Enjoying Upland Archaeology:

An Introduction to the Spotters Guide

The upland area of the South Pennines is archaeologically rich, with evidence stretching back to the Mesolithic period (10,000-5,500 years ago). The formerly wooded upland area was used up until the Late Bronze Age (around 3,000 years ago), but when the climate became less desirable most people moved down to the lowland zones. Some evidence of Iron Age activity survives. Roman roads cross the area and forts are recorded in both Ilkley and Castleshaw. Evidence of medieval agricultural activity can also be found. The area’s rich mineral resources, in particular coal, were exploited from as early as the Roman period and were of great importance in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, declining towards the end of the 19th century. Areas of the moor were used during the world wars for training, for example the WWII shooting ranges at Hangingstone Quarry, Ilkley Moor, and defence.

The landscape as we see it today is the result of human behaviour over many years and may therefore contain features from many different periods. In some cases the features survive as standing monuments or earthworks as they have escaped modern agriculture. However, it is likely that the full extent of the feature is not visible. As a result it is often difficult to recognise and identify features. 

The appearance of the landscape has not only changed over time, but changes on a daily (and sometimes hourly) basis due to the weather and the time of year. The most dramatic changes are due to variable lighting conditions which can make the landscape appear very different; features that on one day are obvious, in different lighting can almost disappear. Where possible, it is very useful to revisit the same location at different times of year and in different conditions.

Recognising features and understanding the landscape is not something that relies solely on the great outdoors. There are lots of ways to investigate it, either before you head out into the landscape, or afterwards when you think that you may have noticed a feature. A series of leaflets have been developed to help you get started. A key provides basic feature descriptions alongside a series of possible identifications. Groups of features are then described in more detail. It must be remembered that features may not fit the descriptions exactly. A degree of variability is seen in the archaeological record and often, without extensive investigation of the feature or landscape, it can be difficult to accurately identify features. Some features will always remain unexplained.

Click here to download the interactive Spotters Guide (PDF 9.82MB)

Click here to download a print-friendly Spotters Guide (PDF 7.10MB)  

Click here for a helpful bibliography (PDF 54KB)

Photographs of features can be viewed in Flickr: Watershed Landscape.

Why not join our photographic recording project? Sign in to the Geograph website, upload your photographs, and add them to the gallery ‘Watershed Landscape Project – heritage of the South Pennines’.