Beset by bunk and flummery
Alan Garner works closely with academics in researching his books. At present he is involved in a project exploring the landscape and history of Alderley Edge - a 240-million-year-old sandstone ridge on the edge of the Cheshire plain - the setting for many of Garner's novels and home to his ancestors for hundreds of years.
Manchester University and museum are involved in the project, which started when a shovel, which Garner had hoarded since childhood after finding it in his school, was radio carbon dated and found to be almost 4,000 years old. The shovel was found on Alderley Edge at the end of the last century.
With the early Bronze Age provenance of the shovel confirmed, the Leverhulme Trust was persuaded to fund two years of research exploring the Edge, which is riddled with interconnected mines, worked along the ridge's copper veins. Researchers found pit workings undisturbed for centuries. One pit was found to be as old as the shovel, suggesting, contrary to historians' long-held beliefs, that people were, in fact, mining for copper in England in the early Bronze Age.
Simon Timberlake, quantity surveyor based at Manchester Museum, says: "This is the only site in England at which it has been shown that mining for copper was going on 4,000 years ago. It was previously thought that metal was brought to England from Ireland or the Continent but we have shown that bronze was being produced from local sources. Now that we know what we are looking for - we have direct archaeological evidence of how they were mining - it is likely that we are going to find similar extraction sites throughout England."
The team has also found a Roman mineshaft and a hoard of 550 fourth century ad Roman coins at the mouth of the shaft.