The National Park Authority’s annual Youth Forum Activity Day is a day for young people in the organisation to connect, learn new skills, understand different departments explore different areas of the National Park, and ultimately, have fun!
On this Youth Forum Activity day in June, we explored the Archaeological environment of Wensleydale (previously known as Yoredale) led by the Yorkshire Dales National Park’s own Historic Environment team.
The Yorkshire Dales is littered with archaeological sites and markers which tell the tale of its rich history. We explored archaeological remains from the Bronze Age, through Romano British era, and Medieval times to 20th Century sites.
Bainbridge Roman Fort
We started our tour from our Yoredale offices in Bainbridge. After crossing the bridge over the river Bain we climbed Brough Hill to spectacular views over Wensleydale and the remains of a Roman Fort.
There is no public access to the site however, we were granted permission to visit from the landowner.
The views made it obvious why a fort would be built here; not only can you see for miles on all sides, but the hill is also protected from any advancing armies on two sides by the rivers Bain and Ure.
We discussed how the fort would operate – such as where the entrances may have been in relation to the Roman road, which you can see as you look towards Raydale – and importantly who lived and worked in the fort.
An inscribed stone found here tells the story of a period when Yorkshire came under the rule of the first African emperors of Rome.
The two African brothers ruled Yorkshire (unharmoniously) together until one fateful day, perhaps a committee meeting gone badly wrong, one brother murdered the other.
The surviving brother ‘wiped the history books’ of the brother he murdered, as was the custom in the Roman practice of ‘damnatio memoriae’; in which the memory of a former leader is erased.
However, the inscribed stone was too good to dispose of, so was used as a road stone (face down), which inadvertently preserved the stone to be discovered in 1960.
Wet Grooves Mine
From Bainbridge, we travelled to Ballowfields Nature Reserve and walked up to Wet Grooves Mine – This is a post-medieval lead mining complex with potential medieval origins.
However, the amount of relatively fresh dressing waste suggests that it is likely to have been a significant degree of 20th-century ore reprocessing work undertaken here.
The Romans sent soldiers to guard it; medieval monks used it to roof their great abbeys; hearts were broken and fortunes won mining it – the soft yet heavy, grey metal called lead.YDNP
Lead mining is believed to have started here in the Dales nearly 2000 years ago after the Romans arrived in the north of England around 71 AD.
The industry has left an indelible mark on the local landscapes, in places altering the very topography of the earth and influencing the evolution and character of its hamlets and villages.
Wet Grooves Mine remains are still visible in our landscape over a century after the collapse of the lead mining industry.
We learned that the site is so preserved because a lead mine and its surrounding area will contain too many toxins for anything to grow for decades.
However, if left undisturbed the spoil heaps do vanish under shallow turf and lead-tolerant species like wild pansy and leadwort, which was the case in areas of this site.
Ox Close Stone Circle
A 100m further down the footpath from Wet Groves Mine, we found Ox Close stone circle – A Bronze Age enclosed cremation cemetery.
The path from Bolton Castle to Woodhall passes very close to the stone circle, from which you can easily view the site.
Stone circles are rare in the Yorkshire Dales, so the site at Ox Close was a lovely surprise. The stone circle is now considered a Bronze Age enclosed cremation cemetery.
What remains of the enclosed cremation cemetery to the eye on the ground is what looks like boulders placed in a large circle, however, if you didn’t know it was there you might not notice it at all.
The ariel view from above, however clearly shows the symmetrical circular shape of the stone circle etched in the landscape.
To discover more about this site read one of our previous blogs ‘Archaeology up on Ox Close‘.
Thank you very much to the knowledgeable Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority Historic Environment team for leading the day and teaching us more about the important historical landscape in which we are lucky enough to live and work.
If you would like to discover more about the history and archaeology of the Yorkshire Dales National Park and keep a look out for opportunities to spend a day with the Historic Environment team, through talks or volunteering opportunities by following the Historic Environment team on their social media channels; Twitter or Facebook.