Annette Bingham explores Bronze Age grazing in the Peak District
Masked by heather and bilberries on the upland East Moors of the Peak District National Park, extensive Bronze Age field systems hint of prosperous farms and a population which may have reached 7000 people around 3,500 years ago.
Yet the moors are now used only for rough grazing and are uninhabited and uncultivated – as they have been since the first millennium BC. Just why they were deserted is unclear, but John Barnatt who has studied the area for ten years, believes they illustrate the combined effects of over-cultivation and climatic change.
Barnatt is now the Peak Park's survey archaeologist and this winter he is working with a team from the Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of England to make a detailed survey of an important area of the East Moors known as Big Moor where numerous stone cairns, earth banks and small stone circles survive at an elevation of around 300 metres above sea level.