Ice Age Lake District

in Ice-age

The hummocky drift deposits left behind by the ice, Things to do in the lake districtwith hillocks and marshy hollows arranged haphazardly above the banks of the River Eamont, form what amounts to classical ground, where field evidence was first used in support of the glacial theory. Another area mentioned by Buck¬land was in the vicinity of Kendal where he noted that 'many hundreds of acres of the valley are covered with large and lofty insulated piles of gravel; and smaller moraines, or their detritus, nearly fill the valley from Kendal to Morecambe Bay'.

Since Buckland's day much more has been learnt about the Ice Age as it affected Britain and the efficacy of ice in fashioning landscape features. It is now known that there was a series of glacial episodes with intervening warmer phases, the whole lasting about a million years. At its maximum, ice perhaps covered the whole of the Lake District in the form of a huge ice dome with its centre in the Scafell region.

At other times, however, the ice was mainly restricted to the highest part with long glacial tongues extending down the valleys. Towards the end of the Ice Age, when snow and ice had all but disappeared, only the deep armchair shaped hollows or corries would contain small glaciers. This was the situation about 10,000 years ago when a sudden deterioration occurred in the climate. Once again the corrie glaciers grew and spilled out of their basins and into the adjacent valley heads. This happened at a number of places at the foot of the Stake Pass, at the head of Great Langdale and elsewhere. Although it only lasted about 500 years, the fact that a miniglaciation could happen at all and so recently a mere fraction in the geological time scale is a reminder that we may still be in the Ice Age, a warmer interlude before cold conditions return once again.

With the events of the Pleistocene glaciation having taken place so recently, it is not surprising that the Lakeland landscape bears eloquent testimony of the powerful effects of ice erosion and deposition. While the major rock types deter-mined a basic pattern, as we saw in the last chapter, many of the details of the scenery owe their origin to the work of ice. Here indeed was the tool and work-man which Ruskin was hinting at. So little time has elapsed since the ice finally melted that most of the glacial features look as fresh as though they had just been uncovered from their blanket of snow. Indeed on some of the higher peaks and fells, the work of frost shattering and movement of debris downhill a general process which we term periglaciation is still going on each winter. This usually passes unnoticed as part of the whole cycle of landscape evolution, though occa-sionally in a severe winter or after heavy rainfall the effects are catastrophic and claim attention.

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Adrian vultur writes for Things to do in the lake district

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Ice Age Lake District

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This article was published on 2011/01/11