Norfolk County Council

Variety – The spice of life?

Working as an archaeologist within a local authority may not always be the full Indiana Jones experience but taking today as a ‘typical’ day it can certainly be varied. I work within the Historic Environment Service at Norfolk County Council as the ‘Assistant Historic Environment Officer (Countryside)’. In a rural county like Norfolk the countryside is obviously highly significant but what does this really mean for us?

In my case it mostly means undertaking historic environment consultations for ‘Farm Environment Plans’ as part of the Higher Level Stewardship (HLS) scheme. This is an agri-environment scheme delivered by Natural England that provides funding to farmers and other land managers in England to deliver effective environmental management on their land.

We are consulted on every HLS application in the county to assess the potential opportunities to manage the historic environment as part of the scheme. We identify what historic environment features are present within each holding and which are worthy of management, we then use a series of standard recommendations and additional feedback to advise on the best way to manage sites. For example we might suggest that a Roman villa which is currently under the plough would benefit from removal from cultivation to prevent damage or we may have earthworks like a Bronze Age burial mound which we want to see cleared of scrub and managed in grassland. Natural England can then make informed decisions on how best to proceed. This process alone gives me a huge amount of variety and allows me to have a fantastic overview of so much of the county and the amazing historic environment sites it possesses. My colleague, the Historic Environment Officer (Countryside) also deals very much with helping landowners manage sites on their land through the very successful Norfolk Monuments Management Project which I’ll let him talk about!

So today I have started work on a consultation for an HLS FEP but I have also carried out a number of other entirely different tasks. For example, I work within the Heritage Asset Management Team here at the HES which also deals with planning applications and archaeological work associated with development. I take on a number of planning cases each week and specifically deal with works in churches and churchyards so I have responded to a number of planning queries this afternoon including those regarding drainage in churchyards and works in redundant churches.

I also have a post graduate specialism in maritime archaeology and have had the opportunity to use this today by accompanying a colleague on a site visit with maritime implications in an advisory capacity.

So you see – never a dull moment!

Norfolk update

Had to take some papers to County Hall in Norwich, so have now relocated to Room 301, an open plan office for the natural environment team where I can hot-desk amongst the arboricultural and woodland officers and technicians.  Now reviewing a draft application to the Heritage Lottery Fund by the Norfolk Windmills Trust, to restore Stracey Arms Mill, beside the A47 Acle Straight (between Norwich and Great Yarmouth) more accessible.  If you’ve even been to Great Yarmouth you might well have been past it.  It is owned by Norfolk County Council, and we want to get its sails back on and, hopefully, turning.

David Gurney, Historic Environment Manager (County Archaeologist), Norfolk County Council.

Norfolk update

To see what a County Council Historic Environment Service gets up to, see our latest Annual Review (for 2012-13) just out and downloadable from

More activity on the project front this morning, following a visit to the Gressenhall offices yesterday by Dr Simon Kaner of the Sainsbury Institute for the Study of Japanese Art and Culture and no fewer than two Professors of Archaeology from Tokyo.  We are forging links between Norfolk and Nagawa around common themes such as the mining of obsidian (Japan) and flint (Norfolk – Grimes Graves) and forestry, and hope to develop this into some joint projects in the years ahead, perhaps involving investigations into prehistoric burial mounds in the Brecks, the Iron Age fort and medieval motte and bailey castle at Thetford, and the medieval rabbit warrens in the Brecks.  If you’ve not discovered the best rabbit warrening landscape in the world, see

Also a possible future Landscape Partnership project on a stretch of the Norfolk coastline, following on from our previous surveys of heritage assets in the coastal zone, our work on the coastal zone from aerial photographs (English Heritage National Mapping Programme), and current work on access to the coast, including its many heritage assets, from the 700,000+ year old flints at Happisburgh to World War Two coastal defences.

David Gurney, Historic Environment Manager (County Archaeologist), Norfolk County Council