Out & About …

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

A Sheep Wash or Something More?

Last Thursday proved quite a trial. We found ourselves trudging along the Miners’ Balcony Path, tracing the contours, with Scot Crag looming above us and Glencoyne below. The wind, oh, it was a fierce adversary, pushing against us with all its might. To make a long tale short, we decided to beat a retreat and gingerly descended the steep grass and scree slope, seeking shelter in the embrace of Glencoyne.

View from the south.

We encountered this structure by chance. Resembling a dam, yet consisting of two parallel walls, it confounded us. The appearance was peculiar indeed. Both walls exhibited signs of battering, with the lower one notably prominent, resulting in a triangular profile. Its purpose eluded us. Could it have served as a reservoir for the farm nestled in the valley below? The notion seemed plausible, but the presence of twin walls remained inexplicable. Was it intended for an earth infill? If so, any such fill has long since been washed away.

The archaeologists propose it might’ve been employed for sheep washing before the widespread adoption of sheep dipping1‘MNA123055 | National Trust Heritage Records’. 2018. Nationaltrust.org.uk <https://heritagerecords.nationaltrust.org.uk/HBSMR/MonRecord.aspx?uid=MNA123055> [accessed 16 March 2024]. However, that doesn’t explain the twin walls. These appear excessive for a mere sheep wash. Additionally, if the aim was to corral the sheep towards the wash, a broader, more funnel-shaped structure would surely have been more practical.

There is clear evidence of a mining history higher up the head. The Greenside Lead Vein emerges in this vicinity, and a passage was excavated into the operations of that mine, although Glencoyne managed to avoid the extensive workings of Glenridding. It seems unlikely that this is associated with that industry.

Our walk along the Miners’ Balcony Path last Thursday was certainly fraught with challenges, but also an intriguing discovery. Battling the fierce wind, we sought refuge in Glencoyne, stumbling upon this mysterious twin-walled structure whose purpose remains unknown. Perhaps it does have a history of bygone animal husbandry.





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