Mickleden Beck is a virtually intact prehistoric landscape. A walk along it from east to west is like wandering back through time. The lower end is still farmed today, and has field clearance still going on, within field boundaries unchanged in centuries. As you get a bit further along, past the curve, the remains of medieval settlement give way to BA field boundaries and cairns on either side of the beck.. Throughout the journey, the Neolithic looms omnipresent in the form of Pike O Stickle to your right.
This is such a gorgeously secluded place, the valley is 3-sided, with nice steep slopes on left and right, and when you get to the end, it just stops. Steep slope at the end too. The road to nowhere.It's quiet too, the sound of the water babbling over the stones is lovely and soothing. Whilst you wander, you can engage in the obligatory game of spot the axe rough-out. We didn't find owt particularly special, but there were a few bits of andesite that looked very much like the bits that flake off flint when it is knapped.
It's worth keeping going to the end of the valley, as the sheepfold at the end is sufficiently peculiar to warrant a good pondering. It has two little rooms off to the side, like you'd see on the footprint of an excavated roundhouse. Combine this with a vague bank and ditch, it's very tempting to think of it as being a re-used ancient dwelling. Maybe they used to polish axes here, you never know…
A good spot on top of the Pike would perhaps lend a view sufficient to show up all of the field boundaries/cairns and maybe help make sense of the confusing jumble of millennia still visible in this fantastic valley.
Oh, and the sheep are inexplicably fluffy. They try to look menacing, but they are just too fluffy to get away with it.
"The monument, which falls into six separate areas of protection, includes the earthworks and buried remains of Mickleden Beck prehistoric cairnfield, an associated field system, a funerary cairn and a medieval dispersed settlement. It is located on unenclosed land along the valley
floor either side of Mickleden Beck and is centred 840m south west of Pike of Stickle. The monument represents evidence for the prehistoric and medieval exploitation of this landscape.
The prehistoric cairnfield consists of four groups of round and oval-shaped clearance cairns, two on the north bank of Mickleden Beck, two on the south bank. The group centred at NY27180645 consists of over 30 cairns up to 0.7m high; the round cairns measure between 1.9m to 5.4m in diameter while the oval-shaped cairns measure between 1.8m to 19m long by 1.8m to 6.9m wide. Within this group of cairns there is part of an associated field system comprising discontinuous and generally irregular stone banks and elongated cairns following the alignment of the valley. A cross-valley stone bank has a greater width and stone volume than the valley-aligned bank. The cairn group centred at NY27060624 consists of over 20 cairns up to 0.6m high; the round cairns measure between 3m to 5.4m in diameter while the oval-shaped cairns measure between 2.3m to 11m long by 1.8m to 6.6m wide. There are two alignments of elongated cairns suggesting that these may have been constructed along the lines of former boundaries. At the eastern end of this group of cairns there is a short length of stone bank. The cairn group centred at NY26800676 consists of over 30 cairns up to 0.6m high; the round cairns measure between 2m to 8m in diameter while the oval-shaped cairns measure between 1.9m to 14m long by 1.8m to 6m wide. Within this group of cairns there are further traces of the associated field system, the most significant element being a cross-valley wall and a series of stone banks meandering along the valley.
As with the previously described cross-valley wall this one is also much more substantially built than the valley-aligned banks. Pollen samples taken from beneath both of the cross-valley walls suggest a pre-medieval date. The stone banks include cairns within their overall alignments and their form is more consistent with stone clearance which may have been deposited against former boundary markers. They appear to define two irregular and discontinuous lines along the valley.
The cairn group centred at NY26320689 consists of seven cairns up to 0.7m high; the round cairns measure between 2.7m to 3.5m in diamater while the oval-shaped cairns measure between 3.3m to 5m long by 2.5m to 4m wide. There is a small semi-circular stone bank just to the north of the cairns. To the south east of this cairn group there is a field consisting of a gently-sloping area of cleared pasture bounded by streams on three sides and a continuous decayed stone wall on the remaining side. This wall effectively acts as the fourth side of an enclosing quadrilateral as it links two parallel streams. There are two entrances through the wall, one at the north end the other near the centre. This enclosed land is largely clear of surface stone, is well-drained, and is relatively good quality pasture land.
Within the field there is a single oval-shaped cairn which is interpreted as a funerary cairn. It consists of a small circle of approximately 20 stones which define an external kerb surrounding a slightly raised scatter of smaller stones. It measures 4m by 3m and is 0.25m high with a slight surface depression possibly indicative of disturbance. The form of this cairn corresponds with the Kerb Cairn monument type, and excavated Scottish examples are typically dated to the later Bronze Age. At NY26200733 there are the remains of a rectangular stock enclosure bounded by a series of stone banks and cairns. There is a small circular stone-free shelter built into the enclosure's south west wall."