We in the YDNPA Historic Environment Team are passionate about the hundreds of incredible historic landscapes, sites and finds across the Dales.
During lockdown we have greatly missed going out on our usual site visits – which got us thinking about our personal favourites. With this in mind, we thought we would set ourselves the challenge of creating a Team Top 10, and share it with you to mark the Council for British Archaeology’s Festival of Archaeology 11-19 July.
The rules were simple: each team member got to choose two of their favourite landscapes, sites or finds in the National Park and then each was given the opportunity to argue their case during a team video call.
Our interests vary, so our picks were all very different.
Then came the very difficult task of trying to agree on our Top 10 order! We had some brilliant and unusual choices, and each team member presented compelling cases. Some difficult choices had to be made, but after the gargantuan consumption of our favourite caffeinated beverages and chocolate-covered biscuits, the list was complete.
There were only 10 places available, compared to the hundreds of incredible features across the National Park, so even making our list of favourites was quite something.
Without further ado, keep reading to find out which features made numbers 10 to 7…
#10 Ballowfield Bungalow Town
This was certainly one of the more unusual choices made by our team members!
Ballowfield is in Wensleydale, between Woodhall and Carperby (located next to Eller Beck) and was a 1930s holiday camp. It is possible that people would have arrived by train and walked the short distance to the camp, where they would have found wooden chalets, a shop and a dance hall (called Liberty Hall) erected on pillars and connected by a series of wooden walkways.
Some of the huts had verandahs and gardens, and the camp even boasted its own swimming pool – the stopped-up beck! And when they got thirsty, the occupants would drink from a refreshing spring handily (and somewhat alarmingly) located near the lead works.
The camp was only a short-lived venture – although we do know that during WWII refugees were housed there. The last of the huts burned down in 1953, and shortly afterwards the site was demolished, landscaped and eventually taken over as a nature reserve (now managed by the National Park Authority).
Due to being so short-lived, none of the OS maps show it. A large part of the intrigue of this site is quite how completely it seems to have disappeared off the record, but, if you look closely, you might find very slight earthworks which may have once been stances for the timber buildings. The sheer oddity of this site has given it a place on our list.
Few photographs survive. We have inserted a picture of what the area looks like now, but if you or someone you know has any pictures of the site as it was we would love to hear from you.
#9 Great Asby Scar Sword
This first century (La Tène) iron sword was found by a metal detectorist 6-9 inches deep and beneath a limestone outcropping at Great Asby Scar in Cumbria in 1993. The find was purchased by the British Museum in 1994, although is not currently on display.
The sword has a wooden hilt (lime and ash) covered in sheet bronze and enamel inlay. The blade has corroded into the bronze scabbard, which is beautifully decorated. It is now in two pieces (hilt/blade) and was found with accompanying copper alloy belt fittings.
The circumstances of the sword’s deposition are debated. The dramatic landscape of limestone pavement around the find spot may be of import, as it is often the case that valuable items were deliberately deposited in areas of significance in the landscape.
However, there are no signs the weapon was ‘killed’ (destroyed), as is often seen in the deliberate deposition of military items. On the other hand, there are also no obvious signs that the sword was dropped either (no damage consistent with a fall or big impact, and the belt fittings accompanying it were not damaged or broken).
Lunds is an area of dispersed settlement with separate farmsteads that lies high up in a tributary valley, right at the head of Wensleydale, near Garsdale Head. Perhaps the real interest here lies in its origins and location.
Lunds is tucked away, accessed across a ford of the River Ure, with Lunds Place itself sitting astride a small isolated valley.
An eighteenth century chapel is located here in seeming isolation, in the vicinity of a farmstead. The size of the burial ground and the many paths which converge on the church both suggest it served the wider community, providing a link between dispersed farmsteads.
Like many places in the Dales, the name derives from Old Norse or Old Swedish origins. In this case, Lund was a name deriving from either hundr (Old Norse), or lunder (Old Swedish), meaning a grove or copse (The Internet Surname Database: 18 May 2020). So it may have acquired its name because it was near a wood or copse.
