Westmorland Dales Landscape Partnership

The Westmorland Dales Landscape Partnership Scheme aims to unlock and reveal the hidden heritage of the Westmorland Dales, enabling more people to connect with, enjoy and benefit from this inspirational landscape. Thanks to National Lottery players it has been supported by a grant from the Heritage Fund

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A project to improve the visual amenity of Gamelands Stone Circle, a prehistoric scheduled monument, and to enhance understanding of its archaeological context  by undergrounding intrusive overhead electricity wires and undertaking geophysical and other surveys.

Project lead: Electricity North West

Gamelands Stone Circle is a Neolithic embanked stone circle and scheduled monument located between the village of Orton and the hamlet of Raisbeck. It affords panoramic views stretching from Wild Boar Fell to the Howgills and Lakeland Fells, with the limestone scar at Knott forming a backdrop. It is a site that will have held significant ritual importance to the prehistoric society that created it. The standing stones forming the circle have all fallen so that the visual stature of the monument is diminished. There are 40 large stones in total, all except one of which are Shap granite.  The circle measures roughly 42m by 35m in diameter.  It is set within permanent pasture close to a public right of way and with informal access. 


The circle’s setting is diminished by the fact that it is viewed in the context of modern vertical electricity infrastructure that jars with the visual and historical significance of the site.  Although the circle is easily accessible there is a lack of detailed archaeological information, and little signage or interpretation.  The aim of the project will be to improve the setting and the level of archaeological information about it. 

The first part of this project, undertaken by Electricity North West, will see over 1.3km of overhead wires and supports removed and replaced with an underground service that will run in the fields away from the circle. A certain amount of archaeological mitigation work will be undertaken by ENW, both along the line to be undergrounded and where existing posts are being removed. The removal of the overhead line will enhance views to and from the stone circle. 

The basic archaeological mitigation will be supplemented and enhanced by a small community archaeology project, led by Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority’s community heritage officer.  While the formal archaeological mitigation is likely to focus tightly on the undergrounding route, a community project gives the option to undertake a more explicitly research-based approach to the stone circle and its surroundings. 

The community archaeology project will be led by YDNPA’s Community Heritage Officer and comprise the following: 

  • Geophysical survey – undertaken by one of the local community groups e.g. Lunesdale Archaeological Society, with oversight from the YDNPA CHO. This would target level ground at and close to the stone circle and seek to establish whether there is evidence of further contemporaneous remains in the vicinity.  The survey would require a section 42 licence from Historic England, and the NPA would undertake to apply for this. 
  • The evidence within the HER and from local accounts suggests that there is good survival of prehistoric materials within the topsoil/plough-zone in the surrounding area. Wider prospecting would take the form of a) controlled field-walking, contingent on timing of ploughing and reseeding in the surrounding landscape, and b) controlled molehill/rabbit spoil survey within the wider locality. 
  • Subject to obtaining appropriate consents, the NPA would also undertake an aerial (drone) survey of the stone circle, producing still images for photogrammetry and film footage for potential use as interpretative material (the photogrammetry software is available as legacy from a previous HLF funded project, and the drone is YDNPA property). 

Both activities would be undertaken over several days; currently envisaged during 2019 and prior to any of the archaeological mitigation. The activities will be achievable with small groups of volunteers (likely up to 6 per practical event).