Ancient Monuments

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Buckinghamshire Grim's Ditch: 520m long section between Lanes End and Bottom Road

A Scheduled Monument in Buckland, Buckinghamshire

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Latitude: 51.7614 / 51°45'41"N

Longitude: -0.6878 / 0°41'16"W

OS Eastings: 490656.211434

OS Northings: 207783.717418

OS Grid: SP906077

Mapcode National: GBR F50.DY8

Mapcode Global: VHFRW.1Z7L

Entry Name: Buckinghamshire Grim's Ditch: 520m long section between Lanes End and Bottom Road

Scheduled Date: 24 February 2004

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1021201

English Heritage Legacy ID: 35343

County: Buckinghamshire

Civil Parish: Buckland

Traditional County: Buckinghamshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Buckinghamshire

Church of England Parish: St Leonards

Church of England Diocese: Oxford


The monument includes a 520m long section of a prehistoric boundary known
as the Buckinghamshire Grim's Ditch, running broadly south west to north
east between Lanes End and Leylands Farm. It is situated on high ground,
following a similar course to the modern Ridgeway path, less than one
kilometre to the north west, which is in itself a reflection of a
prehistoric route along the line of the Chiltern Hills.
This section of Grim's Ditch, between Lanes End and Bottom Road, survives
as a substantial bank and ditch along most of its length. The earthen bank
measures up to 12m wide and stands up to 1m high in some places. To the
south east of the bank the parallel ditch measures up to 10m wide and
0.75m deep although it has been partly infilled in places. An excavation,
carried out in 1973 along a section of Grim's Ditch approximately 1.5km to
the north east produced evidence of a level area, or berm, separating the
bank and ditch. Evidence for a palisade trench, which would have supported
a wooden fence, was also found along the outer edge of the ditch. Similar
components may also survive as buried features along this section of
Grim's Ditch.
Further sections of Grim's Ditch exist to the south west beyond Lanes End,
and north east beyond Bottom Road. These sections and others along the
known route of the boundary are the subject of separate schedulings.
The corner of the house at Coppice Farm lies outside, but close to, the
boundary of the scheduling.
The following features are excluded from the scheduling: a large pond,
truncating the ditch at the south west end of the monument; the
outbuildings to the north of Coppice Farm, which partly overlie the buried
line of the ditch, together with all fences and stiles, although the
ground beneath these items is included.

The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.
It includes a 2 metre boundary around the archaeological features,
considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

Linear boundaries are substantial earthwork features comprising single or
multiple ditches and banks which may extend over distances varying between
less than 1km to over 10km. They survive as earthworks or as linear features
visible as cropmarks on aerial photographs or as a combination of both. The
evidence of excavation and study of associated monuments demonstrate that
their construction spans the millennium from the Middle Bronze Age, although
they may have been reused later.
The scale of many linear boundaries has been taken to indicate that they were
constructed by large social groups and were used to mark important boundaries
in the landscape; their impressive scale displaying the corporate prestige of
their builders. They would have been powerful symbols, often with religious
associations, used to define and order the territorial holdings of those
groups who constructed them. Linear earthworks are of considerable importance
for the analysis of settlement and land use in the Bronze Age; all well-
preserved examples will normally merit statutory protection.

The boundary known as the Buckinghamshire and Hertfordshire Grim's Ditch
includes numerous surviving sections from within three main linear earthworks
aligned along the Chiltern Hills between Bradenham and Berkhamsted, and
spanning a total distance of 18km. It does not appear that these principal
sections were ever joined to form a continuous boundary. Current evidence
suggests that the sometime quite sizeable gaps represent areas which were
formerly forested or in which natural features served to perpetuate a division
of the land. The same pattern has been discerned along the North Oxfordshire
Grim's Ditch to the west of the Thames. A further comparable linear boundary,
the Moel Ditch, extends to the east across parts of neighbouring Bedfordshire.
For the most part the visible sections of Grim's Ditch in the Chilterns
include a wide single ditch, flanked by a bank of upcast earth, which is
always upslope of the ditch. Other features, discovered by limited
excavations, include a turf core within the bank, a berm separating bank and
ditch (concealed over time by the spread of bank material) and a trench for
a fence or palisade along the outer rim of the ditch.
The Buckinghamshire and Hertfordshire Grim's Ditch is thought to have served
as a territorial boundary, separating and perhaps enclosing, organised groups
of land and settlement. It may have also been an agricultural boundary,
denoting grazing areas and impeding the movement (or theft) of stock.
Excavations to date have provided only limited dating evidence. Pottery
recovered from the fill of the ditch indicates that it was in existence in the
Iron Age. As such, the boundary provides important evidence for the management
of the landscape in the centuries preceding the Roman Conquest in AD 43,
although it may have a considerably earlier origin. It remained a notable
feature in later centuries, acquiring its present name (a variation of the
name of the god, Odin) at some point in the early medieval period, perhaps
during the period of pagan Saxon settlement in the 5th and 6th centuries. The
earliest recorded use of the term `Grim's Ditch' occurs in a charter granted
by Edward, Earl of Cornwall, in 1291.
All sections of the Buckinghamshire and Hertfordshire Grim's Ditch which
survive in visible form, or as well-preserved buried remains (identified
by aerial photography or ground survey), are considered integral to a
general understanding of the monument and will normally merit statutory
The section of Grim's Ditch between Lanes End and Bottom Road survives as a
visible earthwork along most of its length. It will contain archaeological
evidence for the manner of its construction as well as environmental evidence
for the appearance of the landscape in which it was built. The archaeological
evidence may also include artefacts or scientific dating material from which
to determine the period of its construction and the duration of its
maintenance as an active boundary. The monument, which is largely accessible
by a public path, provides a fascinating insight into early territorial land
division in the Chiltern landscape.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Network Archaeology, , Grim's Ditch: Archaeological and Management Survey Phase III, (1999)

Source: Historic England

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