Aerial Archeology.


It is surprising just how much difference an elevation of seven or eight hundred feet makes to our view of the world.

In this first series of oblique photographs David Muston (working with Keith Hope-Lang as pilot) reveals a new perspective on the village and its history.

Our interest in aerial photography started with the study of so called verticals. These are photographs taken looking straight down from relatively high altitudes and used by surveyors and map makers for reference. They are very useful for getting a good overview of an area but a powerful magnifier is needed if details of individual houses and ground features are to be seen.

We were fortunate in having a particularly good set of verticals which had belonged to the late Oliver Brown and had been lent to us by his wife Barbara. Oliver had already done a fair amount of analysis and most of the initial discoveries we made from the photographs, had already been spotted by him and recorded on his hand-drawn maps.

In addition Keith had taken a number of low level photographs of Upper Weald during helicopter flights in the early 70's. We are publishing here a particularly attractive snow scene where it is possible to pick out some of the changes to buildings and gardens over the past twenty years or so.

In 1996 we were able to use the Pegasus Microlight aircraft as our main camera platform. We normally fly at 1500ft decending to about 750 ft for detailed photography. Airspeed is then reduced to some 40mph to limit wind buffet during the photographic run when the photographer leans out to the left or right from behind the pilot in order to get a clear field of view.

Most general shots are taken with either 35 or 50mm lenses on a 35mm automatic camera. For more close-up work a 70-200mm zoom is used with a higher shutter speed of 500 or 1000th sec.

An unusual view of Lower Weald looking south from the Old School House, past the grounds of Calverton House to Rectory Farm corner, October 1997.

Keith Hope-Lang carrying out a check flight at Finmere prior to a photographic survey.

The photographer has to squeeze in behind the pilot.

An attractive winter view of Upper Weald looking west with Cowley's barn and Hunter's Croft in the foreground, and Fairfield Farm in the distance at the top of the picture. Highlighted by the partial snow covering of the ridge and furrow immediately above Fairfield Farmhouse can be seen evidence of a possible sunken way which was subsequently overploughed. This now shows as a series of darker stripes at the southern end of each ridge as it dips into the depression left by the ancient trackway running parallel to the hedgerow to its left. Photo by Keith Hope-Lang, winter 1972.

View of Middle Weald looking towards the north-west. Note the shallow earthworks in the field to the lower left hand corner of the picture . This series of four small rectangular enclosures fronting on to the road may have been individual crofts, or alternatively small enclosures relating to the more substantial crofts or closes on the other side of the road. Either way they are clearly associated with the ridge and furrow which shows the classic "S" shaped turn as the ridges approach the back of the small enclosures. These earthworks together with the much larger closes previously identified to the east of Calverton road running back towards Upper Weald, show that Middle Weald used to be a much more substantial hamlet.

Evidence such as this may eventually tie in with the census information which should indicate whether these enclosures were indeed the sites of cottages. Photo Keith Hope-Lang, October 1997.

David Muston.

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Last updated 24th February 1998.