Exmoor's landscape is scattered with small hamlets and farmsteads

Greater Exmoor project

Professor Stephen Rippon and others

Professor Rippon and other members of the Department, along with colleagues in the Department of Geography, are examining the landscape history of another south western landscape: Exmoor. The medieval landscape was characterised by a distinctive pattern of scattered farmsteads and small hamlets, in sharp contrast to the Midland where large, nucleated villages predominate. Why should this be? The Greater Exmoor Project has recently started to address this issue through an interdisciplinary programme of archaeological, documentary and palaeoenvironmental work.

Two postgraduate theses have been completed: Martin Gillard's (2002) 'The Medieval Landscape of the Exmoor Region: Enclosure and Settlement in an Upland Fringe', and Judith Cannell's (2004) 'The Archaeology of Woodland. Exploitation in the Greater Exmoor Area in the Historic Period'. The latter has been published in the British Archaeological Reports Series (No. 398: 'The Archaeology of Woodland Exploitation in the Greater Exmoor Area in the Historic Period').

A Leverhulme Trust funded project has also examined a series of palaeoenvironmental sequences that straddle the late prehistoric period through to the present day. This work has been published in a series of papers:

Rippon, S, R.M. Fyfe, and A.G. Brown 2006: ‘Beyond villages and open fields: the origins and development of a historic landscape characterised by dispersed settlement in South West England’, Medieval Archaeology 50, 31-70.

Fyfe, R.M. and Rippon, S.J. 2004: A landscape in transition? Palaeoenvironmental evidence for the end of the 'Romano-British' period in South West England, in Collins, R and Gerrard, J. (ed) Debating Late Antiquity in Britain AD300-700 (Oxford, British Archaeological Report British Series 365), 33-42.

Fyfe, R.M., Brown, A.G. and Rippon, S.J. 2004: Characterising the late prehistoric, 'Romano-British' and medieval landscape, and dating the emergence of a regionally distinct agricultural system in South West Britain, Journal of Archaeological Science 31, 1699-1714.

Fyfe, R.M., Brown, A.G. and Rippon, S.J. 2003: Mid- to Late-Holocene Vegetation History of Greater Exmoor, UK: estimating the spatial extent of human-induced vegetation change, Vegetation History and Archaeobotany 12, 215-32.