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Western Lake District Transect Air Photo and Lidar Mapping Project (NMP)

The Western Lake District Transect project recorded possible Neolithic or Bronze Age monuments but very few Iron Age or Roman features. It mapped some traces of medieval activity and more widespread post medieval farming and extractive industries and also documented a handful of significant 20th century military installations.

Unusual enclosures

This project has highlighted a cluster of unusual enclosures on the West Cumbrian coastal plain. These are large curvilinear enclosures, up to 65 metres across, but their defining feature is an internal circuit of pits. Three such enclosures are closely grouped in fields to the south of Bootle. One is nearby at Gutterby and another example has come to light just outside the project area at Millom. These enclosures are visible as cropmarks.

The pits are too far apart to have supported a continuous barrier like the Plasketlands enclosure, which was found a little further up the coast. These pits may have held posts to form large timber circles that would have created an enclosed but penetrable space within. However archaeological excavations of pit circuits at Boscombe Down and the Stonehenge Aubrey Holes, found that many pits appear instead to have been dug to receive items and burials.

Part of one of the Bootle enclosures was stripped in advance of the laying of a gas pipeline in the early 1990s. Archaeologists recovered a Bronze Age urn from the site. It was found within a small ditch and mound monument that lay in or close to the pit circuit enclosure.

A plan of three cropmarked enclosures with internal pit circuits shown in black against the modern field boundaries in grey
The Bootle enclosures, outer ditches with inner pit circuits, as mapped from aerial photos. These monuments may be of Neolithic or Bronze Age date. © Alison Deegan

Naval decoy

Toppingmoss Plantation, near Whicham Hall, conceals a complex network of ditches, trackways and a small structure. These features are visible on aerial photos taken shortly after the Second World War. Records show that these are the remains of a naval decoy, one of a series that were built to look at night like the port of Barrow in Furness. Their purpose was to deflect enemy bombing of the Royal Navy installations at the real port.

A black and white air photo of a patchwork of fields and an L shaped area of rough ground that was the naval decoy
The field at the centre of this photo contains the remains of a Second World War naval decoy photographed by the RAF. It was built to simulate the dockside area of Barrow in Furness at night, and so to deflect an enemy air attack from the naval installations that were based there (RAF/541/525 4277) English Heritage RAF Photography
A map showing the outline of the project area, the coastline, the main rivers and the height of the land in various colours
A map of the Western Lake District Mapping Project showing the rivers, settlements and topography © Alison Deegan

The project

The Western Lake District Mapping Project covers an area of the coastal plain on the west coast of Cumbria at the south western edge of the Lake District National Park. The Irish Sea lies to the west and the fells rise to the east.

The project was undertaken between May and August 2016 by Alison Deegan. It was funded by National Grid and supported by the Lake District National Park Authority and by Historic England.

The results of the project are available in the report.

Western Lake District Air Photo & LiDAR Mapping Project Report

Western Lake District Air Photo & LiDAR Mapping Project Report

Published 15 September 2016

A short report on the method, sources and results of air photo and lidar mapping and recording for the Western Lake District Project. Also includes a background introduction to the project area.

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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