Friday, 24 February 2017

History Walk in the Lickle Valley

The Duddon Valley Local History Group walk to visit the abundant settlement sites in the secluded Lickle Valley, South West Cumbria.

Weather: Rain, drizzle and mist.
Distance: 4.5 Miles 
Start: The Hawk Car Park (SD 239 919)

We all set off with full waterproofs out of the car park and up the road to turn off  right onto the fell-side where extensive tree felling has taken place and there was a wire fence at the access point where what had been the step stile had been disposed of by being thrown on the floor (an eagle eyed member spotted part of its remains in the undergrowth). Not deterred, a wire balancing act ensued before we headed up the hill to our objective - The Hawk - an Iron Age or Romano-British settlement.

The Hawk settlement consists of the remains of five round houses in a natural hollow with rocky outcrops, high up but secluded and is indeed perched  like a hawk. The rain came down so unfortunately precluded use of my camera but happily a member of  The Megalithic Portal visited in 2014  so there is  full description with photographs. I believe there have been several archaeological digs at this site and it is certainly one that  inspires the imagination.

We fought our way down through the muddle and disorder of branches, the aftermath of tree felling, and eventually met the forestry road and started the long walk upwards with the River Lickle in the distance below us. Reaching the scenic Natty Bridge over Yewry Syke ravine we crossed to the open fell . There are interesting lone standing stones or way-marks at this point on the hillside.

We continued to Stephenson Ground, Scale and stopped at the boat shaped remains of the double walled Viking longhouse in a sheltered position
A dreich day at the Longhouse
where at last my camera was unfurled as it was only drizzling. Pottery and charcoal have been found here dated to 12th-14th Century although there is evidence the site could be Bronze Age (c2000-800BC).  I presume the place name Scale is from the Old Norse skdli, a hut or shelter.
Duddon History Group at the Burial Cairn
We gathered around the burial cairn below the longhouse where our leader Mervyn and member Stephe discussed the archaeological topography. If it hadn't been deep misty haze there would have been a glorious view down the valley at this point.

Continuing down and reaching Stephenson Ground farm there is a beautifully preserved
Potash Kiln
potash kiln where in the past green bracken (high in potassium) would have been burnt for use as potash fertiliser in other words Pot- Ash.  It could also be used in the making of soaps (lyes) and dyes.
On the Edge
In the present day it is providing a wonderful habitat for growing moss.

The etymology of the name Stephenson Ground refers to the fact that this area was granted as wasteland to the Stephenson family by Furness Abbey in 1509, a farmhouse was built soon after.  The present building is probably 18th Century.
There are extensive barns from varying periods of time around it
and some nice examples of
the stone bars of water yeats over what is a trickle of the River Lickle.  Our walk almost over we turned down the road to head back to the car park passing
Water Yeat Bridge
over Water Yeat Packhorse Bridge where this curious bell shaped object was. One of our party explained it was to prevent carriage wheels from knocking into and damaging the bridge parapet and is the only one he has seen still in place.

Thanks to Mervyn for taking us all on a fascinating history walk.  Sorry for the dubious quality of the photographs a combination of poor conditions and a technical blunder but hope these give some impression of a fascinating place full of the echoes of history.

This was a typical wet February day in the Lake District with the mist hanging in the air and dampening  the sound, rivulets tumbling down rocks and the moss luxuriantly green softly glowing like lanterns in the grey of the day.  The shine of wet tree trunks greeted us in the valley with water droplets clinging to the branches and a profusion of catkins promising the spring to come. 

For more a more informed history of the area visit the Duddon Valley Local History Group site.    

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