Dating of post-glacial landforms in the central howgills

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Abstract

Little is known of Holocene landform development in Upland Britain. This paper describes a site at Middle Langdale in the Howgill Fells of Cumbria where large, but now stabilized and inactive gullies cut through periglacial material. At the base of the gullies large debris cones have buried earlier alluvial sediments on the valley floor. On these sediments and buried by the debris cones is a well-developed organic soil from which two 14C dates have been obtained in an attempt to estimate the age range of the soil. These dates range from 2580±55 years BP for the fine particulate fraction from the base of the organic horizon to 940±95 years BP for fossil rootlets from the uppermost organic layer, immediately below the overlying debris cones. The pollen evidence suggests that the valley floor site was initially dominated by alder carr and later by a Juncus marsh with birch, alder and hazel nearby. The pollen, from the surrounding upland area suggests woodland on the valley sides, dominated by oak and elm that was later replaced by a more open environment rich in heath species and in which disturbed ground species were present. The magnetic evidence indicates a stable local environment during soil formation but shows a sudden inwash of unweathered debris at the top of the buried soil.

The evidence suggests that the valley floor was geomorphologically stable throughout the period of soil formation, although there was a local change in valley floor vegetation and a reduction of woodland cover on the valley sides at sometime during the period. The evidence then points to major geomorphological changes; a wave of soil erosion, gully development and debris cone deposition, perhaps following the Scandinavian introduction of sheep farming in the tenth century A.D.

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