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

We have recently completed the second season of excavation on Little Asby Common. Previously, surveys have been carried out across this upland landscape, along with our first season of excavation last year. You can read about the results of season one here>

Andy and Katie from Oxford Archaeology North, assisted by colleagues, led the excavation from the 3rd to the 18th September. Around 40 volunteers took part contributing around 140 volunteer days.

Video: Video summary of the work at Little Asby created for us by Jon Chappell

They were focussing on one site – an enclosure wall and longhouse. Following results from the first season we thought the enclosure may date to the Bronze Age. This was due to a piece of charcoal dated to 2,200 BC. However, one piece of charcoal was not enough to extrapolate a definitive date for the whole site, and therefore we wanted to find further evidence of prehistoric activity. In a number of the trenches we found flint. Flint doesn’t naturally occur in this landscape. The white flint that was predominantly found, was likely transported by humans from the Yorkshire coast to Westmorland. This flint was waste material, with evidence of conchoidal fractures, showing that it has been worked by humans. One of our volunteers also found a flake from a Langdale axe, Neolithic in date! This was likely used to clear trees, and broken during the process.

Video: Timelapse footage of our busy volunteers hard at work during the excavations on Little Asby Common

We were also able to confirm that the longhouse post-dated the enclosure. Now if the enclosure is prehistoric in date, which is looking likely, the rectangular structure could not date to this period, as they didn’t have these plan forms in the Bronze Age. Longhouses typically date from the 7th to the 17th century. We are hoping to narrow this down, by analysing samples taken from the site. However, we have been able to make some deductions about the longhouse. We know that it has definitely been built onto the earlier enclosure wall. We have found the probable entrance to the longhouse – which would suggest that the lower cell would have been used for animals (likely as a byre for cattle) and the upper cell would have been for human habitation. It is thought to have been a shieling – a summer pasture for stock, where they would have lived for about half the year (the main farm being situated in the valley). The floor surface remained quite elusive, but we know it was not cobbled or flagged. We did also uncover some finds that might point to the period(s) of occupation, but these need to be analysed further by specialists and corroborated with dating of organic samples. The finds included a horseshoe, tentatively dated to the late medieval period, and sherds of Silverdale ware pottery, of an early post-medieval date.

So far, the excavation has yielded some really exciting results, and we are looking forward to all the analysis and the final report.

A blog created by Oxford Archaeology North giving daily updates can be viewed here>

The site was also visited by pupils from Kirkby Stephen Grammar School. OAN had delivered a session earlier in the week to give them some background, but they received a site tour on arrival, as well as having the opportunity to try some digging – exploring a possible wall feature (that turned out to be natural geology) and the grykes of the pavement, where flint or other finds could be recovered.

An Open Day was held on the middle Saturday. Attendees had an introduction to the results from last year, a tour of the site, and we were joined by a re-enactor. Adam was dressed as a medieval farmer, typical of someone who would have once lived on this site, and had with him a number of replica items from other excavations in the local area dating to the medieval period.

We want to thank all our amazing volunteers for their hard work. As well as the archaeologists from Oxford Archaeology North.

Dales Archaeology Day - Saturday 29th October

The Archaeology Day, hosted by The Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority (YDNPA), includes a range of talks, including an updates on a number of the Westmorland Dales Landscape Partnership Scheme's cultural heritage projects including a summary of the 'Little Asby Through the Keyhole' project and its findings to date by our Cultural Heritage Officer Hannah Kingsbury.

You will need to book to attend this event. Booking facilities for this event will be available soon via the YDNPA Website at this link>