Roughtor settlement south
Introduction to site
On the southern slopes of Roughtor, below the area of dense stony clitter, there are the remains of a large number of hut circles set around three of four small enclosures adjoining a larger area of curvilinear prehistoric field systems partly overlain by a mediæval field system. The settlement is very similar to, and probably contemporary with, the more extensive settlement to the north-west of Roughtor, thought to date to the Early to Middle Bronze Age.
Access and Facilities
Roughtor settlement south lies in open access moorland. It is most easily reached from the car park at Roughtor from which it is a hike of about 1.75km.
The site is free to visit, and is open any reasonable time in daylight hours.
There are refreshment facilties available at Rough Tor Farm, on the road to/from the car park at Roughtor Ford.
There are no public transport links directly/close to the area of the site. There are bus services to Camelford. Visit the Traveline website for customised sustainable transport options.
View our interactive Access to Monuments map to find this and other nearby sites.
The houses and the small enclosures probably represent an economy based on stock rearing with perhaps a little cultivation of cereals, whilst the extensive field system represents a time when farming was predominant, though the range of crops is unknown, and small numbers of livestock were grazed on the open moorland. The interpretation of the features in this area is complicated by the imposition of a mediæval field system over the hillside, removing some of the evidence for Bronze Age activity.
The settlement area lies 200 metres to the north of Fernacre stone circle which is one element in an extensive ritual landscape which incorporates two other stone circles (Stannon and Louden), numerous cairns and burial monuments and the Neolithic Tor Enclosure on the hilltop above.
The creation of the mediæval field system, to the east of the settlement, presumably involved the removal or redesign of any prehistoric features in this area. The system is characterised by its relatively regular, straight-sided, strip fields and associated clearance cairns. There are also a number of structures incorporated into the fields that may be associated with this phase of activity, or related to the earlier activity. A mediæval cross-base was discovered to the north of the settlement possibly marking an important trackway running across Roughtor Moor towards Blisland and there is another cross base nearer to this track further north.
It has generally been assumed that the two observed phases of development of extensive field systems, in the middle Bronze Age and the mediæval period, were related to long-term fluctuations in the climate, these two periods corresponding to the two great optimum periods when cereals could be grown at this altitude. Recent research however is failing to find convincing evidence to support this hypothesis, and archaeologists are beginning to look for other explanations. Some have pointed to the lack of evidence for cereal pollens in cores taken from local peat bogs as evidence that cereals were not in fact being grown on the moor at all in the Bronze Age, and that the fields were designed for some other function, presumably related the control of stock.
Our interpretations of the archaeology of Bodmin Moor are severely hampered by the sheer richness and complexity of the archaeology when set against the surprisingly small amount of reliable evidence from modern excavations, with the scientific sampling and analysis that accompanies it.
Illustrations and Plans
Plan with prehistoric (black) and medieval (red) field systems on the southern slopes of Roughtor (Johnson and Rose 1994)
- Johnson, R. and Rose, P, 1994. Bodmin Moor: An Archaeological Survey. Vol.1: The human landscape to c1800. English Heritage. ISBN 0953 3796.
- Preston-Jones, A. 1994. An Archaeological Assessment of Roughtor, Bodmin Moor. Historic Environment Service, Cornwall County Council.