A Walk Into Prehistory

In my last blog I related how we walked over Askham Fell in the Lake District, to follow the Roman road known as High Street. But there’s far more in the way of antiquities on Askham Fell and Moor Divock than evidence of the Roman occupation.


Retaining Circle (c) John Bainbridge 2017

This northeastern corner of the Lake District has some of the most impressive Bronze Age remains as well. There are stone circles, cists, avenues, and what looks like a portion of a stone row as well.

Walking these moors reminded me of the impressive Dartmoor prehistoric sanctuaries I used to explore so often.

We went out the other Friday, the day after Storm Doris clobbered much of Britain. It actually seemed to miss our bit of Cumbria, though it deposited some fresh snow on the higher Lakeland fells. But Friday last was a calm and peaceful day up on these fells, though bitterly cold. Clear blue skies over distant snow-capped mountains. The skylarks sang in great profusion all around us and there was new frogspawn on the ground.


The Cop Stone (c) John Bainbridge 2017

A perfect day for a walk into prehistory.

We started out once again from Askham and followed the lanes down to the picturesque hamlet of Helton. A lane from here leads up to the fells of Moor Divock. It doesn’t lead anywhere but to a few farms, though it’s obviously used by dogwalkers and fell walkers who park their cars there.


A track leads out to the Cop stone. This is a glacial erratic stone, but certainly incorporated into a man-made bank, very probably a ring cairn. You can make out the earthen bank quite clearly, though most of the stones that were apparently recorded there by Victorian antiquarians are gone.


Looking towards Heughscar Hill. Note the stones in the middle distance. (c) John Bainbridge 2017

Just beyond, and slightly off the track, are more isolated stones and then what looks like a retaining circle of stones for a vanished cairn.

Stand at this point and look in both directions and, with the Cop Stone on the skyline, the remaining antiquities for a straight line between the Cop Stone and a niche on Heughscar Hill to the north.

It’s interesting that, although it was a bitterly freezing day, the stones on this moor were quite warm to the touch.

As we made our way across the fell, there were some splendid vistas of the higher northern mountains of the Lake District, capped with snow and eventually Ullswater came within sight.


On Askham Fell (c) John Bainbridge 2017

The most impressive monument on these local fells is known as The Cockpit, a large and dramatic stone circle. The Roman road, High Street, runs very close, so this was one antiquity that must have been very familiar to the marching Roman soldiers.

As far as I can tell, The Cockpit is unrestored, unlike so many of the very impressive stone circles of Dartmoor put back together in Victorian times by the likes of Robert Burnard, Sabine Baring Gould et al.


Stone Row (c) John Bainbridge 2017

Whether any circles should have been restored is debateable. Even the Stonehenge you see today is hardly the same monument visited by writers like George Borrow and painted by Turner.


The Cockpit (c) John Bainbridge 2017

Anyway, the antiquities of these Lakeland fells have witnessed little of the hand of man beyond rudimentary excavation and looting for stone. It’s interesting to speculate as to what antiquities have been lost entirely and what the place looked like a few thousand years ago.

We wandered back across this lovely stretch of moorland to Askham. As you look across this great stretch of moorland to the higher fells of Arthur’s Pike and Loadpot Hill it becomes very apparent that this was a site of great importance to the people who lived hereabouts.


Looking towards Arthur’s Pike (c) John Bainbridge 2017

People who held the view that the land was sacred and, for some purpose we don’t fully understand, wanted to make their mark upon it.


2 thoughts on “A Walk Into Prehistory

  1. We visited a lot of that recently (maybe last spring) to do Heughscar Hill. I was struck by how pleasant and peaceful the walking was from that side. We were a bit miffed at The Cockpit though as some guy was amongst the stones faffing and wouldn’t leave for me to take a photo. We waited half an hour or so in the cold, blasting wind and then gave up. As we left, he followed us!


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