OA North has taken another major step in its attempt to bring its backlog to publication with the production of Cairns, Fields, and Cultivation: the archaeological landscapes of the Lake District uplands, by Jamie Quartermaine and Roger Leech. This handsome volume deals with the English Heritage funded Lake District National Park Survey, which recorded over 10,000 monuments in 18 separate survey areas. A programme of detailed archaeological survey was undertaken between 1982 and 1989, mainly on the fells above the west Cumbrian coastal plain, recording some of the most remarkable cairnfields, field systems, and settlements in England.
The uplands of the Lake District are famed for their rugged natural beauty, but the reality is that this landscape has been modified and changed by man since the mesolithic period. The remains of this exploitation, particularly from the Bronze Age onwards, survive in abundance across the marginal uplands, particularly in the form of cairnfields. These indicate how primary deforestation, creating small clearings in the wildwood, led to the development of complex settlements and field systems. The monuments also reveal the decline in the fortunes of upland settlement during the Iron Age and Roman period, and how people responded to changes in climatic conditions on these marginal lands. In addition to the evidence for agricultural exploitation of the uplands, though, considerable numbers of funerary and ritual monuments, as well as settlements, also survive.