Solar Tracking

Solar Tracking
How low can you go? Snow and ice and cancelled school.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Yorkshire Dales-- History in rocks

       
Shapp Abbey with chicken
    Although much of the Yorkshire Dales is agricultural—full of sheep and cows grazing in pastures and fields of wheat, potatoes and barley growing in the Eden Valley—it is also layered with history that is, for the most apart, unlabeled and often unexplored. Our guidebooks often mentioned important archaeological sites that had not been unearthed yet. “We do not know why…” was a common refrain. We crossed Roman roads, examined standing stone circles and waystones, saw an abbey in ruins, brought down by Henry the Eighth, where a chicken was hunting for dinner in the late afternoon sunlight, and a priory where small houses, one per monk, surrounded an open space. Each monk had his own workroom, bedroom, living space, private garden, and outhouse with running water. One afternoon, we walked down an old tram bed—a nasty, shaley surface. The churches were built slowly, with Anglo-Saxon and Viking carvings.
         All Creatures Great and Small was filmed,  lead mining destroyed the countryside. Smelters were tucked into each valley. Flumes climbed the hillsides; long buildings stored peat and coal, which were mixed together to melt the lead; streams tumbled through the mining sites. The top of the hill where the rocks were gathered was still decimated  and bare a hundred years later. We wondered about the impact of all of the smelting on the local population. Clearly, it was not a clean operation. Lead dust must have floated out of the chimney, gathered in the grass, been eaten by sheep grazing the fields lower down, breathed in by children. What was the impact of this pollution? We searched the local history museum in Reeth, looking for a hint of this issue, but nothing turned up. Not a peep. What the lead still around, in the soil, being eaten by sheep? No idea.
Mine Ruins
   The most distinctive day, however, was our walk from Keld to Reeth, through the nineteenth century mining country. In the late nineteenth century, lead mining dominated the high hills of the Yorkshire Dales. The population exploded with the possibility of mining jobs and many families farmed and mined lead. Between Keld—an idyllic green valley full of walled in fields and scattered outbuildings—and Reeth, the market town where

Mine tailings
When the mines were depleted, they closed down. The population declined, both because of the mines and also because of changing work patterns, as young people moved off of the farms.  Now, the farms are consolidated and several are run by one family. The outbuildings are empty (and eyed by city folk as summer homes) and some of the farmhouses in the valley are clearly empty and declining as well. Sheep wander through the old furnace rooms and the building become yet another layer of British history to be puzzled out by walkers.

Loki Stone, Kirby Steven Church
Giant's  Pillows-- who knows....
Smelting site
Priory Church
Sheep in old mine

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