Entry Level Stewardship (ELS) Handbook 2013 (NE349)

2.9 Managing your land for the historic environment

Why your farm is important

Archaeological sites, traditional farm buildings and the landscape they sit in are the only evidence we have for much of human history. Historic features are fundamental to the diversity, fascination and attractiveness of the countryside. Archaeological sites, traditional buildings and other historic features are fragile and irreplaceable.

The uplands are particularly important sources of information about our past. Historic features in the uplands are often better preserved than their lowland counterparts as they have not suffered the same intensive activity, which is why the uplands contain almost one quarter of all Scheduled Monuments (SMs). Many traditional farm buildings are threatened by disuse and lack of maintenance. Building maintenance and careful vegetation and stock management can reduce these threats.

The intensification of agriculture and increased farm mechanisation has resulted in many historic sites and buildings being damaged over time. Many distinctive features have been lost or neglected. ELS provides the opportunity to maintain archaeological sites and traditional farm buildings and to conserve the character of your farm for future generations.


Identifying historic features for management

All historic environment features on your holding are important and will benefit from options to encourage their best possible long-term management.

Within your application pack, the Environmental Information Map shows some of the historic features that can be managed using ELS options. Using the reference numbers provided, you can look up full descriptions of many of these on the Selected Heritage Inventory for Natural England (SHINE) website (www.myshinedata.org.uk). You must also record any other historic features on your holding such as archaeological sites, ridge and furrow and traditional farm buildings, to complete your Farm Environment Record (FER).

You are particularly encouraged to manage archaeological sites at high risk of damage from arable cultivation, or where scrub is taking over. With English Heritage, we have produced lists of Scheduled Monuments at high risk due to arable or scrub, which can be viewed on the Natural England website at www.naturalengland.org.uk/es.

Note: The lists are based on the Heritage at Risk Register, which is updated and published annually by English Heritage, so may not reflect recent changes to land management practices on particular monuments.


Minimum tillage soil cultivation
© Natural England/Peter Roworth
What you can do for the historic environment and landscape

By adopting the options appropriate to the local landscape character and the historic features on your land you will be helping to protect our heritage for the benefit and enjoyment of future generations. The tables below summarise actions you could take and the ELS options available. The information has list options most suitable for those farming in the lowlands and those farming in the uplands.


Archaeology under cultivation
  • Continued arable cultivation gradually causes increasing damage. The most beneficial management option for sites under the plough is to completely remove them from cultivation, usually by sowing a productive grass sward.
  • Where removal from cultivation is not feasible, creation of a 'buffer strip' prevents further encroachment by the plough and provides protection for buried features. Wide margins provide the greatest protection as well as benefit to wildlife and easier field operations.
  • Sites surviving under arable cultivation can also be protected by reducing cultivation depth.
Code Option description
ED2 Take out of cultivation archaeological features currently on cultivated land
ED3 Reduced-depth, non-inversion cultivation on archaeological features (minimum till)


Archaeological features under grass
  • Maintain adequate grazing levels, which prevents scrub and vegetation growth from obscuring features. Over-grazing, poaching, inappropriately sited ring feeders, mineral licks or water troughs and rutted tracks can cause damage to features, so management requires a careful balance.
  • Prevent damage by controlling activities such as feeding stock, harrowing and rolling, and the use of heavy vehicles.
  • Keep archaeological features visible to help everyone to enjoy and understand them.
Code Option description
ED4 Management of scrub on archaeological features
ED5 Management of archaeological features on grassland
UD13 Maintaining visibility of archaeological features on moorland


Traditional farm buildings
  • Ensure that buildings are well maintained if their historic importance and economic potential is to be safeguarded for the future.
  • Buildings appropriate for management under ELS are those built before 1940 using traditional materials such as brick, stone, tile, slate and timber.
  • Regular effort to keep buildings watertight can reduce expensive repairs at a later date.
Code Option description
ED1 Maintenance of weatherproof traditional farm buildings
UD12 Maintenance of weatherproof traditional farm buildings in remote locations


Barn with lichens
© Natural England/Paul Glendell

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