Sunday, 25 July 2010

Neolithic Weekend II: Pike O’Stickle Axe Factory

Great Langdale is dominated by the Pikes, a series of peaks rising to around 700 metres from the valley floor. Of all the peaks in the Cumbrian mountains these are the most elegant, the most picturesque and amongst the most visited. I parked in the carpark at the foot of Dungeon Ghyll, paid my £6 to the LDNPA and set out up the track.
What is there to be said for a long climb in wet weather? You just get on with it, head down and arse up. The run off was flooding the streams and crossing some of them was tricky – I was traveling light and had decided not to carry anything up the mountain that was not needed, which included waterproofs. As I carried on upwards and met others coming down, soaked to the skin with hair plastered to their faces, the rectitude of my descision to visit the axe factory began to run through my mind. Not the for the last time that day.
With some effort and after a few stops for water I finally made it to the wide open hanging valley that opens out from Loft Crag. There are sites at both Loft Crag and nearby Thorn Crag that evidence axe manufacture from the Neolithic but I had no time to tarry if I was to see what I had planned to see and I pressed on. From here it was a short and easy walk, along relatively level paths to the Pike O’Stickle and the huge chute that leads back down to the valley floor along it’s eastern flank. This scree chute is comprised of the spoil and debris from the Neolithic quarrys where the band of green hornstone was came to the surfaceand it was down this chute I intended to go, to find the man made cave that exposed the seam of Group IV Langdale Tuff that was prized for the manufacture of axe heads.
The path at the top of the chute was busy with walkers, who rustled past in their waterproofs with GPS clipped to the collars like some sort of outdoor robo-cop. The last time I had been up here the cloud was low and the rain was falling hard, the chute was filled with thick rolling mist and looked like the entrance to some sort of Wagnerian theme park but now the rain had eased, the sky was almost blue and when nobody was looking I stepped off the path and into the chute.

No comments: