Tuesday, 28 April 2020

Stay Safe - an important message during lockdown and when its lifted.

Just recently I have taken the opportunity to explore the wilds of Upper Swaledale.  I can stay safe from coronavirus in this wide open space.  Chris keeps me safe from other dangers; hidden dangers.  The moors are his back yard, he has grown up with them, he knows every square inch - a knowledge passed down by his father and generations before him. 

This tiny stone building is known as Blue Johns, near to Blue John Hole. 
It is very similar to the little building on the roadside to Kirkby Stephen at Beck Meetings.  Like Beck Meetings, Blue Johns once had a chimney but it was not used as a dwelling for shepherds.  The firegrate was for heating tar and for horn burning and other tasks the shepherds needed heat for.

It is easy to become fanciful and allow imaginations to run riot.  The reality is these buildings were and still are (in the case of Beck Meetings) a working environment and part of the farm.  
Beck Meetings and the pens surrounding it are in regular use for holding and sorting sheep.

Blue John Hole is a series of deep chasms in the earth's surface.  The surface rocks have been eroded over hundreds of years to form intricate shapes and forms.  The Buttertubs on the road to Hawes are similar deep potholes however Blue John is unfenced and hazardous.  Please do not wander off on the moors, always stick to public footpaths. 

 Birkdale Tarn is another of Upper Swaledale's hidden gems and very close to Pry House Farm.

Lead mining was once the mainstay of life in Swaledale.  The population was a hundredfold of what it is today.  Large landowners and the lead mine owners dominated. Men and boys worked in the mines or in trades related to the mining industry such as forges and clog makers.  Families usually had access to a small piece of land to grow food, keep chickens, a pig or a cow if they were lucky.
It was a hard life.

There is lots of evidence in the dale of the lead mining industry.  This is what is left of the smelt mill on Keldside.  The chimney followed the rise of the hill.  If you know where to look and the light is right you can see the chimney as it lies along the contour of the hill.   Smelting, a dangerous environment, was often done by women and resulted in many premature deaths caused by lung disease known to the miners as black spit. 

There are hundreds of well marked public footpaths and bridleways in Swaledale, they are safe and well maintained.   Farm buildings can be dangerous places and the open moor has hidden dangers such as swallow holes, sink holes and mine shafts but this doesn't mean the moors are out of bounds.  Join a guided walk led by an experienced leader or follow a pre-planned route such as the 'Every Barn Tells A Story' walk booklets and the 'Show Me the Way' family walk leaflets designed especially for parents & children.  https://keld.org.uk/events/

Everything is on hold for the moment but beautiful Swaledale is going nowhere.  It will be here to enjoy in the future.  Make a wish list of things to see and do when the countryside is free of lockdown.  Make safe plans now and look forward to fulfilling your plans when its safe to travel to Swaledale again.   

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