South East Rapid Coastal Zone Assessment Survey

Rapid Coastal Zone Assessment Surveys (RCZAS) are being coordinated by English Heritage in response to the potential effects of natural coastal change and coastal management schemes. By late 2010, surveys were complete or underway in all parts of the country with the south-west peninsula due to start soon.
Wessex Archaeology were commissioned by English Heritage to undertake Phase I  (desk based component) of the south-east project covering an area from Kent to the New Forest.

A wealth of existing information

To undertake the desk-based assessment phase of the project, data was sourced and collated from a wide variety of sources including all the numerous Sites and Monuments Records and Historic Environment Records in the study areas. Additional data included modern and historic Ordnance Survey maps, aerial photography, LiDAR data and extracts from the National Monuments Record. The sheer volume of data required careful planning for with appropriate management strategies in place. All this data was accessioned and processed to be stored and used through a Geographic Information System (GIS).

Creating new information

A comprehensive aerial photograph transcription element formed a major part of the project. After training at the National Monuments Record (NMR) by the English Heritage National Mapping Programme team, the aerial photograph collection was loaned to Wessex Archaeology and the transcription process began apace. Unlike most NMP type projects were data is either entered into the database system at the NMR or kept as a separate dataset requiring import or re-entry, an important element of this project was to create records suitable for direct inclusion in the SMRs and HERs within the study areas. As such, the HER/SMR systems were replicated at Wessex Archaeology’s offices with all data being entered straight into a working copy of each HER/SMR database. This involved not only working to NMP standards for the transcription work but to each set of standards for each of the destination HER/SMR databases. This approach will, however, dramatically improve the ease with which data output from the project can be reincorporates into the local and national archaeological records, overall a more efficient process for such HER/SMR enhancement type projects.


Whilst the data flow within the project, to/from HER/SMRs and the NMR involves considerable investment in IT infrastructure and requires skilled project team members supported by geomatics specialists, approaches such as this bring significant long term benefits through ease of integration of data output by the project when it comes to project completion and handover, especially for large projects.
Wessex Archaeology has a team of trained aerial photograph interpreters, HER/SMR systems experts and GIS specialists capable of undertaking complex projects such as this.