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Bronze Age and Iron Age trackways 600m north east of Northbrook Farm

A Scheduled Monument in Shapwick, Somerset

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Latitude: 51.1496 / 51°8'58"N

Longitude: -2.8067 / 2°48'24"W

OS Eastings: 343667.775246

OS Northings: 139236.122673

OS Grid: ST436392

Mapcode National: GBR MF.7YHX

Mapcode Global: VH7DM.9CKK

Entry Name: Bronze Age and Iron Age trackways 600m north east of Northbrook Farm

Scheduled Date: 14 January 1976

Last Amended: 19 April 1996

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1014444

English Heritage Legacy ID: 27986

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 contains sections of three Bronze Age timber trackways, the Meare
Heath, East Moors and Withy Bed Copse Tracks, and one Iron Age track, the
Shapwick Heath Track. It is located at the south end of the Meare Heath
Track, at the foot of the Polden Ridge.
The four tracks were noted to the north of the scheduled area, in various
states of preservation within fields subject to peat extraction, and all have
projected alignments within the area of the scheduling.
The East Moors Track was noted in a peat field in 1979, 100m to the east of
Nine Acre Drove. It was exposed for a length of 70m, exhibiting damage due to
peat cutting. The ten sections excavated at the time showed it to be aligned
NNE-SSW and made from coppiced hazel brushwood. Occasional transverses were
overlain by longitudinals, averaging 40 stems over 0.6m-1m width. Some weaving
of stems around the transverses was noted, suggesting a hurdle construction.
There were a number of areas of damage and subsequent repair by replacement of
the overlying hurdle or panel.
The Meare Heath Track has been traced for 2.5km from Meare island in the
north east, to the Polden Ridge in the south west. Heavy oak beams were laid
transversely at 0.5m-1m intervals, and pegged in place through their
perforated ends. Two oak planks were laid longitudinally side by side on top
of these, forming a walkway 1m wide. The track showed elements of
consolidation and repair, especially where the heavy timbers had sunk into the
raised bog. The location of the Withy Bed Copse Track is known from peat
cuttings to the west of Nine Acre Drove and directly north of the monument. It
consisted of concentrations of material on a NNE-SSW alignment. The wood
exhibited different aspects of construction, worked planks of split ash and
alder, with brushwood, stakes and hurdling. All the wood was found at the same
level within the peat cuts, suggesting contemporaneity. It may be connected
with the Shapwick Heath Track.
The Shapwick Heath Track is aligned north east-south west to the west of Nine
Acre Drove. Noted for a length of 82m, it was recorded in 1944 and 1953. The
trackway consisted of longitudinal hazel brushwood with cut ends, held by
stakes 0.1m-0.2m in length. Bog myrtle brushwood was overlying this
construction. Woodworking waste from the sharpened stakes was noted at the
No excavations have been undertaken within the area of the scheduling, which
is located within the peat extraction zone.
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 monument 600m north east of Northbrook Farm contains information relating
to four preserved timber trackways spanning nearly 2000 years. The monument is
situated at the base of the Polden Ridge, so the terminals of the trackways
could be present here. Much of the projected and known lengths of these
trackways no longer survive beyond the monument due to peat extraction. The
monument is located 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), 5-6
Coles, J M et al, 'Somerset Levels Papers' in The Meare Heath Track 1985, , Vol. 14, (1988), 6-33
Coles, B J, Dobson, M J, 'Somerset Levels Papers' in Calibration of Radiocarbon dates from the Somerset Levels, , Vol. 15, (1989), 64-69
Coles, J M et al, 'Somerset Levels Papers' in Withy Bed Copse, 1974, , Vol. 1, (1975), 29-42
Coles, J M, Orme, B J, 'Somerset Levels Papers' in The Meare Heath Track, , Vol. 4, (1978), 11-39
Orme, B J, Sturdy, C R, Morgan, R A, 'Somerset Levels Papers' in East Moors 1979, , Vol. 6, (1980), 52-60
flint11796,12303,12054 whetstones 12062,12309,12310,
Godwin, H, Iron age pottery 12058,
SMR entries, flint 11796,12054,12303,whetstones 12062,12309,
SMR entries, flint 11796,12303,12054,whetstones12062,12309,12310,
Withy Bed Copse 10755,

Source: Historic England

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