important in-field archaeological sites are not visible at ground level, but can be close to the surface.
Other features may be easily visible as ‘earthworks’, for example the banks of ramparts, burial mounds or defensive ditches, or as built structures ranging from ‘orthostatic’ field boundaries to ruinous chapels, industrial chimney stacks and concrete anti-tank cubes.
Good management – for example appropriate stocking levels to avoid poaching, scrub control and soil management to prevent erosion – will help to preserve them.
• Ploughing (even ‘to the same depth’) can damage buried archaeological sites or destroy them completely.
• Subsoiling is particularly harmful, as it is likely to destroy buried archaeological deposits, given the depth at which they are usually found in Devon.
• Groundworks such as creating new water supplies, gateways or feeding facilities can damage archaeological sites of all kinds, and these potential impacts should be carefully considered.
• Trees and energy crops such as miscanthus can cause damage to archaeological sites through ground preparation, root growth and harvesting.
• Traditional maintenance is the best way to preserve ancient field boundaries, but casting up may impact on underlying archaeological sites and should be avoided in archaeologically sensitive areas.
• Maintenance of historic farm buildings should be sympathetic, making use of traditional materials.
If you are planning any of these activities, a quick check with the Historic Environment Team will flag up any known archaeological features that might be affected.
Payments for protecting archaeological and historic features can be claimed through Environmental Stewardship.
- Caring for Archaeological Sites in Grassland
- Caring for Archaeological Sites on Arable Land
- Caring for Farm Buildings
- Caring for Historic Parkland
- An Introduction for Farm Advisors
What historic features are on my land?
The Devon Historic Environment Record may hold records of archaeological sites not known to landowners.
You are welcome to use the Devon Historic Environment Service to:
• Access historic environment information on the HER.
• Discuss management issues for archaeological sites on your land.
Information from the Devon HER is available online through the Heritage Gateway and can also be accessed by coming to the HER office and viewing the record personally. Please phone to book an appointment. For simple enquiries, contact us by phone, fax, email or post and we may be able to obtain the information you require.
There is currently no charge for this information. In some cases we can offer a farm site visit to discuss specific management issues.
Historic Landscape Characterisation is a map-based interpretation of the landscape’s historic development, and it can be accessed online or through the HER.