Prehistoric Birkrigg Common is Revealed
Birkrigg common commands spectacular views over the whole of Morecambe Bay. It is no surprise that this place has attracted people for thousands of years, and evidence for prehistoric monuments and settlements can still be seen across the common. Or they could, until the last few decades when much of the common became overrun with bracken.
Bracken was once harvested and used for a whole host of domestic and agricultural products, but fell out of use from the mid-20th century. Not only does bracken growth in summer obscure archaeological sites, the root system (called rhizomes) can also cause disturbance to below-ground archaeological remains. To tackle this issue on Birkrigg, the Morecambe Bay Partnership's Headlands to Headspace (H2H) project, funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, set up bracken 'bashing' groups to cut back the bracken and reveal the prehistoric landscape.
Once the bracken had been harvested, there was the issue of what to do with it. H2H volunteers were able to provide Incredible Edible at Ulverston with high quality mulch to help this thriving social enterprise scheme grow its own produce.
Following bracken clearance at the stone circle, many local residents could not believe that there was a second ring of stones as they had been hidden for many years by the bracken.
The monument dates to the Bronze Age and is up to 4,000 years old. It is of national importance as one of only 15 concentric (double ring) stone circles known in Britain. Other Bronze Age sites on the common now free of bracken include a hut circle settlement with associated bowl barrow burial monument and a large burial cairn that was excavated in 1912 and found to contain the remains of three burials belonging to an adult, young person and a child.
The Heritage at Risk Register 2017 is published today, providing the annual snapshot of the state of England’s most valued vulnerable historic places.