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The two most important things to know about the landscape around Seaton Ross are firstly, it is very flat, and secondly – it’s not flat at all!

These two factors determine pretty much everything about the settlement, development and history of the village and parish.

The hills of Seaton Ross

During the ice age the plain of the Vale of York and the wider Humberhead Levels formed part of the bed of a great proglacial lake – Lake Humber – which sat to the south of the ice sheets and covered all of this area of Yorkshire and north Lincolnshire. This lake deposited clays – known as lacustrine clays – and a clean, yellowish sand. These levelled out most irregularities in the lake bed. The sand is found in drifts and lies on top of the clay – being mostly only a few feet thick. Because of this the sandy areas are a little higher than the surrounding clays. Both clays and sand produce low fertility soils.

Height variations around Seaton Ross (m above sea level). Seaton Ross sits on a slightly higher sandy ridge; as do most of the villages. This map is taken from and used with permission. Note that can no longer reproduce this degree of fine height differentiation. Please also note that as this is based on satellite measurement, woodlands show as higher ground.

Seaton Ross sits on the north-eastern edge of a basin of clays surrounded by banks of sand, and rivers, which continues down to the Humber wetlands. see the maps above and below.

To the west of this basin lie the historic wetlands of the Derwent, to the north those of the Bielby Beck and to the east those of Everingham Carr and the River Foulness. As rivers meandered over the landscape, they and their floodplains deposited alluvium (blue below). There is a clear match between the areas of alluvium (below) and the lowest areas in the topographic map above. There is also a match between the sand and the higher ground.

A basin of clays, surrounded by sandy ridges – Seaton Ross village and parish are shown by blue roads and the orange parish boundary to locate the map. The data comes from the Soilscapes viewer from the Cranfield Soil and AgriFood Institute (CSAI), supported by Defra. The map has been redrawn in the style of Peter Halkon.

Overall the landscape was heavily waterlogged and wet. As the climate warmed from the ice age, much of the landscape between the sandy ridges became covered by reed-dominated marshland, with many smaller ponds and pools. There would have been extensive heaths on the higher ground. The marshy areas – mainly on the clay to the west of Seaton Ross – were dominated by flooded carr vegetation, with much alder and willow (see image at top of page).

The lowest areas – shown as alluvium – such as Everingham Carr, were wetlands and there is evidence of sediments that were deposited in shallow freshwater lakes. The presence of beavers would have helped to consolidate these.

Fen circled shallow lake border – similar to Everingham Carrs at this time?

The sandy soils drain better than the clays and were hence drier and also much easier to work. These characteristics ensured that early peoples chose the slightly-raised sandy ridges for their habitations and, later, farming. Even today, nearly all the villages in the area sit on these sands.

In summary: Seaton Ross sits on a sandy ridge between what would have been clayland marshes to the west and the Everingham Carr wetlands to the east – which would likely have been a fen-circled shallow lake in earliest times. To the north east the land very slowly rises to the edges of the Wolds.

The information in the text of this article comes from five main sources. Three may be downloaded from the links given, the others are available from booksellers (links given to Amazon).

Peter Halkon (2008) Archaeology and Environment in a Changing East Yorkshire Landscape – The Foulness Valley c. 800 BC to c. AD 400. PhD Thesis – [available from Amazon – £48 paperback]

Peter Halkon & Jim Innes (2005) Settlement and Economy in a Changing Prehistoric Lowland Landcape: An East Yorkshire (UK) Case Study. European Journal of Archaeology Vol. 8(3): 225–259. [download the PDF file from ResearchGate – 8.4Mb]

Ian D Rotherham (2010) Yorkshire’s Forgotten Wetlands. Wharncliffe Books, ISBN 9781783408702 – [available from Amazon – £12.99 paperback]

Rotherham, I. D. & Harrison, K. (2006) History and ecology in the reconstruction of the South Yorkshire fens: past, present and future. Proceedings of the IALE Conference, Water and the Landscape: The Landscape Ecology of Freshwater Ecosystems, 8-16. [download the PDF file from – 1.2Mb]

June Sheppard (1956) The Draining of the Marshlands of East Yorkshire. PhD Thesis [link to the PDF file view and download – 50Mb]

The image at the top of the page is typical flooded carr vegetation photographed locally.

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