Lake District History & Now: Axe Heads to SatNavs

by David Murray on 21 February 2012

in Cumbria, Forests, History, Lake District General, Opinion

Today’s title reflects just some of the eclectic content below, with ancient axe heads, charcoal burning, water-powered fulling mills, train crashes, a Roman helmet, today’s forests, map reading skills and even an international treaty.

Last week I wrote about books on Lake District history and finished up with some thoughts on its future. Today I start with history but finish in the present.

History of Cumbria

Firstly, the other day I came across a very interesting blog produced by historian, Diane McIlmoyle. What I saw first was an article on an ancient treaty between Scots and English kings, almost a century and a half before the 1066 Norman conquest. The Treaty of Eamont Bridge in 927CE: the first English/Scottish union?. It certainly added to my knowledge of important things that have happened in Cumbria, and as I scanned other articles on the blog I made a note to go back to read more.

I’m personally not overthrilled with the faerie and witchcraft articles but the many more interesting pieces include The Crosby Garret Roman Helmet (Where is it?), Langdale axes: Cumbria’s prehistoric export (European business 6,000 years ago) and Train Disasters at Aisgill (three in less than a century on the Settle-Carlisle line at the top of the Mallerstang valley close to the source of the River Eden).

Great Langdale in October

Great Langdale in October
By SLR Jester, from Flickr.com - Click above for his Photostream

Windermere’s Industrial History

Having mentioned a really ancient Lakeland export industry I must say it was good also to read recently of a project to explore Windermere’s old industries. From charcoal burning to fulling mills the industrial archaeology of the area around England’s longest lake gives much room for further investigation. The Windermere Reflections project is described more fully on Cumbria Crack.

Lake District Forests

Now returning to the present I’m probably going to upset some of my readers yet again. I see that the Westmorland Gazette (which I normally think of as a reliable newspaper) is again publishing campaign news on forestry. I suppose they have to do so. After all it is happening, and as a local newspaper they should not be biased in what they include/exclude. Also, at least they put words in quotations to show that it was someone else who said that “Public forests are ‘under threat again'”

Save Lakeland’s Forests and Friends of the Lake District say swingeing cuts are undermining the Forestry Commission and threatening the future of the woodlands that hundreds of thousands of people fought to preserve.
[Full article at Westmorland Gazette]

When we look further we discover the exaggerated nature of this campaign. It turns out that as part of the struggle to get our national finances back into some semblance of order there is to be a reduction of 3 in the number of the Forestry Commission’s wildlife rangers in the whole of the Northern Region, from 16 at present. “Swingeing cuts”? Hardly!

I was never convinced of the “threat” to the forests last year either. Who owns the forests is not the main point. The key consideration is under what terms they are managed. That campaign of public hysteria was substantially built on selective quotation and exaggeration, and it looks like they’re starting again.

Of course it would be nice to keep levels of Forestry Commission staffing as they are. Maybe they could even usefully do with more. I don’t know. But what I do know is that we have to get our national finances in order if we’re not going to become another Greece. (Oh, am I also exaggerating for effect? Yes, probably, so I’ve crossed out the last bit.)

Don’t Replace Your Lake District Map with a SatNav

Finally for today, map reading! I’ve written about this before on this blog (At the sign of the “Map and Compass”), and also on The Lake District in Books. It was good to see the importance of map reading skills emphasised in a Daily Telegraph article recently.

Experts have warned that traditional map-reading skills are now on the decline, with sales of paper charts slumping. Mountain rescuers and national park wardens say that hikers are increasingly relying instead on electronic navigation devices. This means many are unable to find their way out of difficulty if their equipment fails or is not used correctly.
Full article at The Telegraph

As has been pointed out many times in many places, including repeatedly on this and associated blogs, digital aids are no replacement for a printed map and the knowledge of how to use it. Satellite navigation devices can be very useful a lot of the time, but they can often lose their signal in remote and mountainous areas. Walkers, please note!

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