Prior to creating a National Forest, extending across Derbyshire, Leicestershire and Staffordshire, aerial photography and a rapid walk-over survey were used to enhance the archaeological record, aid planning and help conserve the heritage of the area. The archaeology recorded ranges from prehistoric settlement and monuments associated with ‘ritual’ contexts, to 19th and 20th century industrial remains.
The National Forest extends across a number of different geographical regions and landscapes including the cores of two ancient forests, low-lying rural landscapes and part of the Midland Coalfield. Aerial survey mapping was undertaken as part of the National Mapping Programme in 1993.
Funerary and ceremonial monuments
Extensive groups of barrows lie largely along the River Trent and Tame floodplains, where they are revealed as soilmarks and cropmarks. Most are considered Bronze Age in date, but the morphology and context of some of these funerary monuments, may suggest a Neolithic date. At Alrewas, a triple ditched feature with a central pit lies within a wider context of a Neolithic cursus and two causewayed enclosures. The feature may be a barrow or ceremonial monument of either Neolithic or Bronze Age date.
Medieval castles and formal gardens
Ashby de la Zouch castle, began as a fortified manor house in the 12th century and achieved castle status in the 15th century. The remains include an impressive tower, which allows fine views over the 16th century formal gardens. Originally thought to be ornamental ponds, recent investigations by archaeologists have suggested the elaborately shaped ‘ponds’ are sunken formal garden features.
Second World War munitions explosion
The impact of post medieval and 20th century mining and quarrying is evident across the National Forest landscape, but an event during the Second World War had a huge impact that has scarred the landscape. The RAF used some disused gypsum workings at Fauld as an underground storage depot. On 27 November 1944 an accident led to the detonation of 3,670 tons of explosives, killing 70 people and leaving a crater 300m across and more than 30m deep.
The images used on this page are copyright English Heritage unless specified otherwise. For further details of any photographs or other images and for copies of these, or the plans and reports related to the project please contact the English Heritage Archive.
For further information on a project or any other aspect of the work of the Aerial Survey team please contact us by email via the link above.