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Countrystride #117: ABOVE GREAT MOSS: Stone axes of the earliest settlers which we rewind the centuries to the Neolithic Age on a journey in search of Lakeland's earliest settlers and their highly-valued stone axes. In the company of archaeologist Steve Dickinson, we set out from Brotherilkeld – the great medieval farmstead with Norse roots. Leaving the valley walls behind, we enter wild country, once a place of forest groves and wood pasture stalked by deer and lynx, wolves and bears. As we trace the river upstream, we imagine the 6000-year-old endeavours of our earliest ancestors, as they left their coastal settlements in search of a rare band of volcanic cutting stone. Arriving atop Scar Lathing – a maiden ascent for Mark and Dave – we seek out two extraordinary archaeological finds that paint a picture of a lost civilisation: of Cumbria's first extractive industry; of ritual burials; and of a deep communion with high places that was etched into immaculately crafted artefacts.

Pen from Scar Lathing.

Brotherilkeld Farm at the foot of Hardknott Pass.

The confluence of the Esk and Lingcove Beck, with sheepfold alongside.

The packhorse bridge over Lingcove Beck.

The 'lynx' rock; annotated (middle) and lynx face (right).

Steve at the standing stone.

Tooling stone - used to sharpen axe blades.

Image of a hafted Neolithic polished stone axe (this in The British Museum: about 30cm long). Found at Ehenside Tarn (near Sellafield) in the 19th century.

Mighty Pen across Great Moss.

The one and only Mark Richards, atop Scar Lathing.

Having a fine ol' time approaching Great Moss and Scar Lathing.


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