Over the past few years, a number of pieces of landscape-scale research have been undertaken, looking not only at the archaeology of these areas, but also other aspects, including landscape, natural heritage, geology and geomorphology.
Vale of Pickering Statement of Significance
The preparation of a Statement of Significance is the first stage in developing an overall strategy for the Vale of Pickering, as part of the Vale of Pickering Historic Environment Management Framework Project, initiated by English Heritage (Yorkshire and Humber Region). The was prepared by Dr Louise Cooke in collaboration with a wide range of stakeholders, both organisations and individuals, representing a range of different backgrounds and interests including cultural and natural heritage and planning.
The document aims to raise awareness of the significance of the Vale of Pickering. It may also be used as a reference ;or as an inspiration to future projects, such as in planning projects that may make use of the economic potential of the significance of the Vale of Pickering. It presents a summary of significance for the Vale of Pickering, recognising that significance can have a wide range of different meanings and can encompass many different things and places.
Managing Landscape Change
The managing landscape change project was commissioned to develop an environmental evidence base and assess environmental sensitivities and capacity in North Yorkshire to inform a spatial planning strategy for the extraction of minerals.
In January 2011 North Yorkshire Council, with funding provided by English Heritage, commissioned consultants to develop an environmental evidence base and assess environmental sensitivities and capacity in North Yorkshire to inform a spatial planning strategy for the extraction of minerals. The work is intended, in part, to inform preparation of a Minerals and Waste Development Framework for North Yorkshire and was carried out by Capita Symonds working with Oxford Archaeology North between April 2011 and April 2012.
The research was multi-disciplinary, seeking to assess environmental character and capacity for areas of surface mineral resource potential, covering historic environment as well as biodiversity and landscape issues, to inform the preparation of the North Yorkshire Minerals Core Strategy.
The research has now been completed and a series of reports produced titled Managing Landscape Change: A multi-disciplinary approach to future mineral extraction in North Yorkshire.
A summary of the main findings and recommendations arising from the research are available in the Stage 5 - Final report. It is intended that the information will form part of the evidence base for the development of North Yorkshire Council's Minerals Core Strategy.
Alluvial Archaeology in the Vale of York
The Vale of York is one of the largest lowland plains in the UK, covering an area of approximately 1,800 km² which extends from the Humber estuary in the south to the watershed of the River Tees in the north. It is bounded by the uplands of the Yorkshire Wolds and North York Moors to the east and by the foothills of the Pennines to the west. The Vale is now a largely agricultural landscape, dotted with market towns and villages, with the historic city of York its central focus. Today its soils are intensively cultivated within a mixed farming economy, the origins of which can be identified in the medieval period, and may extend as far back as the Roman occupation of Britain between the first and fifth centuries AD.
The combination of natural processes of river and floodplain development with human settlement and land-use has created a landscape of distinctive character and subtle variation, in which modern agriculture serves to conceal, but has by no means replaced, a diverse environmental and cultural archaeological heritage. The key to understanding the archaeology of the Vale, and through that how people in the remote past lived in and exploited this lowland area, is the relationship between the rivers, ancient human settlement, and the possible survival of archaeological evidence beneath river-deposited ('alluvial') sediments.
This programme of research involved a partnership between York Archaeological Trust and the School of Geography, Politics and Sociology of the University of Newcastle-upon-Tyne. The project aimed to bring together archaeological, geological, geomorphological and hydrological datasets to build a broad picture of past landscape development and human settlement in the Vale.
Landscape History and Human Impacts: The Swale-Ure Washlands
The Swale-Ure Washlands is the name given to a low-lying area between the eastern fringe of the Pennines and the North York Moors, drained by the rivers Swale and Ure. Large amounts of sands and gravels were deposited in the washlands when the ice melted at the end of the last Ice Age (about 15,000 years ago). Today, these washland sediments form a rich agricultural resource, support a wide range of wetland and terrestrial habitats and are extensively quarried by the aggregate industry.
Traces of human activity can be found all the way back to the last Ice Age, preserved as artefacts buried in the river sediments and in prehistoric constructions such as the henges at Thornborough, the Devil's Arrows at Boroughbridge and the Roman road of Dere Street (the current A1).
Because of the character and history of the area, a major research project was funded by English Heritage as part of the Aggregates Levy Sustainability Fund. The work has been completed by a research team in the Geography Department at Durham University, working closely with the Lower Ure Conservation Trust and North Yorkshire County Council, as well as researchers from the Institute of Geography and Earth Sciences, University of Wales, Aberystwyth, and independent specialists.
The research studied the river and landscape evolution of the area and the impact of human activity since the last Ice Age, and an illustrated booklet was produced to outline the main findings. This booklet opens with an introduction to the landscape context of the washlands, and then explains the main techniques used to reconstruct environmental change. Examples of the research work are presented in a chronological sequence, starting with the evidence from the end of the Ice Age and finishing at the end of the medieval period.
There is also a published monograph about the project: Bridgland, D.R., Innes, J.B., Long, A.J. and Mitchell, W.A. Late Quaternary Landscape Evolution of the Swale-Ure Washlands, North Yorkshire. Oxford: Oxbow Books; 2011.