conditon monitoring

Settlements, Shielings & Sunshine: Archaeological Survey at NTS Torridon

Torridon. One of the most dramatic landscapes in the United Kingdom. Driving to it, from the south or the east is an unforgettable journey. Three massive mountains, Beinn Alligin, Liathach and Beinn Eighe rise suddenly from the shore of the deep sea loch to over 1000m in height, looming over you and totally dominating the area.

Beinn Alligin & Liathac seen across Upper Loch Torridon.

Beinn Alligin & Liathach seen across Upper Loch Torridon.

The National Trust for Scotland looks after over 6,000ha of land on the north side of Loch Torridon. Along with the plants, animals, birds, footpaths & upland landscape that we manage, there are also a huge amount of archaeological remains. The majority of these are 18th and 19th century settlement and farming remains; there are very little prehistoric remains on the north side of the Loch, but plenty on the southside. Perhaps it is because prehistoric folk settled and used the same land that is still settled and in use today, thus all traces have been removed. You can find out more about the archaeology sites here

In March, I was lucky enough to lead a National Trust for Scotland Thistle Camp where we carried out condition monitoring and survey work across a number of the settlements and shieling sites. This is incredibly useful heritage management work, as it allows us to see the overall picture of change of the archaeological resource & to develop a management plan to deal with all sorts of threats such as bracken & vegetation growth, erosion, burrowing and collapse.

For the condition monitoring I have developed an Android tablet based system which utilises the Open Data Kit to allow us to remotely collect the data, and then submit it to a server when we have an internet connection. Internally, we’ve found the system to be incredibly robust and useful, and much simpler to use and get data back from than paper based systems.

Condition Monitoring at Wester Alligin, Torridon

Condition Monitoring at Wester Alligin, Torridon

In total we monitored 191 sites and structures over 5 days and from this developed a really good understanding of what is affecting the archaeological remains and how.

Condition Data, Torridon

Condition Data, Torridon

I have previously written about the Data Enhancement project I work on at the Trust; the GPS survey work at Torridon has allowed us to enhance our GIS data and polygons, which means we have better and more detailed information when managing our Torridon estate. We now know the exact location and extent of a wide range of structures, dykes and cultivation remains whereas previously we had them as point data or even described as “left of the structure” “below the area of woodland” and so forth.

Surveyed archaeological remains, Wester Alligin, Torridon

Surveyed archaeological remains, Wester Alligin, Torridon

Through doing this work we have also recorded remains that are quite obvious on the ground for for a variety of reasons had never been recorded and utilised aerial imagery from a range of sources to map some of the more ephemeral remains such as cultivation ridges and furrows. I have also been able to compare the remains to the historic Ordnance Survey mapping available from the National Library of Scotland which allows us to (being to) understand when buildings were built, in use and abandoned.

Some of the structures which appear on the above map

Some of the structures which appear on the above map

We also discovered a couple of possible new sites such as a cup marked boulder, which is very exiciting.

I need to thank the volunteers, Danji, Kathy, Joanna, Will, Thomas, Abbie, Barry & Jim who made this work possible and who took to the work with such great enthusiasm and interest.

It wasn't all hard work! Yhe group at the top of the Bealach na Bà.

It wasn’t all hard work! Yhe group at the top of the Bealach na Bà.