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Reading the pastoral landscape: Palynological and historical evidence for the impacts of long-term grazing on wether hill, ingram, northumberland

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Althea L. Davies, Piers Dixon

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Many upland environments are valued for their openness, which is often actively maintained by extensive pastoral agriculture. Documentary sources indicate the complexity and longevity of regulations designed to protect the hill grazing resource from over-exploitation but these systems leave relatively few traces on the ground. Consequently pollen analysis is an important method for establishing the impact of centuries of grazing on the quality of hill pastures. This is demonstrated at Wether Hill, Northumberland, where a pollen sequence details changes in vegetation composition and diversity over the last c. 1,500 years. These are correlated with historical evidence over the last c. 800years for a more complete understanding of the socioeconomic context that governed the use of hill grazing. Changes in grazing regimes had a profound influence on these hill pastures, contributing to permanent changes in the relative abundance of heather, grasses and herbs, and causing a severe decline in habitat diversity within the last c. 200 years. The results have many regional parallels, indicating extensive reductions in the biodiversity of upland habitats. This has implications for future management and conservation policies and shows the contribution that an understanding of environmental and land-use history can make to debates surrounding current environmental issues.



Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)35-45
Number of pages11
JournalLandscape History
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2007

    Research areas

  • Archaeology, Conservation, Environmental history, Grazing history, Heathland, Ridge and furrow, Uplands

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