The Lake District, like so many places on Earth, was home to Neolithic people. As the late Neolithic period gave way to the early and then late Bronze Age, ‘people cleared trees on the fellsides and in the valleys to make way for grazing animals and growing crops. Large stones also had to be cleared from the land. These were piled up into heaps to form clearance cairns.’ (www.lakedistrict.gov.uk). Wikipedia gives a very good description of what cairns are about:
‘Cairn’ is a man-made pile (or stack) of stones. . . . Cairns are found all over the world . . . . They vary in size from small stone markers to entire artificial hills, and in complexity from loose, conical rock piles to delicately balanced sculptures and elaborate feats of megalithic engineering. Cairns may be painted or otherwise decorated, e.g. for increased visibility or for religious reasons.
The old cairns of the Lake District form characterful landmarks in this wonderful landscape. They always seem to look picturesque, particularly under a covering of snow. One of the closest cairns to be found near Blenheim Lodge can be seen on Brantfell, a 40-minute picturesque hike uphill through the farm gate behind our guest house.
There is always something poignant about cairns. For me, they come into the same category as stone circles, burial chambers, and other ancient and pre-historic artefacts. The remains of these civilisations, glimpsed from the remnants that remain of their cultural and religious lives, give substance to and animate these once vibrant social groups and communities. In the photo below is a stone burial mound called White Raise Cairn.
In the gorgeous Duddon Valley, archaeologists excavated the Bronze Age ring cairn at Seathwaite Tarn. ‘Archeaologists John Hodgson, the LDNPA Senior Archaeologist, [led] the excavation, assisted by Alastair Vannan from Oxford Archaeology North. The excavation team included five students from Durham University but the majority of volunteers are members of the Duddon Valley Local History Group.’ Here is a photo of them in action.
As you can see, the Lake District is not all about lakes and mountains, but was – and continues to be – also the home of ancient social groups and present populations. The historical imprints that long gone inhabitants of the Lake District have left behind now form part of its landscape and ancient culture, making this beauteous National Park a more interesting and intriguing place to visit. I hope that if and when you or anyone else finds time to visit the Lake District, then the tangible markers that ancient peoples have left here will inspire a more rounded view of what this amazingly beautiful region once meant to them, their ancestors and descendants: their land; their home; their hearth.
Blenheim Lodge . . . panoramic Lake views, peace and tranquillity, nestled against acres of beautiful fields and woodlands, in the heart of the English Lake District National Park.’