Click one of the letters above to advance the page to terms beginning with that letter.


aged tree

A particularly old tree, with or without biological interest. See also veteran tree.

ancient woodland

The Ancient Woodland Inventory (Provisional) for England (English Nature 1999 ) defines ‘ancient woodland’ as ‘land that has had continuous woodland cover since at least 1600’.

Anglian glaciation

The Anglian glaciation occurred between approximately 475,000 and 425,000 years ago. This was the most significant glaciation to affect the region, having a profound impact on the landscape by depositing a thick layer of glacial till (boulder clay) and associated glaciofluvial sands and gravels across the region as far south as the Lee valley. Topography and drainage patterns were comprehensively reshaped.


Beccles series

Fine loamy over clayey soils formed from chalky glacial till (qv) which are slowly permeable, but seasonally waterlogged if not underdrained.


Biological diversity, the variety of life on Earth. The variability among living organisms from all sources including, inter alia, terrestrial, marine and other aquatic ecosystems and the ecological complexes of which they are part; this includes diversity within species, between species and of ecosystems. (CBD Article 2: UNEP, 1992).

Biodiversity plays a fundamental role in supporting many basic natural services for humans, such as fresh water, fertile soil and clean air. It provides us with food, fuel, health, wealth and other vital services. The UK has a high diversity of habitats, and many distinctive species, reflecting its geographical position. Some of its species and habitats are of world-wide importance.



A type of wet woodland which occurs on poorly drained or seasonally wet soils and is typically composed of alder, willow or birch.

clay lump

An East Anglian building technique that used large, unfired, clay bricks set in a clay mortar. The bricks were made of local clays mixed with chopped straw, shaped using a simple wooden mould and air-dried. The sizes could vary from about 22 x 12 x 5 inches to 18 x 6 x 6 inches. The wall surfaces were originally finished with a clay plaster, which was often tarred for weatherproofing and then sanded to take a colour-wash, but by the 1920s cement rendering was the most frequent surface treatment. In some cases the clay lumps were hidden behind a brick facing. A brick or stone plinth was usual to give the blocks a dry foundation.


A form of hard chalk used as a building stone. The main sources of this material were on the north-west edges of Suffolk – at Lakenheath on the fen-edge, at Thetford in Norfolk and at Burwell (‘Burwell stone’), Orwell and Barrington (‘Barrington stone’ a grey-green variety with glauconite) in Cambridgeshire. Although hard enough to be worked into blocks, it was still susceptible to rapid weathering if exposed. So, for external walls, its use was mainly limited to vernacular buildings in its source areas, as can be seen in Lakenheath. In many cases it was combined with flint or brick to make more durable structures But it was also more widely used in medieval church interiors, where the material’s softness could be protected from weathering and exploited for richly carved decoration, as in Wingfield church.


A field system with one prevailing axis of orientation. Most of the field boundaries either follow this axis (axial boundaries) or run at right angles to it (transverse boundaries). This type of landscape can be most clearly seen on old maps of the South Elmhams and IIketshalls in north-east Suffolk. Unfortunately this area suffered from a high rate of hedgerow removal in the 20th century and the patterns are now much weakened.

coastal squeeze

Occurs where fixed sea defenses prevent the natural migration of saltmarsh inland as estuaries become subject to sea level rise.


Land in communal use. Most frequently this is grassland or heathland used for animal grazing (see also greens and tyes), but the term can also be applied to arable, meadows or woods. Historically, the soil of the commons belonged to the manorial lords, but its use was subject to the common rights of the tenants. The number and definition of the common-right holders varies from common to common, but is often limited to the properties bordering a particular common. The pasturing of a set number of animals (variously called a beast-going, gate, share or stint ) is the most frequent common right, but additionally the tenants could have rights to take firewood (estover), timber for ploughs, gates or house repairs (bote), to dig for peat for fuel (turbary) or for ‘stone’ for road repairs.

Since the Commons Registration Act of 1965, greens and commons have become legally distinct: commons are subject to communal grazing rights, but greens are used for exercise or recreation – but in the past the terms were interchangeable.


Trees cut down to ground level and then allowed to regenerate. Most native trees, with the notable exception of pines, will regenerate from stumps (stools) or will send up suckers from the root system (notably elms). The vigour of an established root system will quickly send up a number of fast-growing shoots that will produce a crop of straight poles that can be used for fencing, wattle-work and fuel. The poles are harvested at intervals and allowed to re-grow again. The process can go on indefinitely and in many woods the oldest trees are the coppice stools – some may be as much as 1000 years old. One problem with coppicing is that the young shoots are vulnerable to attack from grazing animals, so they need to be excluded from recently coppiced areas.


18th-century antiquarians borrowed this Latin term, meaning a ‘racecourse’, to describe a particular type of Neolithic (qv) monument, exemplified by the Dorset Cursus, the largest and best-preserved of them. This consists of a very elongated enclosure that is 10km (6¼ miles) long but only 82m wide, marked by parallel earthen banks with external ditches. However most cursuses are now only visible as cropmarks, their banks having been flattened long ago. Through aerial photography over 150 have now been recorded, the majority occupying low-lying positions beside rivers and streams.



