Archaeological research in the Vale of Pickering over the last 35 years has identified an entirely unanticipated level of past activity, particularly around the margins of the valley which formerly held the largest inland body of water in Britain. Lake Pickering, which has featured in school geography lessons for many generations, mostly drained away about 12,000 years ago leaving a broad wetland with a network of interconnected lakes in the centre of the Vale and extensive light sandy soils on the margins of the valley, particularly in the eastern half. Air-photography, geophysical survey, excavations and other fieldwork undertaken by the Landscape Research Centre (LRC) and the Vale of Pickering Research Trust (VPRT) have completely transformed our understanding of the archaeology of the Vale from the Late Palaeolithic to Medieval periods. Although this research has been the subject of countless public lectures in Britain and abroad as well as numerous publications and exhibitions in Malton and in Scarborough its significance within the region, in Britain and Europe has not been widely appreciated.
The focus of much of the research in the Vale has, in the case of the VPRT been on the landscape around the former Lake Flixton and the internationally important site of Star Carr, and in the case of the LRC centred on the huge excavations undertaken at West Heslerton and landscape scale surveys covering many square kilometres to the east and west. The results of both research programmes indicate that what we have seen up to now is merely a sample of much more extensive archaeological resources which show much higher past populations and, although apparently ‘unique’, are a reflection of the scale and intensity of activity we should expect in similar valley landscapes elsewhere in lowland Britain. The element of ‘uniqueness’ reflects, more than anything else, the level, intensity and focus of recent discovery and research but nevertheless it also highlights the importance and potential of the archaeology of the Vale. In the words of the former Chief Archaeologist for England David Miles ‘the buried landscape of Heslerton is every bit as important as Stonehenge‘.
In 2011-12 English Heritage commissioned the production of the ‘Vale of Pickering: Statement of Significance’, a document designed to highlight the nature and importance of the heritage of the Vale. The preparation of a Statement of Significance is the first stage in developing an overall strategy for the Vale of Pickering, as part of the Vale of Pickering Historic Environment Management Framework Project, initiated by English Heritage (Yorkshire and Humber Region). The Statement of Significance document has been prepared by Dr Louise Cooke in collaboration with a wide range of stakeholders, both organisations and individuals, representing a range of different backgrounds and interests including cultural and natural heritage, and planning.
The document is designed to be used by many from heritage agencies and planners to school teachers and academics to underpin planning policies that help sustain heritage resources or the development of long term research strategies to enhance a more detailed understanding of the fragile evidence of the past which is increasingly under threat from industrial farming and other developments.
The detailed statement of significance document can be downloaded from the North Yorkshire County Council Website at:
The document is summarised in ‘The Vale of Pickering an Extraordinary Place: Statement of Significance’ which can be downloaded by clicking on the link here.