Tuesday, 18 March 2008

The Langdale Pikes and Stone Axes


I love the Langdale Pikes in the Lake District. I suspect part of the reason is that their distinctive shape made them the first group of peaks that I recognised as a youngster.

I have been up each of them – Harrison stickle, Loft Crag, Pike o’Stickle, and Pavey Ark – a few times. Amongst the most enjoyable rambles was one up Pike O’Stickle in the snow in the 1970s. Least enjoyable was a trip up Harrison Stickle in the mist when youth hostelling in the 1960s. I had intended to go over into Grasmere but ended coming back down the same way and going over via Loughrigg instead, all in a all a much longer walk than I had planned.

It was Pavey Ark that introduced me to the delights of rock climbing. Going up Jack’s Rake is graded as an easy rock climb and that led to going the whole hog with ropes and companions on Shepherd’s Crag in Borrowdale. It also caused me to lead Mum, Dad and Phil up Jack’s Rake, an experience that Mum and Dad enjoyed but it was only after we had done it that Mum shared with me the fact that Phil suffered from vertigo! Oops.

The scree on Pike O’Stickle is estimated to include the waste from between 45,000 and 75,000 completed stone axes. About 200 axe flaking sites have been identified in the Langdale pikes area and a further 350 lie between Bowfell, Scafell Pike and Glaramara. When Professor Bill Cummins examined nearly 2000 Neolithic axes from finds all over England and Wales, he found that 27% were made from the polished greenstone volcanic tuff from Langdale. The British Museum's 1978 catalogue of 368 Neolithic axes found in the Thames listed 15 from Langdale and they have also been found in places as far apart as Northern Ireland and Peterborough. In fact, most of the Langdale axe finds are in Lincolnshire and the East Midlands. The Lake District was almost certainly the first industrial estate in the country!

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