BURIAL mounds dating back thousands of years in one of Yorkshire’s national parks are being put at risk by walkers erecting crude markers to guide their route across moorland, a leading archaeologist has said.
Other prehistoric monuments in the North York Moors National Park are also being damaged and vandalised by visitors, archeological consultant Linda Smith said.
The battle to protect prehistoric monuments in the National Park from the practice of visitors building cairns, arrangements of stones piled upon each other, goes back more than a decade - but is continuing into the new year as efforts are stepped up to relay the message of the damage they can cause.
Ms Smith, who was commissioned by the North York Moors National Park Authority as part of its campaign to raise awareness of the walkers’ cairns issue, said some of the markers were being built from archaeological features on the moors, disturbing the information within them, and urged visitors to help protect the landmarks.
Ancient remains were at risk of being disturbed and some prehistoric monuments were also being vandalised, she said.
Ms Smith said: “Placing a plaque to commemorate a loved one adds a modern intrusion or it may be fixed to a stone with prehistoric carvings. Modern graffiti is sometimes carved into the stones of a prehistoric monument.”
She said the park authority was sending out a message that “heritage matters to all of us”.
Of the 842 protected sites and scheduled monuments within the North York Moors National Park, only a small number are affected by walkers building modern cairns on top of them, the authority’s monument management scheme, officer, Mags Waughman said.
But work, funded by Historic England, was ongoing to ensure ancient monuments are protected and remedial work to burial mounds was carried out to repair the worst damage last year.
The team have already removed walkers’ cairns from two monuments in the Raisdale Moor and Live Moor areas of the park, and repaired erosion damage to areas of earthworks.
A sign has also been erected at a Bronze Age burial mound on the Cleveland Way explaining what it is and asking people not to add stones to it.
Ms Waughman added: “We have two more cairn removals which will take place this winter – both of these are off the line of the Rights of Way and we will be aiming to encourage walkers to follow the official routes which may help to deter people from adding stones to the monuments.
“A third project is at the planning stage and will involve repair of the damaged earthworks, but this is unlikely to take place before the summer.”