Archaeological prospecting in woodland using LiDAR - summary of 2012 surveys

Light Detection And Ranging (LiDAR) surveys are one of our Woodland Heritage Services

Sherwood Pines

The most striking features from the Sherwood Pines Forest Park (Clipstone Forest) survey are the firing ranges and practice trenches within the western part of the forest. The firing rangers appear as a series of parallel earthworks in the terrain model, whilst the less obvious trenches occur sporadically over a wider area. This part of the forest once contained a known military training camp.

  • LiDAR surface model of canopy over Sherwood Pines rifle ranges
    Surface model of canopy over rifle ranges
  • LiDAR terrain model of Sherwood Pines rifle ranges
    Show terrain model of rifle ranges

Harlow Wood

The numerous rectangular hollows and platforms visible in the DTM (approximately central in the image) are the results of a vegetation removal algorithm removing all above-ground features including buildings. Where the buildings (a housing estate and a college complex) have been removed, the gaps left by them have been smoothed over to show a levelled footprint of the building. There is a small area of quarrying to the NW of the survey (not shown) and a possible small earthwork on the central hill within the image. Many of the other linear features visible are probably forestry related.

  • LiDAR terrain model of footprints of removed buildings in Harlow Wood
    Terrain model showing footprints of removed buildings


Wharncliffe Wood is located on a high ridge with a roughly NW – SE alignment.  Toward the northern end, several settlement sites are already known, but the lidar allows many of their earthworks to be seen despite being hidden beneath a woodland canopy. The western face of ridge is more steeply sloped than the east but shows evidence of abundant quarrying, typically in line with the contours suggesting a particular stratum of stone or mineral was being pursued. The western slope also shows a significant number of small indentations over a wide range of elevations. These could be exploratory pits looking for more of the desired mineral resource, or charcoal hearths associated with former management of the woodland.

  • LiDAR terrain model of quarries along a west-facing slope in Wharncliffe
    Terrain model showing quarries along a west-facing slope


Located just south of Matlock in Derbyshire, Cromford, like much of the surrounding area, shows evidence of past mining and quarrying activities. Some pits are suggested towards the western-most edge of the area, with quarrying becoming more extensive as the terrain rises to towards the east. Isolated pits are also suggested on the high ground further to the east.

  • LiDAR terrain model of different periods of mineral extraction in Cromford
    Terrain model showing different periods of mineral extraction


Hidden beneath the canopy of Wombwell Wood is a very complex landscape, dominated by settlement sites and field systems. The settlements include two important scheduled monuments and the lidar shows many of their associated earthworks. However, the lidar also suggests other possible settlements within the survey area. The field system points to a period of agriculture predating any forest management and may be contemporary with some of the settlements.

  • LiDAR terrain model of early settlement areas and field systems in Wombwell
    Terrain model showing earlier settlement areas and field systems
    Enlarge (image size 85K)

Old Park Wood

The landscape beneath Old Park Wood indicates a complex area of ground disturbance. The small holes in the centre of the image suggest a mineral extraction point and the quantity of spoil around them may be indicates the use of deeper mine shafts and the extraction of quantities of material from depth. On their western edge, some of the features appear to have been subsequently cut and more lie to the north-west corner of the image. The area in between may have been re-graded by a later phase of agricultural or forestry related activity.

  • LiDAR terrain model of possible mining activity in Old Park Wood
    Terrain model showing possible mining activity


Located to the north-east of Edwinstowe, Birklands forms a significant part of the Sherwood Forest Country Park. In addition to various types and phases of earlier cultivation, and a few pits, a large rectilinear enclosure ditch is clearly visible in the lidar data and is shown in the image below. A large circular feature is also identified in the data, located close to a collection of marker stones on a small hill, believed to indicate a historic meeting place within the landscape.  Further information can be found at:

The area is also famous for one of it’s veteran trees, ‘Major Oak’, where the legendary Robin Hood was once reputed to have hidden. The second image below shows a small part of the corresponding un-processed point cloud and how the airborne lidar system is still able to disclose much of the detail of the structure of this ancient tree. The colours represent height above mean sea level.

  • LiDAR terrain model of various types and phases of earlier cultivation, a few pits, a large rectilinear enclosure ditch in Sherwood Forest Country Park
    Terrain model showing various types and phases of earlier cultivation, a few pits and a large rectilinear enclosure ditch
  • Part of an un-processed LiDAR point cloud of the ‘Major Oak’ in Sherwood Forest Country Park
    Point cloud of the ‘Major Oak’

New Forest Remembers project

The Second World War project aims to examine many of the coastal defences surrounding the forest and extends the 2011 lidar survey beyond that of the Crown Lands survey to fully encompass all of the National Park and some areas beyond, especially to the west and north-west.