Leave our stones un­turned

Country Life Every Week - - Town & Country - Nigel Burn­ham

Aclam­p­down has been an­nounced by the north York moors na­tional Park author­ity on the mod­ern craze pop­u­lar among walk­ers for build­ing stone cairns—usu­ally con­i­cal-shaped mounds of rough stones as­sem­bled as a me­mo­rial or land­mark—be­cause they’re dam­ag­ing some of the park’s most pre­cious an­cient mon­u­ments.

ac­cord­ing to mags waugh­man, mon­u­ment man­age­ment scheme of­fi­cer, the cairns are threat­en­ing bar­rows, burial mon­u­ments and other sites dat­ing back to the Bronze age.

‘Bar­rows are of­ten si­t­u­ated on high ground with fine view­points and, these days, may also be on well-used foot­paths, par­tic­u­larly long-dis­tance routes,’ she ex­plains. ‘it’s here that the mod­ern prac­tice of walk­ers build­ing cairns, of­ten on the same spot as an an­cient mon­u­ment, can grow to bury or ob­scure the mon­u­ment al­to­gether or lead to ero­sion by invit­ing more walk­ers to climb on it.’

a re­cent na­tional-park sur­vey found that the surge in the pop­u­lar­ity of walk­ing and moun­tain bik­ing over the past decade has caused ex­treme dam­age, some­times re­quir­ing ur­gent re­me­dial work.

ac­tion so far has largely been fo­cused on the re­moval of cairns from mon­u­ments on rais­dale moor and Live moor, close to the cleve­land way, where a walk­ers’ cairn had be­come so large that it was dif­fi­cult to see where the edges of a prehistoric burial mound were. ar­chae­o­log­i­cal con­sul­tants had to be brought in to su­per­vise its dis­man­tling to re­store the mon­u­ment’s pro­file.

The park has a to­tal of 842 pro­tected sites or sched­uled mon­u­ments, of which burial mounds ac­count for about 65%.

Stone cairns left by walk­ers in the North York Moors are dam­ag­ing an­cient mon­u­ments

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