North Hills Were Alive with Tillers

Article excerpt

Byline: By Tony Henderson

Environment editor Tony Henderson on how the prehistoric hills were alive with the sound of " farmers.

People were thicker on the ground in much of rural Northumberland than is the case today. Archaeological research shows that farming was also more intensive and widespread than now.

Cultivation around 3,500 years ago was taking place on hills at heights of up to 1,400ft.

"This implies a large population largely devoted to farming," said Newcastle University archaeologist Clive Waddington.

"Trying to imagine the barren Cheviot hillsides of today littered with farms and fields takes a great leap of imagination, but that indeed was the case.

"The intensification of farming and settlement was far greater than today and with no mechanisation and hand-digging many more people were needed to work the land,

"The population of many rural areas was substantially greater.

"It is astonishing to think that many of the valleys, particularly in the uplands, were much more heavily populated in the late Bronze Age and Iron Age than they are today."

Clive said that places such as the Breamish Valley in the Cheviots had Bronze and Iron Age populations anywhere between 10 and 20 times greater than now.

"If you extend that across the county you are looking at a much bigger population," he said. …