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Walkers urged to save National Park’s history

[Friday 20 March 2009]
Beamsley Cairn

A modern cairn that will be dismantled

Beamsley Cairn

Prehistoric cairn in the centre with the trig point on its
left and a modern cairn on its right

Photos: Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority

WALKERS picking up stones to build cairns in the Yorkshire Dales National Park are putting the area’s history at risk.

The rocks they’re using to build new cairns are sometimes being taken from ancient sites including burial mounds, according to Robert White, Senior Conservation Officer for the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority (YDNPA).

“There are problems at a number of historically-important sites within the National Park, including Beamsley Beacon near Bolton Abbey,” he said.

“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 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.

“The good views have always been appreciated. The name Beamsley Beacon, recorded in 1667, suggests it was used as part of a signalling system using fire. In 1804, during the Napoleonic wars, the beacon was refurbished and a guard house was constructed to shelter the beacon keeper. Unfortunately, the stone foundations of this building are also suffering from modern stone moving.

“We would urge walkers to resist the temptation to pick up stones and build cairns – wherever they are – because they can unwittingly damage ancient, historically-important sites like this stone mound.”

Local archaeologist Yvonne Luke and YDNPA Dales Volunteers will be dismantling the modern cairns and all but one of the wind breaks at Beamsley this weekend and repairing the footpaths to try to stem some of the natural erosion around them.

A temporary poster urging people not to build cairns and explaining why will be put up on the concrete Triangulation Point and will eventually be replaced by a permanent interpretation panel.

A detailed archaeological survey of the hilltop has been carried out and Robert 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.

Anyone who can help is asked to contact Robert or other members of the Historic Environment Team on 0300 456 0030.

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