Environmental Stewardship Scheme Guidance Notes (PB10494)

Environmental Stewardship Guidance 016:

Historic Environment Features in Arable Land

This guidance has been developed specifically to support Environmental Stewardship agreements. It does not replace your Agreement and you must continue to follow the prescriptions and specifications. The outcomes shown may not be appropriate or suitable for all sites. Please consult scheme handbooks or your RDS adviser for further information.

Historic environment features come in a variety of forms, from large areas of historic landscape such as the prehistoric complexes in the Thames Valley, to upstanding monuments such as hill forts and barrows to hidden features, often ploughed flat but still containing much important and unique information. The historic environment is indispensable, allowing us to understand the cultural landscape in which we live, work and play, and giving a ‘sense of place’ and local distinctiveness to our landscapes.


  • Revert the area of the historic feature to permanent grassland.
  • Revert a large enough area to enhance the setting of the feature


  • Sub soiling, pan busting or mole ploughing.
  • Stone picking or cleaning.
  • Ploughing too close to upstanding monuments and earthworks.
  • Ploughing deeper than usual.
  • Planting root crops, short rotation coppice or turf stripping.
  • Erecting new fences across the site.
  • Tree planting or scrub growth.
  • Any form of ground disturbance or soil removal/erosion, including wheel ruttingand soil compaction.
  • Allowing animals to burrow or dig holes.
  • New or altered drainage.
  • Removing historic boundaries.

The historic environment is irreplaceable – once lost it can never be regained.

Watch out for …

  • Pottery, flint tools, bone, plaster fragments etc appearing on the surface – this may indicate continuing damage to underlying archaeology.
  • Soil colour changes or patches of stony ground and building material on the field surface - this could indicate underlying archaeology.
  • Crop growth differences across archaeological sites – for instance, ditches contain more earth, are damper and therefore the crop will grow higher and ripen later; walls have less earth, are drier and crops grow shorter and ripen earlier.


  • Make sure all workers and contractors are aware of the historic environment features on your farm.
  • Ensure tracks and access points avoid the feature. Where necessary, move fences, tracks and gateways.
  • If you are unable to take land out of arable production, consider other options to minimise the risks of damaging underground archaeology, for example, long term set-aside, direct drilling or minimum or shallow cultivation.

Rural Development Service. RDS is part of the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs
Environmental Stewardship: Farm Environment Plan Guidance 016
First Edition, Published March 2005

PB 10494B. Produced by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. Illustrations by Jackie Hunt and Dan Powell.
© Crown copyright 2005. Reproduced for ADLib under licence.

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