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National Archaeological Identification Surveys (NAIS) Upland Pilot: Lakes and Dales

The NAIS upland pilot covers contrasting landscapes which yield very different archaeological results. It includes part of the Arnside and Silverdale AONB and the fringes of the Lake District and Yorkshire Dales.

Well preserved settlements and field systems, dating from the prehistoric period onwards, were recorded in the eastern area. The archaeological remains in the west proved more elusive to aerial survey though.

The project was completed in 2015. It is being carried out as part of Historic England’s Action Plan and previously fell under those parts related to Identifying Terrestrial Assets using non-intrusive survey .

A colour aerial photo showing a landscape of pasture fields enclosed by stone walls and hedges with small areas of woodland
View of the project area looking eastwards into the Yorkshire Dales photographed on 11-DEC-2012 (NMR 28366/42) © Historic England

Mapping from aerial photographs and lidar

The project began with interpretation and mapping from aerial photographs and lidar. This recorded archaeological features ranging in date from the later prehistoric period to the 20th century. The results were used to target the ground-based stages of the project which enhance and complement the aerial survey.

An extensive later prehistoric landscape was mapped in the eastern parts of the survey area on the Pennine fringe. There is evidence of later prehistoric enclosed settlements, cairn fields and embanked field systems as well as a number of funerary monuments.

Remnants of medieval and post medieval agricultural landscapes are widespread and include field systems, lynchets and ridge and furrow. Several sheep folds were mapped in the uplands of the Pennines, some of which may have medieval origins. They may represent part of a tradition of seasonal grazing on the uplands which could stretch back to the prehistoric period.

Most evidence of industrial activity was found in the west of the project area, particularly quarrying and burning of limestone in the Arnside and Silverdale area. However, a group of charcoal burning platforms were identified in the east of the project area in Barbon Park.

Colour aerial photograph showing an upland landscape of rough pasture enclosed by stone walls
Later prehistoric or Roman coaxial field systems in the Lune Valley photographed on 11-DEC-2012. A complex pattern of rectilinear settlements and field systems can be seen as earthwork banks that clearly underlie the current field boundaries (NMR 28366/011). © Historic England

Ground-based project stages

Aerial photograph analysis and mapping was followed by a series of targeted ground-based stages. These included analytical field survey, geophysics, excavation and environmental studies.

Some of this work aimed to better understand and characterise features identified from aerial photographs and lidar.  It has also targeted areas where aerial survey produced few or no results.

Rapid field assessment has been used to verify and expand on data identified by the air photo mapping. This focussed on newly identified sites and those where the form or date was not clear.

Geophysical survey was undertaken at three settlement sites to improve our understanding of these monuments. This included a magnetometer survey of a D-shaped enclosure at Millbeck near Rigmaden Bridge – one of the few sites identified from cropmarks.

A survey of a strip was carried out at one of the coaxial field systems to attempt to identify boundaries where there is no aerial evidence or surface traces.

Small-scale excavation and environmental sampling has been undertaken at Barbon Park to assist in the interpretation and dating of a series of charcoal burning platforms. The work aims to obtain information on the likely use of the charcoal being produced and assist with vegetation reconstructions through identification of the wood types used.

Excavation has also taken place on one of the settlements at Kitridding. This examined the construction of the enclosure and a hut circle sitting in it. Another aim was to try and date the site using Optically Stimulated Luminescence (OSL) dating and radiocarbon dating.

An open excavation trench reveals the remains of a collapsed stone bank. Archaeologists are working in the trench.
Members of the Archaeological Projects team undertaking excavation at Kitridding © Historic England

Selected results

Aerial interpretation and mapping produced 468 new records in the National Record for the Historic Environment. This has more than doubled the number of known sites.

Our understanding of later prehistoric and Roman landscapes has been particularly enhanced. A total of 44 settlements were accurately mapped and recorded along with extensive coaxial field systems. Eight of these settlements were entirely new to the archaeological record.

Analytical field survey in the eastern part of the survey area has already begun to refine the dating of some of these sites. Preliminary results from an unenclosed settlement north-east of Fell Gate, for example, suggest that it may have Bronze Age origins.

As well as finding new sites, the project has also led to new interpretations of known ones. For example, a large enclosure on Kitridding Hill was re-interpreted as a potential defended settlement and therefore of increased significance. This site has been targeted by both field survey and geophysical survey to attempt to better characterise the remains and assess their survival.

Excavation of a smaller enclosure at Kitridding uncovered well preserved remains of a prehistoric or Roman settlement. It showed that the enclosure was formed by a bank which later had a stone wall placed on it.

Stone footings for a round house were also uncovered. Samples from the site are still being dated but will hopefully give a more accurate date for its occupation.

Colour image with greyscale plot on left and coloured lines on right, both depicting an enclosure
Caesium magnetometer plot and air photo interpretation of Kitridding defended settlement © Historic England

Various reports will be produced for the different elements of the project and will be available through the Research Reports database.

A pilot stage of the survey is available as NAIS Upland Pilot, Burton-in-Kendal and Dalton, Cumbria and Lancashire: An Archaeological Landscape Investigation RRS 10/2014

The key findings from the survey can be found in the National Archaeological Identification Survey: Upland Pilot final project report RRS 10/2015

The images used on this page are copyright Historic England unless specified otherwise. For further details of any photographs or other images and for copies of these, or the plans and reports related to the project please contact the Historic England Archive.

For further information on a project or any other aspect of the work of the Remote Sensing Team please contact us via email using the link below.

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Group of people standing on a stony mound
Historic Places Investigation

Research Group

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