Banks, Ditches & Routeways (Archaeology)

There are many different types of linear features (banks, ditches & routeways) found in woodlands, but only a few relate specifically to woodland uses. The most important for woodland management are the barriers keeping livestock or humans in or out of defined areas.

old woodland boundary

old woodland boundary

These can be a simple hedge, wall or ditch, or in combination, for example, a bank with a hedge on top and ditch at one side. Individual elements in the combination of features may have been made at different times. Some of the barriers using banks and ditches are still substantial structures although they have been eroded over time.

Bank and ditch boundary feature, now inside the woodland.

Bank and ditch boundary, now inside the woodland.

 

Similar features may relate to other uses such as drainage, mineral extraction, water-power and transport.  Other banks and ditches may be co-incidental, for example, field lynchets (curving low banks) marking ancient cultivation areas or be the relicts of twentieth century military training areas; and others may be natural features.

 

Banks, ditches and routeways may go around the out side of the wood, extend away from the wood or be confined to specific areas within a wood. They may show how the treescape has evolved, contracted or expanded at different times.

Route of old road through woodland

Route of old road through woodland

Whilst some features will be fairly easy to follow others may be difficult to distinguish without a careful survey. Some are not continuous on the ground, but are marked at intervals by boundary stones and distinctive immovable landmarks, such as watercourses and natural outcrops of stone.

 

More information on research can be found in ‘Gathering the Evidence’ and in the ‘Recording Features’ pages.