|21 March 2009
Walkers are dismantling ancient Yorkshire cairns
British walkers are destroying priceless historic sites - to build hilltop cairns - and now a national park authority has pleaded to visitors to stop the custom to preserve structures that have been around since the Bronze Age.
Cairns have always been a contentious issue on Britain's hills. For years, journalist and broadcaster Cameron McNeish has waged a war on what he sees as unnecessary edifices on Scotland's wilderness peaks. Last year, many cairns were cleared from the summit of Ben Nevis and now the Yorkshire Dales are suffering from the cairn problem. Rocks and stones are being removed from prehistoric sites by walkers making their own contribution to summit cairns. The practice is putting important relics at risk, including Bronze Age burial mounds.
Robert White, senior conservation officer for the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority, said: "There are problems at a number of historically important sites within the national park, including Beamsley Beacon near Bolton Abbey. During the Bronze Age, some 4,500 years ago, a large stone mound was built there, probably to mark the burial place of a local chieftain and to act as a territorial boundary marker. Much of this cairn, which is now about 11m [36ft] in diameter, still survives but in recent years it has suffered a lot of disturbance due to people using stones from it to make modern cairns and wind breaks. Another smaller historic cairn lies further along the ridge at Old Pike and that has also lost some of its stones."
To repair some of the damage, local archaeologist Yvonne Luke and YDNPA Dales Volunteers will be dismantling the modern cairns and all but one of the wind breaks at Beamsley. The team will also be repairing the footpaths to try to stem some of the natural erosion around them. "We would urge walkers to resist the temptation to pick up stones and build cairns - wherever they are," added Robert, "because they can unwittingly damage ancient, historically-important sites."
An archaeological survey of the hilltop has been carried out and Mr White and his team are now appealing for old photographs of the site to help them build up a picture of what it was like in the past. The authority has put a temporary poster on the nearby trig point pillar urging people not to build cairns and explaining why. A permanent interpretation panel is planned for the site eventually. Anyone with information or photographs that can help Mr White is asked to contact him on 0300 456 0030.
Sources: Culture24 (17 March 2009) Grough, Yorkshire Post (18 March 2009)
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