Westmorland Dales Landscape Partnership

The Westmorland Dales Landscape Partnership Scheme finished in early 2024 with projects successfully delivered by a wide range of project partners, community groups and individuals. 
Over the coming months, we’ll be updating this site to highlight what’s been achieved, so please keep checking back.

Welcome …

… to the Westmorland Dales website.

The Westmorland Dales Landscape Partnership Scheme aimed to unlock and reveal the hidden heritage of the Westmorland Dales, enabling more people to connect with, enjoy and benefit from this inspirational landscape. Specifically, its objectives were to:

  • Reveal the area’s hidden heritage.
  • Conserve what makes the area special.
  • Engage people in enjoying and benefitting from their heritage.
  • Sustain the benefits of the scheme in the long-term.

This was achieved through a programme of projects developed and delivered through the Westmorland Dales Landscape Partnership, led by Friends of the Lake District and the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority, and mainly funded through the National Lottery Heritage Fund. It ran over a five-year period from March 2019 to February 2024.

Here you can discover what makes the area so special, find out about the scheme’s projects, and view and download resources produced.

The Westmorland Dales

The Westmorland Dales is a beautiful area of Cumbria lying  north of the Howgill Fells and within the north-west corner of the Yorkshire Dales National Park. It stretches from Tebay in the south-west to Kirkby Stephen in the east and to Maulds Meaburn in the north-west. At its heart are the limestone fells above Orton and Asby, rich in natural and cultural heritage, and with magnificent views to the Pennines, the Howgills and the Lakeland fells. It drains into the Lune river catchment to the south and the Eden river catchment to the north. Relatively overlooked compared with its better-known neighbours, our projects have aimed to reveal its heritage for more to enjoy without detracting from its unique qualities. (Click on map for larger image)

Contact information

Friends of the Lake District
Murley Moss, Oxenholme Road, Kendal, Cumbria LA9 7SS
Main Telephone:  01539 720788
Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority
Yoredale, Bainbridge, Leyburn, North Yorkshire DL8 3EL
Main Telephone:  01969 652300

A project on Little Asby Common stretching over two seasons involving Oxford Archaeology North and volunteers, which saw the excavation of keyhole trenches on different sites in the first year, and a focus on one longhouse site and a peat core sample from near Sunbiggin Tarn in the second year.

The aim of the community-based archaeological investigation was to develop an understanding of the rich heritage across Little Asby Common.

The common is grazed by the Asby Commoners Association and is owned by Friends of the Lake District. It is an upland landscape dominated by limestone pavement. This was formed in the Carboniferous period, over 300 million years ago, when northern England was covered in shallow tropical seas, and limy mud on the sea floor eventually hardened into layers of limestone containing fossils of corals, sponges and brachiopod shells.

Over the last two decades, Friends of the Lake District commissioned Oxford Archaeology North to carry out a number of different surveys across the common. These surveys identified around 200 features, revealing a landscape with considerable time depth. Concentrations of sites were identified as seven survey areas, with further work identified to be delivered through the Westmorland Dales Scheme.

This consisted of two seasons of excavations. The first season (September 2021) involved the excavation of 16 keyhole trenches. These trenches were typically about 1m by 6m in size and investigated a number of features across this landscape. The second season (September 2022) consisted of seven trenches, focusing on one site. In addition, a short transect of six cores were taken in season one through the sediments at the edge of Sunbiggin Tarn. The cores were analysed and the samples dated using carbon 14 techniques.

Despite a relatively poor pollen count from many of the samples it has been possible, in combination with a previous but undated pollen core, to use the available data to interpret a broad outline of palaeoenvironmental changes in this area, which can be linked with the excavation results.

Over the two years, 59 volunteers have been involved, volunteering 264 days and learning archaeological skills.

Project Reports

Little Asby Through The Keyhole SUMMARY Report (pdf)

Little Asby Season 1 Final Report (pdf)

Little Asby Season 2 Final Report (pdf)

Sunbiggin Palaeoenvironmental Assessment Report (pdf)

Pictured: An interpretation of the coaxial field system on Little Asby Common showing both pastoral and arable farming, illustration by James Innerdale.