Historical and palaeocological investigations of some Norfolk broadland flood-plain mires and post Medieval turf cutting
Wells, Colin E.
PublisherUniversity of Sheffield
MetadataShow full item record
Plant macrofossil analyses of 5 peat cores obtained from undisturbed (i.e. not cut for peat) flood-plain mires situated in the Ant Valley in the Norfolk Broads have indicated the successional development of the vegetation over approximately the last 2000 years. These have been supplemented by analysis of diatom and foraminiferal content of some of the deposits together with the application of radiocarbon dating to give an approximate chronological framework within which to place macrofossil zones. Macrofossil assemblages have been grouped into 5 major zones. These are interpreted as representing: A: Carr woodland communities (pre-Roman) B: Salt marsh communities formed during a marine transgressive phase (Romano-British). C: Fen tussock/carr communities indicative of drier conditions (Early Medieval). D: Aquatic communities indicative of wetter conditions (late/post Medieval). E: Communities suggestive of present day vegetation influenced by human management (post Medieval-present day). The zones have been interpreted largely in terms of the response of the vegetation to changes in sea-level, climate and management over the last two millenia. Macrofossil analyses were also carried out on samples collected from a variety of former peat cuttings in the Catfield and Irstead Fens. Successional changes were deduced and compared with previous investigations. Historical studies of archival documentary material has suggested that the post-Medieval use of peat as a fuel in Norfolk was largely a feature of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and that it was a commodity of major importance amongst the poor during this time. Study of archive material specifically relevant to the Catfield and Irstead Fens has suggested that at least some of the former turf cuttings may have been dug in the first half of the nineteenth century but many may also date from the second half.