1.3 Research aims and rationale

The survey which this article describes has produced a catchment-scale record of the surface-visible palaeochannel resource in the Trent Valley. The bulk of this work formed one strand of a multi-disciplinary project carried out by the Trent Valley GeoArchaeology group during 2002 and 2003. The Nottinghamshire palaeochannels were surveyed during an earlier pilot project. The aims of this work were twofold.

As a stand-alone piece of work, the aim of the palaeochannels survey was to initalise an extensive body of palaeoenvironmental data for cultural resource management. The palaeochannel survey has been produced in a durable and portable GIS format, permitting combination with archaeological data to produce mapping of archaeological and geoarchaeological potential. The GIS-based palaeochannels database is now in place within the five main county Sites and Monuments Records along the Trent Valley, bringing a key part of the palaeoenvironmental record within the cultural resource management framework for the first time.

The second aim of the survey was to provide a 'base map' for other elements of the work of Trent Valley GeoArchaeology, and for future work in the region. The identification of palaeochannels is a key early stage in the interpretation of river valley landscapes (Howard and Macklin 1999, 538), and should be augmented by a dating programme and assessment of the preservation and palaeoenvironmental potential of palaeochannels.

Outside the Trent Valley, there is tremendous potential for the generic application of this work. The author is aware of no other local government heritage unit in the UK with such a resource within the SMR context. The placement of catchment-scale palaeoenvironmental data within the cultural resource management framework should become the norm rather than the exception, with local planning authorities more readily informed about the environmental–archaeological potential of their own landscapes. The resilience of the GIS format and a cost-effective survey methodology should encourage others to follow suit.