Prehistoric field systems and the vegetation development of the gritstone uplands of the Peak District.
Small valley mires situated adjacent to prehistoric field systems on the East Moors of the Peak District
have been dated typologically and by radiocarbon dating to the second millennium BC. These have been used
as sources of evidence for environmental change, brought about primarily by prehistoric human activity. The
mires have been examined using pollen, spore, charcoal and stratigraphic analyses. Regional vegetation change
from the third millennium BC is illustrated in a core from a raised mire site, central to the study area.
Of the small valley mire sites studied, two display similar stratigraphic sequences where clay, containing
pollen types indicative of agricultural activity, is overlain by peat. Palynological evidence from the valley mire
sites indicates that woodland clearance with arable activity was occurring in localized areas across the East
Moors from the second millennium and through the first millennium Be.
Evidence from a core taken through one of the stone boundaries in a cairnfield complex above the
valley mire site at Stoke Flat suggests that the fields and boundaries were associated with this agricultural
Radiocarbon dating has indicated that at the valley mire sites, peat accumulation started with the decline
of evidence of agricultural activity at the end of the first millennium Be. Although local conditions vary at each
site, there is evidence that agricultural activity in the vicinity of the field systems occurred through the first
millennium Be, towards the end of which evidence of agricultural activity declined and moorland species became
established. Following widescale woodland decline at the end of the first millennium Be, evidence suggests that
regeneration was prevented by increased grazing pressures, climatic change, increased rates of soil deterioration
and the possible abandonment of former woodland management practices.