Around 1800 Lettice Sweetapple lived in West Overton, Wiltshire, between Avebury and Marlborough. Her house looked across the River Kennet to the chalk downs and southwards to woods once part of the Savernake Forest. She represents hundreds of thousands of people whose lives were shaped by the changing landscape, and who changed it, over ten millennia. Peter Fowler and his team of archaeologists, historians and scientists have investigated the landscape of the parishes of West Overton and Flyfield over 39 years, not merely as local history but as a microcosm of the English countryside. In setting out to answer the question 'How has this landscape come to look as it does?', they have made use of fieldwork, aerial photography, excavation, old maps and documents, geophysics and numerous analytical techniques on everything from standing buildings to flecks of charcoal. The resulting mountain of information contradicts the persistent myth of 'the unchanging English countryside.'
Peter Fowler directed the Fyfield and Overton project 1959-98. He is professor emeritus and Leverhulme Fellow at Newcastle University. Ian Blackwell, manager of that part of the project that led to a research report and archive 1995-98, is now an education officer with the Tyne and Wear Museums.
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