The Clerk in the Country

Friday 18th March 2022

Flying over home

If you were among the 56 or more online viewers or one of the 38 members who made their way in person to the Priory Street Centre for our first, and so far only, “hybrid” lecture on January 25th, you will have enjoyed a talk by Matthew Oakey of Historic England on the use of aerial photography in archaeology.  Sadly, I was not able to be part of either group but I have made use of the links provided by Matthew for our February Newsletter to look at my local area from a higher than usual viewpoint.

The Aerial Archaeology Mapping Explorer shows archaeological features that have been identified, mapped and recorded using aerial photographs and other sources.  Closest to me here were several areas of ridge and furrow earthworks which were visible on photographs taken in 1947 but have since disappeared.  These lines in the landscape ran northwards from the village, carved into the soil by men trudging away to the far end of the field behind their ploughs, then turning their team of horses or perhaps oxen and trudging homewards again, for year after year after year.

Looking out from my bathroom window, the land shown on the map is now divided into several fields of varying sizes; the largest an amalgamation of what were once smaller fields.  But the map is a reminder that this traditional rural scene is not as timeless as we might think.  In the age of “ridge and furrow” there would have been one vast “open” field in which each villager worked a number of long strips.

I recommend the website, particularly for rural dwellers.  York residents will find their archaeological wealth recorded elsewhere.