Volunteers are surging ahead in an archaeological project on Ilkley Moor

Posted: 1.05.12

Over 200 carved stones on South Pennines moorland have been recorded since volunteers on the CSI (Carved Stone Investigation) project started their fieldwork in October.

Dedicated volunteers are recording the Neolithic and Bronze Age carvings and their situation on Rombalds Moor, which includes parts of Ilkley Moor and Baildon Moor, to create a comprehensive digital database by using the latest computer software to create detailed 3-D surface models. Following in-depth training the volunteers have been very successful in taking the project forward; finding a number of previously unrecorded carved stones, as well as recording a high proportion of their target stones ahead of schedule.

Peter Butler, one of the volunteers, explained the need for urgency: “This winter we’ve been working against the clock as a number of these carvings are on moorland used for grouse breeding so we had to finish those before the start of the breeding season at the end of March. We’ve already recorded 200 stones out of around 400 to 500 that we aim to record by the end of the project.”

This detailed recording, which also includes a full written report for each stone, will provide a benchmark that will enable future surveys to determine the extent and rate of any deterioration, from weathering, the destructive effects of vegetation, human and animal impact, and climate change, as well as allowing for future analyses if the markings are lost altogether. Throughout the project data will be uploaded onto the England’s Rock Art (ERA) database, hosted by Archaeology Data Services. The CSI project has been developed as part of the Watershed Landscape project, managed by rural regeneration company Pennine Prospects, which aims to link people of the South Pennines with their historic environment.

“When I retired two years ago I was looking for something meaningful to do; this project started at the right time for me,” explained Peter, who is a retired science teacher.

“I’m new to archaeology but there are people on the team who are very knowledgeable so I’m learning a lot. However I’m not new to science or academic work so I’ve enjoyed being involved in this detailed scientific study, especially with its important conservation element.”

Understanding may be the best line of defence for these prehistoric carvings, which are a valuable part of the area’s heritage and provide a direct link with people who lived here around 5,000 years ago.

Thanks to the high level of training the volunteers are not only able to record data at a set standard that can be used to compare the carvings from Rombalds Moor with those found in different regions of Britain, but they are also looking at opportunities beyond the end of the CSI project in March 2013.

“This project is geographically limited to Rombalds Moor, which includes parts of Ilkley Moor and Baildon Moor, south of the River Wharfe. However we know there are similar stones on the uplands across the river so we would be interested in continuing the work to make recordings of those carved stones too,” added Peter.

Funding has been being made available for the CSI project through the Watershed Landscape Project, supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, and the South Pennines LEADER programme, (the Rural Development Programme for England), which is jointly funded by Defra and the European Union.

Yorkshire Water United Utilities Rochdale Metropolitan Borough Council Oldham Metropolitan Borough Council National Farmers Union
South Pennines Association Lancashire County Council Pennine Heritage Kirklees Council Calderdale Council
Bradford District Council Northern Rail Natural England Environment Agency The National Trust