In the Medieval period there is documentary evidence referring to Lunds as part of the monastic estate of Jervaulx Abbey, with ‘Holbeck Lundes’ mentioned in 1301-2 as one of a number of places a subsidy was being paid for (Parishes: Aysgarth in Page (ed.) 1914: p5*). Large areas of the Yorkshire Dales became part of monastic estates in the Medieval period, with the parish names of High and Low Abbotside here indicating this former influence, an area which included Lunds (Parishes: Aysgarth in Page (ed.) 1914: p5*; White 1997: 56-62; Pontefract and Hartley 1988: 74).
There are several areas of relict field systems surviving as earthworks or seen as crop marks on aerial photographs near to Lunds. Little is known about them at present, but they comprise a number of stack stands, field boundaries and trackways of possible Medieval or later date. It is not known if any of these related to the monastic estate or are later features. Aside from its location, Lunds was partly picked for our Top 10 because it is an interesting example of a dispersed settlement.
#7 Maiden Castle
Maiden Castle is a scheduled monument in Swaledale comprising a massive earthwork enclosure, defined by a bank and external ditch cut into the hillside with an entrance facing east. It is not to be confused with its more famous namesake, the well known Iron Age hillfort in Dorset, or others which also share the name.
An unusual stone walled avenue leads away from this entrance, defined by two now ruinous walls leading circa 100m east from the site. This avenue appears to terminate immediately adjacent to a large mound, which is thought to be the remains of a heavily excavated barrow, a Bronze Age burial mound.
Maiden Castle appears to have been used as an enclosed settlement with earthwork traces of possible hut platforms within it, although there is no conclusive dating evidence from the site. A rising slope behind the enclosure would have made it very difficult to defend, so it seems to have been built for defensive appearance more than function. The avenue feature may have provided an impressive and imposing entrance.
The HER record shows Maiden Castle has been interpreted, variously, as of Neolithic origin, as an Iron Age or Romano-British enclosed settlement, and even as a post-Roman feature that might be connected with the Fremington and Reeth Dykes. It featured highly in our discussion, but, perhaps because its date remains so uncertain, it was placed a highly respectable seventh.
Phew, well, that concludes Part 1 of our Top 10 Historic Highlights blog. Hopefully, you are already looking forward to Part 2, where we will run through places 6 to 4 of our countdown.
Just a reminder that these are only our personal choices and favourites, they are not in any way a definitive or official list of the most significant features. Nor is it not based on any official or recognised measure of heritage significance, it is meant to be a bit of fun!
We found it a real challenge to only be allowed to pick two highlights each and it took quite some time to figure out what the order should be, as we kept changing our minds! In the end it was based partly on the average scores of how each team member ranked them, and partly on the arguments put forward, with the final order decided upon by the official YNDPA Top 10 Historic Highlights judging panel (not actually a real body we should add!).
Anyway, remember to look out for Part 2, heading to our blog soon…
By Dr Douglas Mitcham and Lily Mulvey
Sources and further reading
Please note: the main source used for information was the YDNPA Historic Environment Record (HER). Additional sources are listed below. We have done our best to access information and look up relevant sources. However, please keep in mind that, due to the recent Government restrictions, we have not been able to consult the physical HER or our reference library held at our offices in writing this blog.
MYD5403: Maiden Castle. YDNPA HER record description. YDNPA, Yoredale, Bainbridge, Leyburn, DL8 3EL.
Parishes: Aysgarth. In Page, W. (ed.) 1914. A History of the County of York North Riding: Volume 1. London. Pages 200-214. British History Online, accessed 12 June 2019: http://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/yorks/north/vol1/pp200-214 Note: Specific references to the primary sources cited in Page 1914 are omitted here for clarity. These can be looked up in footnotes of Page 1914 at the above link. *The ‘p5’ used in the citations in this blog (e.g. (Page 1914: p5)) refer to the paragraph numbers of this online version of the text; these are not the page numbers of the printed version.
Pontefract, E. and Hartley, M. 1988. Wensleydale. Otley: Smith Settle Ltd.
The British Museum (Sword). Accessed 30th April 2020 from: https://www.britishmuseum.org/collection/object/H_1994-0204-
The Internet Surname Database (SurnameDB). Accessed 18 May 2020 from: https://www.surnamedb.com/Surname/Lund
White, R. 1997. The Yorkshire Dales: Landscapes Through Time. London: B.T. Batsford/English Heritage.