Research Unlocks Secrets of Pennines; Radar Shows How Region Has Evolved

Article excerpt

Byline: Tony Henderson

G ROUNDBREAKING radar techniques are being used to unlock the historic secrets of one of the North's wildest upland areas.

Over the next five years a major archaeological research project will concentrate on the North Pennines, an area straddling Northumberland and Cumbria.

In the first two weeks of fieldwork, 300 new archaeological sites have been discovered, from prehistoric features to 19th Century mining remains.

The final haul of new sites could run into the thousands.

English Heritage's Research Department is working with the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty Partnership to scour 300 square kilometres of Alston Moor in Northumberland and Cumbria. The aim is to build up a comprehensive picture of how the landscape evolved and identify future conservation priorities.

Today the North Pennines are celebrated for their geology and wild, natural beauty, but it has also been one of the most intensively mined landscapes in Britain.

Lead, silver and coal have been exploited with early miners also doubling as farmers.

As well as careful observation and mapping on the ground, new methods of discovery and analysis are being used, including radar imagery captured by specially equipped aircraft.

The landscape around Alston has been three-dimensionally radar-mapped, and sites of particular potential interest will now be subjected to detailed ground survey. The project manager is Stewart Ainsworth, from English Heritage's Research Department, who is also a regular member of TV's Time Team.

He said: "The radar gives a three-dimensional picture of everything on the ground, down to quite small features. …