Duck decoys are ponds or other bodies of water designed to attract and trap wildfowl. Attached to the ponds are a number of narrow curving channels, known as pipes, which were covered with nets; wildfowl were lured into these and captured. A particular distinctive form of decoy, known as the ‘skate’s egg’ form has a rectangular pond with a curving pipe at each corner.

Decoys were very much a feature of eastern England, with the largest numbers being recorded in Lincolnshire, Norfolk, Suffolk and Essex.

deer parks

Areas enclosed for the farming and, sometimes (depending on their size) the hunting of deer to provide venison for lordly elites. The parks often have rounded outlines, defined by earthen banks and ditches, supplemented by expensive wooden fences called pales.

The interiors usually contained a mixture of woodland and open glades or launds. Medieval deer parks were often created from existing woodland or land that was unsuited for agriculture. Parks could also include other sources of high status foods, such as rabbits from warrens, fish and waterfowl from ponds, and doves from dovecotes. Park keepers and visitors were accommodated in lodges within the parks.


A predominantly cold climatic period between 11,500 and 10,000 years ago, culminating in the Hunstanton glaciation when an ice sheet reached north-west Norfolk c.18,000 years ago. It was characterised by widespread periglacial (qv) conditions across the region.


Roads or tracks used by farmers to move their animals between pastures or fields. Sometimes these can take the form of metalled roads with wide grass verges, while others have minimal or no hard surfacing. They are usually defined by ditches and/or hedges on either side.



The natural range (diversity) of geological features (rocks, minerals, fossils, structures), geomorphological features (landforms and processes), soil and water features that make up the landscape. It forms the non-biological substrate and context for all living things, including human life.

glacial till

Till (sometimes known as boulder clay) is unsorted, unstratified material, with variable clayey, silty, sandy and stony content, deposited directly by glacial ice. A range of tills of Anglian (qv) age were deposited in the region, most notably the Lowestoft Till or chalky boulder clay a chalk-rich, bluish-grey to brown till, widely deposited in East Anglia. More recently, the Hunstanton Till of late Devensian (qv) age was deposited in north-west Norfolk.


Traditionally, this was a term used to describe an area of grassland used for communal grazing by a defined group of common-right holders (see commons). Greens were (and sometimes still are) fringed by the houses and farmsteads of the common-right holders. Archaeological evidence suggests that some greens started to be established in the 11th century, but with greater numbers following in the 12th and 13th centuries. The largest greens, up to about 530 acres in extent, were on the wide and poorly-drained clay interfluves (qv) of north Suffolk. Many greens were enclosed in the 18th and early 19th centuries, but often their outlines survive as ‘ghosts’ in the landscape. The surviving greens frequently have great biodiversity value as areas of undisturbed ancient grassland. Since the Commons Registration Act of 1965, greens and commons have become legally distinct: commons are subject to communal grazing rights, but greens are used for exercise or recreation – but in the past the terms were interchangeable.


Hanslope Association

Slowly permeable chalky clayey soils formed from chalky glacial till (qv).

Historic Landscape Characterisation

A powerful tool that provides a framework for broadening our understanding of the whole landscape and contributes to decisions affecting tomorrow’s landscape. Moving beyond individual buildings, ornamental landscapes or archaeological sites, the HLC establishes an over-arching view of the whole historic landscape. It provides a base map for a better appreciation of separate places, but also offers an overall understanding of the whole. HLC focuses on aspects of the landscape that have not always been regarded as archaeological. It considers components of the landscape that are ‘natural’ but nevertheless the product of centuries of human action, such as hedgerows, woodland, ponds and modified watercourses.



Literally ‘between rivers’, this term refers to the areas between river valleys or major water courses. These are higher than the valley floors and can be either ridges or more extensive plateaux.



Freshwater lake deposits fine-grained soils resulting from material brought into freshwater lakes by streams or rivers.


An area, as perceived by people, whose character is the result of the interaction of natural and cultural factors.

landscape character

Landscape character is defined as 'a distinct, recognisable and consistent pattern of elements in the landscape that makes one landscape different from another, rather than better or worse'. Put simply, landscape character is that which makes an area unique.

It can sometimes help to understand the term by seeing the analogy with human character.

Landscape Character Assessment

An approach to understanding the differences between landscapes that supports decision-making that respects local distinctiveness. It is a way of understanding how the distinctive elements of different landscapes contribute to sense of place.

landscape type

Landscape character types (LCT) are landscapes with broadly similar patters of natural and cultural characteristics found in a range of locations. Whereas landscape character areas are geographically descreet areas of one landscape type, or in some methodologies may contain several diffrent landscape types.


