Layers of Time in the Landscape

The North Wessex Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) is one of the most attractive and fascinating landscapes of England and Wales. The beauty of the landscapes and townscapes we see today are the result of a partnership between people and the land in which they have lived and laboured for more than 5000 years. Every part of our countryside today has been shaped by history, and it is the endless interaction of people and nature that makes the landscapes of the North Wessex Downs so special.

This is an ancient landscape. Its archaeology is immensely rich, with many of its monuments ranking among the most impressive in Europe.  However, the past is etched in every facet of the landscape – in the fields and woods, tracks and lanes, villages and hamlets – and plays a major part in defining its present‐day character.

Rather than focus on particular archaeological sites or historic places, the approach known as Historic Landscape Characterisation encourages us to look at the way in which they fit together as parts of an intricately connected whole. By revealing the broad pattern of the landscape it encourages us to explore the history and origins of our local woods, fields and settlements with new eyes, prompting us to ask how they have come to be as they are today, what stories they have to tell and why they matter for us and future generations.

These layers in the landscape have been written in the land and can be explored and understood using the interactive maps, pictures and text contained within this website.

Sharing Historic Landscape Character in the North Wessex Downs has been supported by a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund.