© Oxford Archaeology North

Lives in the Landscape (2016-2019)

Discovering new information about the history and landscape through a community archaeology programme of surveys, research, excavation, interpretation and conservation management works.

The archaeological potential of the Rusland Valley area is high, containing sites dating from the prehistoric period to the recent past. Many of the recorded archaeological sites are connected to industries which utilised the natural resources of the region. Important local resources included wood, charcoal and water power. These were used to smelt iron, manufacture bobbins and gunpowder, drive mills and create products such as swill baskets, besoms, clog and hoops and tool handles.

Learning about the history and landscape development of the Rusland Horizons Landscape Partnership area was at the core of this project and many new and interesting discoveries were made. The project worked with volunteers and archaeologists to uncover the history of the area’s landscape.

There was a substantial amount of information found, all of which has been recorded and scientific reports produced. The extent of archaeological discoveries has created a local awareness of the area’s heritage and an appreciation of the special relationship between the landscape of today and its history.


  • The Lake District Historic Environment Record (HER) has been updated with many of the findings and new information to inform future management.
  • Using carbon dating, Satterthwaite Bloomery was shown to date back to around the late 13th or early 14th century. Download the report under 'READ' (below right), or read the blog.
  • Cunsey Bloomery Forge site is in considerably better condition and much more accessible. An interpretation panel was installed to provide information and historic points of interest. Download the report under 'READ' (below right), or read the blog.
  • Extensive woodland surveys were carried out across the scheme area (read the Woodland Survey Report on NAA website - scroll to bottom of page for the PDFs).
  • Open moorland surveys have also been carried out on Bethecar Moor.
  • Details of interesting archaeological discoveries have been included in relevant Greenwood Trails leaflets.
  • The opportunity to excavate such historically rich sites and gather information, research and historical features that would otherwise have gone undiscovered.
© Vanessa Champion

So far so good...

During the Rusland Horizons Landscape Partnership (2016-2019):

  • 21 days were dedicated to training volunteers in survey and excavation techniques.
  • 503 ha of woodland were surveyed and 554 ha of open fell. Read a news blog from 2017. Read the Woodland Survey Report (NAA website - scroll to bottom of page for the PDFs)
  • 552 archaeological sites recorded on HER (Historic Environment Record) and now in good management.
  • 4 scientific archaeological reports written.
  • 2 Level 2 surveys undertaken.
  • Surveys and excavations at Satterthwaite Bloomery completed. See under 'READ' below to download the report, or read the blog.
  • Cunsey Bloomery Forge site cleaned up and now accessible. See under 'READ' below to download the summary report, or read the blog.
  • Greenwood Trail leaflets updated with relevant archaeological and historical facts.

Did you know?

The bloomery forge at Cunsey is one of the very few surviving examples of its type in Britain. The site dates from c. 1618 and was used first to smelt iron and later, following the construction of a blast furnace at Cunsey in 1715, as a refining forge.

In 2004 excavation of holes for new native woodland planting at Barkhouse Bank exposed quantities of charcoal which date back to between 1280 – 1410.

You can view the initial results and read about the surveys and excavations - see under 'READ' below.

The Challenge

The archaeology of the area is inextricably linked to the history of woodland management. It was, however, seriously under-recorded and there was a risk of losing what we did not know we had. The growth and decline of the woodland industry has resulted in a range of archaeology that is now at risk from, for example, vegetation growth or a change in land use.

Our Approach

The project was split into four distinct parts with volunteers working alongside archaeologists on the following:

1. Archaeological surveys of woodland

There was at least 1,217 hectares of woodland in the area that had not been surveyed. We worked with landowners and volunteers to identify and record the location and condition of archaeological features. Go to the Report (NAA website - scroll to the bottom of the page for the PDFs).

2. Survey of Bethecar Moor

Bethecar Moor is one of the few extensive areas of open fell in the southern Lake District that has not been subject to archaeological survey. Over autumn 2018 and winter 2019 we carried out a Level 1 Survey to record all of the visible archaeological features on the Moor.

3. Conservation and survey of Cunsey Bloomery Forge

A large part of the Cunsey Forge site had been used as a rubbish dump and was also heavily overgrown with trees. Without the clearing of rubbish, the site would have continued to deteriorate. The site has now been surveyed and excavated and conserved with the addition of an interpretation panel to tell the story of the findings. Go to 'READ' (above, right) to read the report.

4. Satterthwaite bloomery and charcoal pits

We knew there were bloomeries around Satterthwaite dating back to the thirteenth century. Archaeologists and volunteers have now surveyed and excavated this site to uncover information about medieval iron smelting.

The information found throughout this project was used to produce detailed reports on each site. Landowners and land managers can now make use of the findings to help protect, preserve and manage the landscape for future generations to enjoy and appreciate. Go to 'READ' (above, right) to read the report.

© Rusland Horizons 2017 - 2024. All rights reserved.
Rusland Horizons was a Landscape Partnership funded by the National Heritage Lottery Fund until July 2019. It is now being delivered by The Rusland Horizons Trust Limited. Company No. 2133450; Charity No. 519410; Registered Office: Bleacott Farm, Witherslack, Grange-over-Sands, Cumbria LA11 6RZ.