Out & About …

… on the North York Moors, or wherever I happen to be.

Dale Head Bee Boles

Do other animals exhibit man’s craving for sweetness? I guess bears do, or at least Winnie the Pooh does. It is said that the refinement of sugar originated in the Indian subcontinent in prehistory. The Crusaders brought it back to Europe and but it wasn’t until the development of sugar plantations in the West Indies that sugar became more plentiful albeit still a luxury item. It finally it became affordable to the general population when the sugar price dropped in the 1870s. So what did everyday country folk do to quench their craving for sugar? They kept bees of course, for their honey. Bees were also very important for the pollination of fruit trees. The traditional way of keeping bees was the straw skep and these were often kept in bee boles to shelter them against the winter weather.

No doubt some skeps were just placed in the lee of walls but here at Dale Head in Westerdale is a range of purpose-built bee boles and quite elaborate it is too. There are six boles and the structure, made of local sandstone, has been dated to about 1832. The roof is slate that would have been imported from the Lake District, not an easy journey when railways were just in their infancy. A 1980 photo does not actually show the slate roof so I guess it was part of the 1983 restoration by the National Park Committee. The structure is Grade II* listed but looks like it is rapidly becoming overgrown by the ivy.

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