Tuesday, 14 May 2019

Norfolk Big Fields 1

The first in a (hopefully) occasional series.

Question: how many metres of hedgerow were lost in the making of this nearly 100-acre field?

Bonus question: how many trees were lost in the process?

Whenever you see odd-shaped fields, there is a good chance you are looking at what was once several smaller fields. Thankfully with the excellent resource at Norfolk County Council's mapexplorer it is possible to warp back in time to see whether your suspicions are correct. Here's the first edition OS map (1879-1886):

You can see the outline of the modern field easily enough, & a quick count shows that it was originally 12 fields. Actually if you go back to the 1840 Tithe map you can see a further 5 field divisions (not shown here, but drawn in later...). Fast forward to 1945:
The field boundaries are the same as in the OS1 map: usefully, individual trees are also visible. But by 1988, the hedgerows and trees have been removed:
In the following map I've drawn the lost hedgerows back in. (Note: some of these may have been banks only. It's hard to be sure. The shadows on the RAF photograph are a useful clue.)

The hedgerows marked in blue were removed between 1840 and OS 1st edition in 1879-1886. The pink hedgerows were removed between 1945 and 1988. The yellow hedgerow was added between 1840 and 1879-1886, but was removed between 1945 and 1988.

Finally, the trees visible on the 1945 RAF aerial have been drawn in too. These were probably mature oaks.

And so it is now possible to tally everything up. Between 1840 and OS 1st edition, 950 m of hedgerows were lost, with 150 m gained, for a net loss of 800 m. From 1945 to 1988, 3070 m of hedgerows were lost. The total over the mapped period lost was 3870 m, not including the 150 m added and subsequently removed.

Bonus answer: the number of trees, probably all oaks, lost was, by my count, 26.

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