Field Systems at Reeth

Site Details:

The field systems at Reeth are particularly noted for their historical coaxial layout, and are characterized by long, parallel boundaries that run across the landscape, a pattern indicative of significant central organization and planning. The existence of such extensive field systems suggests a highly structured society with considerable agricultural activity. Dating back to the Iron Age and the Romano-British period, these field systems are part of a broader landscape of small farmsteads and fields that once dotted the area. The coaxial field boundaries, often defined by stone banks or lynchets, are aligned at right angles to the slope, creating a distinctive geometric pattern visible in the terrain. This alignment facilitated the management of water run-off and soil erosion, essential for the cultivation of crops in the hilly terrain of Swaledale. The field systems extend across the pastures of modern farms and reach up to the moorlands, indicating the expansive nature of these ancient agricultural practices. The field systems near Reeth, particularly those on the higher elevations like Fremington Edge, have largely been preserved, allowing for a glimpse into the prehistoric landscape.  

Site Visit Notes:

Research conducted by the Swaledale and Arkengarthdale Archaeology Group (SWAAG) has provided valuable insights into the age of the field systems found at Reeth. The Fremington Project, specifically, has focused on an open settlement landscape of Late Prehistoric/Romano-British character centred on the pastures of Hagg Farm, near Reeth. This landscape includes a complex of small farms and fields, which are part of a coaxial field system, characterized by parallel boundaries sharing a common axis. Although these settlements have not been dated by excavation, their resemblance to other Late Prehistoric/Romano-British landscapes in the region suggests a similar time frame. Additionally, the archaeological landscapes of Reeth Moor have been studied, revealing a palimpsest of sites from various periods, including the Post-Glacial period through to the Native Roman and Medieval times. For a broader understanding of England's field systems, a project funded by Historic England has collated and analysed scientific dates from over 120 excavated field systems, providing a comprehensive overview of the chronologies involved.

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