Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Tom the Land Detective

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Tom the Land Detective

Article excerpt

Byline: By Tony Henderson

Thousands of years of natural and man-made forces have forged the North-East landscape we see today.

But huge amounts of archaeology ( telling the story of how the landscape evolved ( lie undiscovered in the region's countryside, says Tom Gledhill.

"There is a tremendous amount out there in terms of landscape archaeology that we don't know about because we have not had the time or resources to look closely," he says.

Discovering and protecting this legacy from the past is part of Tom's job as historic environment adviser with Defra's Rural Development Service.

Under Defra's environmental stewardship scheme, farmers and other land managers can receive funding to protect the archaeology on their holdings.

In Northumberland agreements range from preservation work on Duddo Tower and Duddo Fourstones to rock carvings at Chatton.

Tom, 41, who was born in Hexham and now lives near Stanhope in Weardale, graduated in biochemistry but changed direction when he took part in an archaeological survey.

"I got hooked on landscape archaeology. This is how the landscape developed and how it hangs together, how people have moved around it and used it."

Tom completed a PhD in the history of woodland management. He looked at medieval woodland management, such as coppicing, and what it left behind.

He carried out a survey in Upper Teesdale with partner Ros, also an archaeologist.

In an area of just seven square kilometres, they found no fewer than 376 pits which had been used for making charcoal, dating from the 12th Century. The charcoal fuelled small furnaces to make iron from local ore.

What may have been happening was that farmers would bring their cattle into the woodlands and while they grazed would turn their hand to charcoal and iron production. Tom says: "Perhaps it is an early form of farm diversification. In times of wars with Scotland maybe they are earning extra income by supplying armies with iron. …

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