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John Rainer’s book “Simpson’s Fromus Valley and Kelsale Park: a guide to the earthwork features of the reserve” has just been published.  Available from the trust for £10, it is beautifully illustrated with John’s photos and offers up a rich picture of mediaeval life and geography at our biggest reserve.  You can tour the reserve for a talk from John “in situ” on one of our open days or you can contact us to arrange a tour for your history group.

History

Simpson’s Fromus Valley is not just a series of species-rich flower meadows: it has a fascinating history which has been researched for some years by Dr Rosemary Hoppitt, with further recent work by volunteer John Rainer since the site was taken over by SFPT.  The reserve, close to today’s busy A12 while retaining a strong sense of rural isolation, sits close to the centre of the site of  Kelsale mediaeval park: a 500 acre landscaped historical feature that probably dates to the 12th century. The park was one of many across Suffolk held by the Earls and Dukes of Norfolk (including the Bigods, the principal builders of Framlingham Castle) and which were created and used during the 12th to 16th centuries.

1616map

Typically, parks would have had, in addition to deer, a number of other land uses. There may have been dovecotes, fishponds, grazing livestock, woodland managed for timber and firewood production, salting facilities for preservation of venison and fish.  There are several medieval sources that mention Kelsale park, deer and its fishpond.

Today, when you visit the reserve, you can see the remaining features of all this activity: a flat raised meadow where finds of potsherds may indicate habitation and – most impressively – a 200 metre earthwork which formed a dam across the valley:

Top-of-earthwork

This dam would have held back the water for the huge fishpond, which is now dry.  Mere Meadow lying upstream from the dam recalls the former fishpond, which would have extended upstream some 600 metres.

We have a detailed history of the park to transport you back to days when it was the centrepiece for a family of leading mediaeval noblemen:

The mediaeval history of Kelsale Park

If you are interested in the dam earthworks and its associated features, many of which can still be seen in the reserve today, then there is a complete guide for you:

The Environment Agency’s Geomatics Group has LIDAR data available free via licensing for private and non-commercial use. Aerial LIDAR uses a laser to measure the distance between the survey aircraft and the ground surface, including buildings and other features such as above ground pipelines, highways, street furniture, power lines, railway tracks etc. One of its key features is the ability to strip away all but the densest vegetation to show the ground surface beneath.

The Suffolk Flora Preservation Trust has been able to use this data to produce stunning 3D imagery of Kelsale Park and the surrounding landscape. This has resulted in features such as the park dam and Coe Wood being shown in unprecedented detail. Furthermore, the height values used to produce the image are so accurate that the faintest of ground level changes can be seen. Former field boundaries, trackways and other earthworks abound across the landscape.

Click image to view:
Kelsale LIDAR


 

The same image with some key features described:
Key features described.


 

LIDAR data can be used to show the likely original pond extent:
pond extent

 

 

 

 

More information on the Geomatics Group can be found here:

http://www.geomatics-group.co.uk

 

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