Over the past 2.6 million years northern England has been covered in ice many times. Long periods of arctic conditions known as ‘glacials’ alternated with warmer ‘interglacials’ when the climate was similar or even warmer than today; we are currently in an interglacial, but one day – thousands of years in the future – ice will return to once again blanket the landscape.
During the glaciations great ice sheets advanced out from mountainous areas in Scotland and northern England. There have been at least ten major glaciations during the Quaternary, each one obliterating many of the effects of the previous one. For this reason most glacial landforms and deposits in the Westmorland Dales date from the last major glaciation, which was at its height around 27,000 years ago.