Spot that boundary…

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Spot the boundary. It’s very slight, but it is just about visible on the ground. Scroll down for the answer…

Having put my various datasets into the GIS environment (see previous posts), the time has come to put them to work. First up – and most time consumingly – to map the known coaxial boundaries within the national park. This might sound like an obvious thing to do, but many of them have not been accurately recorded before. Some of the large systems of Swaledale have been systematically surveyed as part of the Swaledale Ancient Land Boundaries Project (their website/reports are here) and several systems in Wharfedale (between Grassington and Kettlewell) have had attention paid to them by antiquarians and more recently (see Raistrick 1937, Horne & MacLeod 1995), but many are recorded in the HER only as a ‘coaxial field system’ without details pertaining to individual boundaries.

By using a combination of digitized sources, I have been able to map the remains of the boundaries in 24 known coaxial systems. Perhaps the most useful of these sources (beyond the HER, which gave me an idea where to look) was the aerial photographic imagery available through the ESRI ArcMap setup. Other sources of aerial photography are available, but mine was provided by Bing!, which worked out well as data provided by some of the others are not so clear for this part of the world. Where available, the lidar data complemented this photography nicely, illuminating lumps and bumps that were not otherwise visible due to the lighting or vegetation. It’s amazing, though not surprising, how much easier it is to get your head around a system when it’s seen from the air – and slightly ironic, considering the people who built it didn’t get to see it that way. Of course, the detail is always on the ground, but this approach gives a useful broadbrush overview – a starting point for further investigation.

The maps below show the coaxial system near Horton in Ribblesdale – like several of the other systems, you can walk though it (there is a Natural England self-guided walk through the nature reserve in which it is located here).

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Coaxial field boundaries at Horton in their topographical context. (Contour data provided by OS Terrain 5 data service via Digimap.)

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Coaxial field boundaries (in white) at Horton in their geographical context.


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…the boundary runs straight towards the camera, between the two red arrows. Much easier to see from the air (although, admittedly, this is a particularly-difficult-to-see example!).


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