The distinctive field patterns and many of the dispersed farmsteads and hamlets of Blackdown Hills today originated during the Medieval period.
The Culm Valley between Hemyock and Culmstock contains a concentration of enclosed former Medieval strip fields. All around the AONB characteristic enclosure patterns and terraced strips on now marginal grassland, provide evidence that these strip fields were once widespread. Irregular fields and massive hedges in the valleys, such as around Clayhidon, represent land taken directly into cultivation from woodland in the Medieval period.
The AONB contains many deserted or shrunken Medieval and Post-Medieval settlements. These reflect periods of agricultural prosperity when areas of marginal agricultural value came into cultivation. The earthworks of such settlements can be seen at Jacob’s City in Clayhidon and Luxon Hill in Yarcombe. The deserted settlement at Weston Farm, Wambrook, may have been cleared to make way for sheep farming in the 15th or 16th century. Some former hamlets continued as individual farms into the 19th century when a further downturn in agriculture led to them being abandoned.
Ancient woodland, perhaps surviving from the Medieval period, is still well represented within the Blackdown Hills AONB, particularly on the northern escarpment. The managed woodland of the Neroche Forest was used by many parishes in the area.
Parliamentary Enclosure of former commons in the 19th century also had an impact on the Blackdown Hills landscape with large regular fields, straight roads and beech hedges, being created on the plateau tops, such as at Stockland Hill. Beacon Hill in Upottery parish was the last area of England to be enclosed in this way in 1874.