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UK Heatwave reveals Hidden Landscapes

With such an unusually long stretch of hot and dry weather across most of the UK during June and July, the ground is drying out to a much greater level than usual. This has its pros and cons plus some surprising effects. Walkers are enjoying mud-free paths, gardeners and farmers are struggling to keep their land watered, whilst historians and archaeologists are getting excited about ghostly shapes appearing in the ground across the country. Discover the hidden historic landscapes that have been revealed by aerial photography during this heatwave…


When the ground dries out in long spells of hot weather without rain, it doesn’t dry out evenly. If there are timber or stone remains in the ground from old manmade structures, the soil that builds up on top of these dries out more quickly than the natural soil surrounds. The grass or crops growing on the surface of the old structures therefore turn brown first, so revealing the structures below.

This isn’t the only summer heatwave in the UK so the phenomenon isn’t new – those old enough will remember the most famous heatwave of 1976 – but the rise of popularity of drones and aerial photography means that there is now a greater chance of these ghostly shapes being spotted and captured. Outlines of ancient and historic sites are being revealed – some of which haven’t been seen in living memory. Here are a few of our favourites…

In Cambridge (see iFootpath walk Cambridge City Trail) there are several parklands across the city which provide beautiful green space for city-dwellers, visitors and wildlife alike. Today the parks are places of leisure and relaxation, but ghostly shapes that have appeared in the grass are a reminder of a time when they served to protect the population from bombing. The parched grass imprints show the outline of World War II air raid shelters on Jesus Green. Image Credit: SWNS

heatwave jesus green

At Clumber Park in Nottinghamshire (see iFootpath walk Clumber Park), the floor plans of Clumber House have appeared in the grass. While the floor plans of this 18th mansion, which was demolished in 1938 following a number of fires and financial problems, were already known, the level of detail that the weather has revealed is remarkable. The imprints of walls and the outline of rooms accurately reflects the floorplans and the presence of a sundial that the National Trust was previously unaware of has also revealed itself. Image Credit: Paul Hancock

heatwave clumber

Close to the village of Lasham in Hampshire, lies the site of RAF Lasham (see iFootpath walk Weston Common and Weston Patrick). Built as an RAF station in 1942, today it is smaller and home to a recreational gliding club. The layout of part of the former RAF airfield has now revealed itself within the adjacent crop field, in perfect clarity. Image Credit: SWNS

heatwave raf lasham

One of the most impressive reveals is a former garden at Gawthorpe Hall in Lancashire, which was removed in the 1940s. A photo dating from 1900 shows the garden in full bloom but a photo taken recently shows the outline of its pathways and flower beds are visible once again within the parched grass. Image Credit: Lancashire County Council

heatwave gawthorpe 1900


heatwave gawthorpe today

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