ARCHAEOLOGISTS in the Duddon Valley have uncovered over 3,000 previously unrecorded historic sites after a four-year survey of the area.

The Duddon Valley Local History Group, in partnership with the Lake District National Park Authority, found ring-cairns that could date back to the Bronze Age.

Two of the most exciting finds uncovered in the 90-square mile survey include ring-cairns found at Seathwaite Tarn and Lead Pike.

Although excavations of the cairns establish their origins back to the Bronze Age, the purpose of the constructions is still unknown.

One theory is that the cairns, which are ring-shaped banks of stones ranging up to 15 metres in diameter, were held for ceremonial purposes.

At the Seathwaite Tarn Cairn, which took a month to excavate, old copper and iron ore mines were found, as well as evidence that iron smelting works were in the region.

The team also found a series of longhouses, which people would have lived in around the eighth and ninth centuries. Standing stones and burial cysts were found around the valley as well.

The Heritage Lottery-funded project is outlined in a book called Ring Cairns to Reservoirs, which the DVLHG launched last night (March 24).

Presenter Julian Richards, best known for presenting the BBC programme Meet the Ancestors, spent the day looking over some of the sites, and spoke at the book launch.

“We’ve ended up with more questions than answers,” said John Hoggett, chairman of the DVLHG. “Our survey gives an almost complete history of the Duddon Valley.

“What we’ve recorded shows that over the past four or five thousand years there has been very heavy activity in the Duddon Valley, almost industrial activity.

“We’ve seen massive coppicing of the woodland and evidence that suggests there were Viking settlements here.

“ The magic of this was that people went out with a sense of anticipation that they would find something that was exciting. It wasn’t always necessarily a big find but it was something new.

“The thing that emphasises the success is that we started with 20 volunteers and ended up with 30 people who were still going after four years.”

Mr Hoggett went on to thank farmers and the National Trust for co-operating with their work, and allowing them to use their land.

The DVLHG will now re-survey some of their earlier work to check that nothing was missed, and there are hopes to widen the search to areas such as the Lickle Valley.

Their current finds will be preserved at the sites where they were found.

John Hodgson, senior archaeologist with the LDNPA, said: “It’s extremely important from our perspective.

“We’re always very keen to work with local people and one of the valuable things about this work has been helping people to learn about their local historical environment.

“When people realise what’s there and how important it is then people can look after it.”

l Ring Cairns to Reservoirs is available from the Henry Roberts bookshop on Stramongate, Kendal.