Out & About …

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

A temperature inversion covered the lowlands around Stokesley this morning, inching up the steep banks of the Cleveland Hills

The sheep munching away on the col between Cringle and Cold Moors are apathetically unaware of the creeping cloud.

The distinctive red earth is a spoil heap from jet working that has been burnt to convert the soft, crumbly shale into a hard, flakey material for use in building up farm tracks1“The North York Moors Landscape Heritage”. Page 175. Edited by D.A.Spratt and B.J.D.Harrison. David & Charles. 1989. ISBN 0 7153 93472.2North York Moors Historic Environment Record (HER) Nos: 6794/11808.

The burning seems to have been done on a local scale, probably by the farmer, and the process took several months, with the obnoxious smoke and fumes drifting down to the valley bottoms

In 1874, a traveller on the North Yorkshire and Cleveland branch of the North Eastern Railway as it steamed past Swainby commented “near the well-wooded hill called Whorl, … the dense smoke arises from the heaps of jet shale3‘Cleveland’s Change. | Sheffield Independent | Saturday 28 November 1874 | British Newspaper Archive’. 2022. Britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk <https://www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk/viewer/bl/0000181/18741128/008/0003> [accessed 2 December 2022.

The traveller was not specifically referring to this particular shale heap, which was probably too high and too far remote to cause offence, but to the burning of similar spoil heaps on the Marquis of Aylesbury’s land near Swainby. Here complaints were made to The Stokesley Sanitary Board which heard “as to the smell, and the injury to vegetation where the smoke falls, cattle being injured by drinking of water running from the shale heaps4‘Local and District. | York Herald | Monday 09 November 1874 | British Newspaper Archive’. 2022. Britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk <https://www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk/viewer/bl/0000499/18741109/034/0007> [accessed 2 December 2022]. The Inspector of Nuisances was ordered to meet the agent for the Marquis to “consult as to a remedy“.


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