Old field boundaries are common features of the landscape, especially at lower levels. They take the form of low banks, often built from earth taken from an accompanying ditch. Some have traces of stonework, perhaps the remains of a wall that used the bank as a foundation.

Early fields, the earliest in the Cheviots dating from the Bronze Age, are usually smaller than later ones but without excavation or additional context – such as the remains of dwellings – it’s very hard to date their boundaries accurately. The shape of early fields is often irregular, but some medieval ones may be long and thin, reflecting ploughing and cultivation practices.

There is one type of field boundary that is linear rather than encircling in nature, and that is the head dyke. Found on slopes above medieval field systems, they marked the boundary between the arable land below and the moorland above, protecting crops from the stock grazing on the uplands. The accompanying ditch is always on the uphill side of the dyke; this made the barrier more formidable and further protected the fields below by managing the water that drained down the slope.


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