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What's special - cultural heritage

Despite its harsh and challenging conditions, the Yorkshire Dales National Park has supported communities and industry over several millennia. Owing to the slow rate of change, evidence of generations of occupation and activity survive in the landscape, providing an intriguing record of the area’s social and economic history. The extent and range of this survival is exceptional.

Livestock farming over several centuries produced a traditional pastoral landscape, much of which survives. This historic landscape is of great beauty and acknowledged as of international importance, comprising:

  • an intricate network of drystone walls that create a patchwork of enclosures across valleys and valley sides;

  • traditional stone-built field barns, the density of which in some parts, notably Swaledale, Wharfedale and Wensleydale, is unique;

  • traditional herb-rich hay meadows the spectacle of which draws many visitors to the Dales in early summer.

The area’s long history of livestock farming has given rise to distinct sheep breeds and its tradition of cheese making. Livestock farming, sheep in particular, is deeply interwoven into Dales life and culture, with sheep rearing, livestock sales and local agricultural shows playing an important part in the lives of its people.

The range, importance and condition of its archaeology is exceptional, recording continuity of human activity from the Palaeolithic to its nineteenth and twentieth century industrial remains.

The legacy of former rural industries adds to the character and interest of its landscape. Their influences on the area’s culture and social fabric are still evident today.  The National Park is scattered with the remains of former mineral extraction and processing sites, especially lead and lime industry remains, whilst its many mills are imposing reminders of how the area’s resources were harnessed.

Traditional Dales architecture is distinctive and, through the local building materials used, it links directly to the area’s geology. This strong identity generates a firm sense of place and history.

The National Park is characterised by numerous small, attractive and compact villages and hamlets most of which have been there for over a thousand years. They are still largely unspoilt and retain a very traditional and intimate atmosphere as well as a sense of continuity and stability. Many are still bordered by small, ancient, often unimproved fields accessed by narrow lanes and tracks between meandering stone walls, giving the villages an historic, timeless setting.

The Settle-Carlisle Railway is unique and displays impressive engineering and conserved Midland Railway architecture. It offers a very special way of enjoying the dramatic landscape along its route.

The National Park has managed to retain its network of meandering valley roads, bordered by drystone walls or hedgerows and flower-rich verges. These have a particular charm and add to the strong sense of place. Higher up unfenced roads cross open moorland and offer dramatic panoramas across the open landscape and the valleys below.

The way of life and culture of communities was, in the past, shaped by the area’s physical environment and remoteness, nurturing self-dependency and closely knit communities. Whilst the area’s traditional dialects and culture are now hard to find, community spirit and self-belief survive. Despite external influences and pressures of the modern world, and the influx of residents from far and wide, strength of ‘place’, continuity and history still shape and influence Dales’ communities today.

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Interested in archaeology? Learn more at our day school

Barden Tower

Archaeology and the historic environment

Saturday 26 April 2014 - Grassington Town Hall

For more details and booking information:

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