A palynological study of the impact of man on the landscape of central Southern England, with special reference to the chalklands
The investigation was formulated to clarify and supplement the limited palaeoenvironmenta1 evidence available from the chalklands of central southern England. Pollen analysis was the principal technique utilised. Only two deposits within the chalk outcrop contained sufficient fossil pollen for analysis: a riverine peat north of Winchester and a mire in clays overlying chalk at Snelsmore in Berkshire. Consequently, five sites peripheral to the chalk were also examined: Amberley in Sussex, Rimsmoor, Okers and Kingswood in Dorset and Woodhay in Berkshire, The sequence from Winchester provides evidence for the Boreal and Atlantic woodland of the chalk and exhibits an early Ulmus decline clearance. Open conditions appear to have prevailed in at least this area of the Hampshire Downs since the Early Neolithic. The Snelsmore data show that from the end of the UImus decline clearance, woodland was a more common feature of the local landscape. The peripheral sites in general exhibit phases of woodland clearance and regeneration similar to sites elsewhere in Britain. At several of these peripheral sites there is a good correlation between the chronology of episodes in the pollen diagrams and archaeological events on the chalklands, although the representation of pollen from vegetation on the chalk outcrop may have been low. The rapidly accumulating peat at Rimsmoor shows clearance episodes in considerable detail and at Kingswood a phase of Mesolithic disturbance may be recorded. It is proposed that certain areas of the chalk, such as that around Winchester, have been characterised by an essentially open landscape since the Early Neolithic. In other areas, however, as perhaps typified by the Snelsmore analysis, woodland was more common. Edaphlc and socio-economic reasons are advanced for these differences.