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Bronze Age and Iron Age timber trackways, 700m north west of Coppice Gate Farm

A Scheduled Monument in Shapwick, Somerset

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Latitude: 51.1544 / 51°9'16"N

Longitude: -2.8211 / 2°49'15"W

OS Eastings: 342671.340952

OS Northings: 139785.708895

OS Grid: ST426397

Mapcode National: GBR MF.7F45

Mapcode Global: VH7DM.17ZV

Entry Name: Bronze Age and Iron Age timber trackways, 700m north west of Coppice Gate Farm

Scheduled Date: 14 January 1976

Last Amended: 19 April 1996

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1014431

English Heritage Legacy ID: 27989

County: Somerset

Civil Parish: Shapwick

Traditional County: Somerset

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Somerset

Church of England Parish: Polden Wheel

Church of England Diocese: Bath and Wells


The monument includes sections of three prehistoric timber structures, Nidon's
Track, Viper's Track, and Viper's Platforms. The monument is located on
Shapwick Heath, 700m to the north west of Coppice Gate Farm.
The three structures are dated to the Late Bronze Age/Early Iron Age. Nidon's
and Viper's Trackways are projected to converge within the monument, their
structure being known from part excavations immediately to the north. Viper's
Platforms were located between the two trackways. With ground level rising to
the south, it is possible that the terminals of these trackways occur within
the monument.
Nidon's Track runs north east-south west and was seen by Dewar and Godwin
between 1949 and 1959. It consisted of pairs of large stakes or piles 0.6m
apart. These appear to have been made from split planks shaped to a point.
They were morticed and used in pairs, driven obliquely into the ground so as
to converge. The main body of the track was made from longitudinal brushwood
or roundwood, and reinforced by pieces of squared timber, occasionally staked.
A radiocarbon date of between 710-530 BC was derived from a piece of morticed
Viper's Track is aligned NNW-SSE and was first encountered in 1947. It
consisted of pairs of vertical piles or large stakes, 0.6m-0.7m apart, with
brushwood laid between them over transverse roundwood. The stakes stood proud
of the track by 0.2m. Several of the piles exhibited mortice holes below the
level of the track. Along each side of the track were laid stringers of
twisted bundles of brushwood, occasionally staked. The radiocarbon date range
for Viper's Track is between 920-520 BC.
Viper's Platforms were located between Nidon's and Viper's Tracks, immediately
to the north of the monument. They have been provisionally interpreted as
look-out posts, as they are situated on slightly raised ground. A possible
total of five similar structures were noted. Peat digging exposed
concentrations of wood, one of which was excavated in 1947, showing that the
round or oval structure was 2.4m-3m across and 0.2m thick. It consisted of
bundles of mostly birch brushwood laid alternately across one another, and
pegged in place by stakes. The structure was edged by smaller stakes. Three
alder roundwood branches lay parallel over the brushwood, two of them notched
at the end, and a further one was found within the brushwood.
A radiocarbon date for one piece of timber gives a range of between 610-
400 BC. A trackway was found to be adjacent to one structure, consisting of
two irregular lines of stakes, 0.5m-1m apart, with horizontal timbers and
brushwood laid between. It could be seen to be running parallel to Nidon's
Tully's Track, located centrally within the monument, consisted of
miscellaneous decayed timber with little evidence of organised structure and
was probably of natural origin. This was located within a wet valley, or
lagg, between the bog margin and the hillside.
Excluded from the scheduling are all modern fences and posts, though the
ground beneath is included.

The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

Wooden trackways were constructed in the prehistoric period between the
Neolithic and the later pre-Roman Iron Age, primarily as communication routes
across wet areas of ground and as a means of access to the natural resources
of wetlands. Most excavated examples take the form of simple structures of
brushwood or hurdlework, although some are of more complex pile, plank and log
construction. Wooden trackways normally had a very short active lifespan,
leading to the clustering of tracks where a communications route was in
existence over a long period; some isolated examples are, however, recorded.
Because they were sited in wetland areas, trackways generally became buried by
the accumulation of peat soon after their construction, and they are now
generally recorded as a result of peat extraction, followed by survey and
excavation elsewhere along their length.
Approximately 75 examples of either trackways or groups of trackways have been
recorded in England. Because of the way in which they are discovered, this is
likely to be only a small proportion of those present in the prehistoric
period, and some of the recorded examples will have been destroyed or badly
damaged by desiccation of the organic components. Over half the recorded
examples are from the Somerset Moors.
Trackways yield information concerning woodworking, tools, woodland
management, and trading or communication routes. They are usually associated
with deposits containing well-preserved environmental data such as pollen,
beetle, and macro-plant remains, and they may be significant sources of
dendrochronological data. As a rare and diverse form of structure used
throughout the prehistoric period, all identified prehistoric wooden trackways
with surviving archaeological remains, would normally be considered to be of
national importance.

The timber trackway site 700m north west of Coppice Gate Farm includes the
preserved organic remains of the possible junction and terminus of three
prehistoric timber tracks, and associated brushwood structures. The brushwood
structures are of interest as they indicate use and occupation of the wetlands
in the Bronze Age. The monument lies within the wetlands of the Somerset
Levels and Moors, an area of high archaeological value which has seen rapid
landscape change over the past 200 years as a result of drainage and intensive
peat cutting.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Godwin, H, Prehistoric Wooden Trackways in the Somerset Levels, (1960), 1-37
Godwin, H, Prehistoric Wooden Trackways in the Somerset Levels, (1960), 23
Godwin, H, Prehistoric Wooden Trackways in the Somerset Levels, (1960), 1-37
Godwin, H, Prehistoric Wooden Trackways in the Somerset Levels, (1960), 1-37
Coles, J M, 'Somerset Levels Papers' in Archaeology in the Somerset Levels 1978, (1979), 5
Coles, J M, 'Somerset Levels Papers' in Archaeology in the Somerset Levels 1978, (1979), 5
Coles, B J, Dobson, M J, 'Somerset Levels Papers' in Calibration of Radiocarbon dates from the Somerset Levels, (1989), 64-69
Coles, B J, Dobson, M J, 'Somerset Levels Papers' in Calibration of Radiocarbon dates from the Somerset Levels, (1989), 64-69
Coles, J M, Later Bronze Age Activity in the Somerset Levels, (1972)
SMR entries in order of text, 10739,10738,10731,10755,10002,12067,11797,12306,

Source: Historic England

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