The influence of people on the landscape

Topic 3: The influence of people on the landscape

As people live in a place, they change it. In this section we will look at the clues left behind as people change the landscape.


The most obvious clues people leave in the landscape are the buildings they construct.

In Lincolnshire, we have standing remains of buildings dating back as far as the Roman period, we also have Anglo-Saxon churches, medieval monasteries, post-medieval timber framed houses, modern brick terraces and concrete pillboxes. All of these tell a different story about how the landscape was used, and the events that took place there.

Roman remains

Anglo-Saxon churches

Medieval monasteries

Post-medieval timber framed houses

Modern brick terraces

Concrete pillboxes


Another visible sign of people’s activities is the vegetation.

People have modified the landscape to promote a particular agricultural regime, this has resulted in historic hedgerows, the remains of ancient woodland and the addition of plantations, sometimes of non-native species. In some places, the landscape has been planted and arranged into formal gardens, using groups of trees to screen areas, or to frame particular views:

Hedged fields, Binbrook

Ancient woodland, Bardney

Willingham Woods, 20th century pine plantation

Ornamental garden at Gunby Hall

Humps and bumps

Sometimes you can see humps and bumps in the ground, which can suggest past activity on the site. Humps and bumps come in many forms, and can be caused by a variety of things.

Asgarby medieval remains

Ridge and furrow

These parallel ridges seen below are known as ridge and furrow, and are formed by medieval or post-medieval ploughing.

Ridge and Furrow at Asgarby.

Hollow ways

Broad linear hollows, like the one in the photograph above, are known as hollow ways and indicate the position of former roads. Ditches are usually narrower, and deeper than ridge and furrow, and often form part of field boundary.

Hollow way at Asgarby

Tofts and Crofts

Tofts and crofts is the name given to regular sub-rectangular platforms and enclosures that indicate the presence of medieval houses and properties.

Tofts and Crofts at Asgarby


Mounds and hollows can be created for a number of reasons, such as mill platforms or burial mounds.

Mound, of uncertain function, north of Wainfleet

Other clues

As well as humps and bumps, sometimes peoples past actions can leave behind other clues.

Grass outlines

Parched grass outline

In this photograph the position of a chapel wall can be seen by the line of parched grass on the lawn.

Soil marks

Soil marks

In this picture of a newly ploughed field, it is possible to see the outline of a moated manor, fields and ridge and furrow, these are called soil marks.


Finally, people can leave behind objects, or fragments of objects. These can provide clues about when a site was in use, and what was happening there.


All of these clues, combined with research can create a comprehensive picture of what people were doing on a site.


Question 1

Here is a photograph of Old Bolingbroke. See if you can identify the various historic landscape features.
Swipe left or right to see if you are right
The modern village, denoted by the planting of trees and the presence of modern houses
The road, although we can only see a modern tarmac road, looking at old maps could suggest that this follows the line of an older road.
The ditch, possibly a modern feature, but possibly part of something older. Further research should be able to determine which.
Earth banks, possibly part of an ancient enclosure.
Large stone walls. Closer examination will reveal that these are the foundations of a medieval castle.
The valley slope. A natural feature, but one that might determine why the settlement was located in this particular place.
The medieval church, a good indication of a historic village core.

End of Topic 3, The influence of people on the landscape