Sunday 25 February 2024

Set in Stone

 Set in Stone

There are thousands of miles of dry stone walls in the dales.  They provide boundaries for meadows, fields & folds, garths & gardens, pastures, pens and punds (compound or small holding area for a few sheep) and then snakes their way upwards for miles & miles dividing the fell and forming the moor wall.

The drystone walls and the hundreds upon hundreds of little stone field buildings or cow houses (cow'us) as they are known in Swaledale define the Yorkshire Dales.

They are everywhere, they are impossible to miss but look a bit closer and there is a lot to find, hidden in the stone.  Look up, look down, you'll be surprised what you discover.  

 A worn horseshoe hammered into a stone wall.  A place to tie up the horse perhaps?

Dates and initials can tell us how old a building is and who lived here although they can also be deceiving.  The farm buildings at Pry House are not 350 years old but perhaps there has been a some sort of stone structure here since 1665.  The initials R A A will belong to a member of the Alderson family, a common name in upper Swaledale.

In fact George & Charles Alderson built Pry House in 1858 and had a sundial & their names carved in stone above the front door.

Benchmark carvings denote the 'mean' height above sea level.  They are sometimes referred to as 'crows feet' but this is not their proper name as a benchmark is an arrow with a straight line across the top.  We have one at Pry House on the road side building and there is another on the building opposite the Ravenseat road.  Pry House sits at 1300 feet above sea level.  Some people make a hobby out of finding & recording Benchmarks.  Its called Benchmark Bagging.

Look out for boundary stones as you cross from one county to another.  There are two on the border between North Yorkshire and Cumbria on the B6270 a few miles west of Pry House Farm.  
This sboundary stone faces east and the inscription is still clear.  It marks the edge of Birkdale, the most westerly dale in North Yorkshire.  

The writing on this stone faces west and the privailing wind and weather has eroded the inscription. I think it marks the beginning of Nateby fell. It is dated 1856.  Who the stretch of moor between the two stones belongs to is a mystery!
Happy hunting.


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