Pollen grains of primitive varieties of Hordeum vulgare collected by the Gene Bank of the Crop Research Institute, Prague, are compared to pollen of native Glyceria species of the United Kingdom with a view to establishing separation criteria. It is found that a separation of Hordeum vulgare from both Glyceria maxima and Glyceria fluitans is possible according to annular characteristics in combination with grain size as dependent variables. These findings have implications for the identification of cereal-type pollen grains that could be evidence for early cultivation in the Terminal Mesolithic of north-west Europe, and for the use of palynology as a reliable source of palaeobotanical data, particularly in its inland areas. A phase of vegetation disturbance from the pollen site of Dog Hill in the southern Pennine uplands of the UK, an area with a high density of ‘rod’ microlith flint sites, is introduced as a case example using the above protocol. Here, multiple Hordeum-type grains are encountered alongside prominent pollen indicators of disturbance, but also including non-pollen palynomorphs and microcharcoal data, at a date well before the mid-Holocene decline in Ulmus pollen frequencies that is often regarded as marking the beginning of the Neolithic. Confident identification of cereal-type pollen will greatly assist the understanding of the introduction of cultivation and the Mesolithic–Neolithic transition in north-west Europe. The objective of this study is to show the utility of this palynology with respect to defining the ecology of early cultivation in UK uplands.