The delayed final week of the Great Asby Scar Volunteer Landscape Survey took place at the end of September. The survey was originally scheduled to take place over two three-week seasons in Autumn 2019 and Spring 2020 but the last week of the final season had to be postponed because of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, with a robust risk assessment in place, which conformed to government guidance as issued at the time, the team were keen to get back in the field to finish surveying before the winter weather set in. Lydia Loopesko, one of the NAA surveyors working on the project recounts her experience of the week:
“It was great to be back out on site with volunteers. We had five volunteers with us most days, scrambling up some steep hillsides, through the bracken, and across the limestone pavement. The weather was largely clear, and we found some very interesting sites. One of the most significant was the remains of the Orton Copper Mine along the aptly named Copper Mines Lane. This probably opened in the early 19th century, the first documentary reference appearing in 1829. It was run by the Union Company of Copper Mines and remained in operation into the 1840s. The remains of the mine are still in very good condition with an adit (mine level) that stretches west underneath the limestone escarpment. Above the escarpment we recorded around twenty bell-pits (circular depressions resulting from mining) and depressions, one of which led to a short (c.5m) adit. The extent of the workings suggests a significant period of exploration, although the documentary evidence is sparse.
Other evidence of industrial activity found during the week included several quarries and signs of peat cutting. As was the case on most of the Scar, evidence of quarrying was found across the limestone pavement. In some cases activity was only evident as large piles of spoil and waste material. Many quarries were located near tracks to enable worked rock to be transported away. Peat cutting for fuel would have almost certainly taken place on the Scar from an early period. There is documentary evidence of peat cutting along the Asby Winderwath and Crosby Ravensworth boundary dating to the early 19th century.
One of the more enigmatic finds of the week was a large stone set upright in a gryke (crevice in limestone pavement). We have found several of these during the two previous seasons, although this one was significantly larger and more visible than these. It features a number of large holes, big enough to stick a hand through. Such stones, called ‘stone settings’, can be found across the Yorkshire Dales and are thought to be prehistoric in date. The placement of this particular stone offered good views across the surrounding landscape, but others have been found in a variety of places and their location seems not necessarily linked to visibility.
Another interesting find was a large circular bank that straddled two fields forming a large enclosure. The wall and bank were semi-ruinous indicating the enclosure has long fallen out of use. In the south-west corner was a tall (1.5m) stone visible from a considerable distance as most of the enclosure wall lay on the edge of the limestone pavement. The date of the enclosure is unknown but was likely used as a holding pen for livestock.
This final week wraps up what has undoubtedly been a very productive and enjoyable survey of Great Asby Scar. Over the six weeks we have had a total of 33 volunteers join and covered 5.25 square kilometres of ground. We have found sites 699 sites ranging from prehistoric hut circles and burial cairns to post-medieval kilns and sheepfolds. I really enjoyed being outside with the volunteers and have learnt a lot about the local area. We hope that those who took part enjoyed it as much as we have, despite some of the weather. The report analysing all of our findings will be out very soon, so please keep checking the website.