A fine-grained, silty, pale yellow or buff, windblown (aeolian) sediment derived from either glacial or glacial outwash deposits, where glacial activity has ground the parent materials into a very fine ‘rock flour’. Loess deposits often give rise to very rich soils, including the coverloam soils of north-east Norfolk.



A moat is a broad water-filled ditch that surrounds a central platform or 'island' where a house is usually placed. Although inspired by castles, the defensive banks and walls of true castles are characteristically absent on moated sites. The possession of a defended residence was closely linked in the medieval mind with concepts of lordship and social status: great lords had their castles, lesser members of the free classes (knights, esquires, clergy and freehold farmers) had, where conditions were suitable, moated houses.

A social hierarchy is apparent in the size of moats: those that are an acre or more in extent tend to be manorial (e.g. Brockley Hall) or monastic (e.g. Flixton Priory). Moats of about half an acre in size are much more likely to be associated with parsonages (e.g. The Old Rectory, Whatfield) or farms that are ancient free tenements (e.g. Oak Tree Farm, Hitcham).

The earliest moated sites date from between about 1150 and 1200. They continued to be built until about 1550, but the majority seem to belong to the period 1200-1325.

Barns and other agricultural buildings are rarely sited on the same moated platform as the house, they are usually situated just outside, flanking the approach to the entrance. Sometimes they are contained within their own moated or ditched enclosure. Moats can also surround banqueting houses or 'gloriets' (Letheringham Lodge), deer park lodges (Rishangles Lodge, Thorndon), gardens (Shelley Hall), fishponds (Balsdon Hall, Acton) and dovecotes (Otley Hall).



Literally ‘the new stone age’; in Britain this is the period from about 4500 to 2200 BC. During this time there was an important change from a hunter-gather lifestyle to one of settled farming. Although limited to stone or wooden tools, the new economy enabled people to settle more permanently, to build more substantial houses and even to build large ceremonial or ritual monuments.


parliamentary enclosure

The enclosure of common arable land, manorial ‘waste’ and grassland commons by Acts of Parliament. Initiated in 1607, the use of private Acts of Parliament to enforce enclosure became a common practice after 1750, with 1500 being passed between 1760 and 1797. Through this process, the landowners and common-right holders were awarded individual plots of land (allotments) in recompense for their former rights. These allotments were calculated by surveyors and usually have very straight boundaries and geometric shapes. These new boundaries were normally marked by newly-planted hawthorn hedges.

Under the General Enclosure Act of 1801 the process was streamlined and after the Enclosure Commission was established in 1845 the procedure for enclosure changed. Although local landowners still began the promotion of enclosure, they no longer needed an individual act of parliament. On an annual basis, all enclosure applications made to the Commission were assessed, and if successful, they were actioned together. After 1867, after many protests, there was a curtailment of enclosure unless it could be shown to be of benefit of the community.


Land in the vicinity of a glacial environment, with conditions dominated by seasonal and diurnal freeze-thaw processes. Periglacial conditions strongly influenced the region in the late Devensian (qv) period; characteristic processes included frost heave, frost shattering and solifluction (soil creep), leading to the modification of slope profiles and a range of local landforms including dry valleys, patterned ground and pingos. Strong winds are a characteristic of periglacial areas, leading to formation of loess (qv).


A tree whose top branches have been cut back to the trunk so that it may produce a dense growth of new shoots. The trees are cut between 6 and 15ft above ground level, leaving a permanent trunk called a bolling, which then sprouts at the top – like a coppice stool but out of reach of livestock.



The Sandlings is the name of an area of light sandy soils in south-east and east Suffolk, stretching from Southwold in the north to Felixstowe in the south, but wider in the south than in the north. Arthur Young (qv) seems to have coined the name in the late 18th century as a variant of the older and more explicit name of Sandlands, which was current in the 17th century.


Set-aside is land taken out of production to reduce the risk of food surpluses, while increasing the opportunity for environmental benefits. Set-aside was introduced following a review of the European Union’s Common Agricultural Policy in 1992. Under this farmers are paid a support grant based on their crop-producing land, but in return they have to set-aside a proportion of their arable land for non-production. The European Commission has proposed that set-aside be abolished in 2009.



Tye is derived from Old English teag, meaning a small enclosure, but in south Suffolk, Essex and Kent it developed, from at least the 13th century, the meaning of a common pasture, becoming a synonym for a green or common (qv). In post-medieval times the understanding of the term waned, leading to a tautological Tye Green at Alpheton and the replacement of ‘tye’ with ‘green’ in some instances.


vegetated shingle

The mobile nature of shingle means that most of the world’s shingle features are largely bare of vegetation so it is significant that Britain holds approximately one third of all the vegetated shingle in Europe. Shingle beaches represent a rare ecosystem and should be regarded as important in their own right as geomorphological features as well as supporting a highly specialised and important flora and fauna.

veteran tree

Normally refers to an ancient or aged tree of biological interest, however may include trees which show the characteristics of other veteran trees without being ancient.