Westmorland Dales Landscape Partnership

The Westmorland Dales Landscape Partnership Scheme ran from March 2019 to February 2024. Its vision was to unlock and reveal the hidden heritage of the Westmorland Dales, enabling more people to connect with, enjoy and benefit from this inspirational landscape. 

Download the Westmorland Dales Landscape Partnership Scheme Summary Report for an overview of the Scheme's successes.


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 recent excavation of a suspected sow kiln at Pendragon Castle, Mallerstang, was an exciting start to the Westmorland Dales Landscape Partnership’s Monuments at Risk project. Dr David Johnson led the excavation with a total of 14 volunteers during the first two weeks of September. 

Pictured: Pendragon Castle excavation site

So what is a sow kiln? Sow (or clamp or sod) kilns date from the Anglo-Saxon period (450-1066) and remained in use until the 19th century. These kilns converted limestone into quick lime for lime mortar. The earthwork consists of a curving bank which is penannular in shape. The bank is roughly circular, with an opening at the front. This opening would have been closed by large stone lintels when the sow kiln was in use, removed after abandonment to be recycled as building material.

The sow kiln at Pendragon Castle is on the larger size for this type of kiln and as such was clearly designed for a major building project. It would have taken about a week to 10 days for each episode of lime burning, with a capacity of about 17m3 of stone and fuel. Within the bowl of the kiln the fuel (at Pendragon they were mainly using carbonaceous shale and coal) was layered with the limestone until a flattened dome level with the banks. This was then sealed with turves. Once finished they dismantled the kiln by taking the turves off, the lime out, and cleaning the bowl. It would then have been used again, for the number of times needed to complete the job. 

Before the excavation started the working hypothesis was that the kiln most likely dated to the Lady Anne Clifford restoration in the 1660s, due to its size and preservation. However, the construction of the banks was “cruder” than expected and may point to an earlier date. It could have been connected to building phases of the 14th or 15th century or even the castle’s construction in the late 12th century.

During the course of the excavation a number of finds were recovered.  These have been sent to experts to be analysed. They will hopefully be able to provide dates for the kiln’s use and will help to add to our understanding of the site.

Would you like to help us uncover more about a beautiful area of upland landscape in the Westmorland Dales? We are currently running Season One of the Great Asby Archaeology Survey on weekdays from Monday 23rd September until Friday 11th October (15 days in total). More information is available at this link