A LAKE District common has been damaged beyond repair by people illegally plundering the land with metal detectors.

Little Asby Common, near Orton, is rich in archaeologcal heritage but this is being ‘permanently damaged’, according to charity, Friends of the Lake District.

“This is very sad and worrying,” said Jan Darrall, policy officer at the organisation.

“It has caused permanent irrevocable damage to our cultural heritage which others cannot now enjoy.

“We have never found anything of monetary value at the many historical sites on Little Asby, but the area has huge archaeological value.”

The common is enjoyed by local enthusiast groups and members of the public who are free to walk over it.

Parts of the site date back to prehistoric times, while there are also medieval stone walls visible above the ground which have been disturbed by people digging up the land.

The damage was discovered when an archaeologist, who wrote a report on the site in 2004, took a group there from Lunesdale Archaeology Society.

Now law-abiding metal detector users have branded the activity ‘abhorrent’.

“All our members abide by the Metal Detecting Rules and National Code of Practice,” said Martin Brown, chairman of the Kendal and District Metal Detecting Club.

“Members of the club approach landowners to obtain permission to go onto their land for detecting rallies and any illegal activity is jeopardising the overall good will between a responsible club, its members and landowners.”

The 660-hectare site is near to Crosby Garrett, where a Roman helmet was discovered in 2010.

Two coins from 330 AD and Roman pottery were recovered in 2011, as well as ‘copper-alloy fragments which may have once been part of the helmet’.

Now Friends of the Lake District say police are keen to catch those damaging the land at Little Asby.

“We are asking the public to report any suspicious sightings to the police and call on metal detectors to act responsibly and according to the Code of Practice for responsible metal detecting,” added Dr Darrall.