A year-long project to renovate the area in and around the car park and to create a picnic area at the Outgang in Thornton Rust has come to a successful end with the installation of an interpretation board.
The board, which tells the story of how West Beck was used in the past to wash sheep, was included in a grant from the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority’s Sustainability Fund.
“These small projects are so exciting and so memorable,” commented YDNPA officer Andrea Burden when she was in Thornton Rust to celebrate with villagers.
The YDNPA’s Champion for Sustainable Development, Chris Clark, presented Aysgarth and District Parish Council with a cheque for £3,740 from the fund towards the cost of the refurbishment.
He said: “It is absolutely fantastic that communities like Thornton Rust have come together to improve this facility and the environment.”
In response Thornton Rust parish councillor David Pointon said: “I want to thank all those who have been so deeply involved in this and the YDNPA for its support. I know most people in the village have contributed in one way or another – everybody has done their little bit which just shows that this village is the best one to live in in the Dales!”
The project began in March 2017 when the state of the Outgang car park was discussed at Thornton Rust Parish Meeting. Cllr Pointon commented that it was more like a patch of waste land, very uneven, and with no proper surface for parking on.
A team of volunteers was formed, led by Mark Sheard, to organise and carry out the work. The initial clearance work was done with the support, on a voluntary basis, of Tim Kilvington with his digger.
During the summer of 2017 some of the villagers worked very hard not just within the parking area but also around West Beck and the lane leading to the moors. In doing so they revealed features of the village’s agricultural and social past including how a pool was created in the beck up until the beginning of the 20th century so that sheep could be washed before being clipped.
Eleanor Scar and her brother Owen Metcalfe provided information about that and had photographs taken by Dr Werner Kissling of a re-enactment in the early 1960s. Copies of some of those photographs are on the interpretation board.
The full story of that re-enactment is told in the November 2017 edition of Now Then which is available at the Dales Countryside Museum in Hawes, price £2.
Mr Sheard and Martyn Donno have also restored the old pots which were used for boiling up the dipping mixture used in the 1960s.
Mr Donno commented: “The [National Park] had the vision to see that it was worth doing and put their trust in us – we are grateful for that. It is quite interested in the sheep dip because there are few of those left intact. So we wanted to show how it used to work.”
The grant from the YDNPA also made it possible to install a picnic table and a bench beside West Beck.
From the car park there is a bridleway to Thornton Rust Moor and then, via a permissive footpath, to the site of an ancient settlement at the top of Addlebrough.
For those who don’t want to go so far there is a gentle walk up to the old lime kiln and into the Kennel Field where there is a seat overlooking the village.
The Outgang at Thornton Rust is the perfect place to start a walk along the bridleway to Thornton Rust Moor and then, via a permissive footpath, to the site of an ancient settlement at the top of Addlebrough. For those who don’t want to go so far it is but a gentle walk up to the old lime kiln and into the Kennel Field where there is a seat overlooking the village. (Above: preparing the site for a picnic bench, with the bridleway on the other side of the beck. )
During the summer of 2017 some of the villagers have worked very hard to create a new car parking area at the Outgang and in doing so revealed features of the village’s agricultural and social past. (Click on the picture to see more photos of the work at the Outgang. )
They were grateful for a grant from the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority’s sustainability fund which will also cover the cost of preparing and installing an interpretation board. This will show how West Beck was dammed each year up until the beginning of the 20th century to form a pond where sheep could be washed to remove salve and lanolin before being clipped.
The salve, according to Eleanor Scarr, was a mixture of rancid butter and tar which helped to stop the sheep being struck by flies. In this year’s Now Then (the annual magazine of the Friends of the Dales Countryside Museum) there is an interview with her and her brother, Owen Metcalfe, about how farmers like their father, Sidney Metcalfe, used the beck – and how, on a hot summer’s day they would dam it so that the children could play in the water. Copies of the magazine are on sale (£2 each) at the museum in Hawes.
Below: the benches installed in December 2017
Ecologists congratulate the villagers
In November 2017 Deborah Millward wrote:
Last month I led a group of ten ecologists a short walk round the village. We discussed the West End Bank, which had just been cut and cleared, much to their approval.
I then showed them the new car park area up the Outgang describing the morass of docks and ground elder that had previously featured there. The consensus was that even if the “dreaded weeds” had not been defeated, the eventual increase in biodiversity was worth the effort. They greatly appreciated the improved facilities.
In East Lane I explained the problems we had experienced with water eroding the track. The new drain, funded by the Parish Wildlife Scheme, had gone in and the track could be restored. The Catchment Sensitive Farming Scheme was a possible source of funding for keeping silt out of the stream.
We discussed how best to manage the grazing to protect the flower-rich sections. Their advice was to graze in the autumn with cattle to remove the bulk of the year’s growth, then to follow this with sheep at some time in the winter months.
In the Kennel Field I showed them photos of the site before work started almost 20 years ago. The present day scene of trees and honeysuckle created a good impression, especially with the RSPB person. Sadly I had to report that black grouse no longer used the field’s hawthorn trees. The group were full of praise for the effort villagers were making to conserve and restore wildlife and wished us luck with East Lane.
The chairman of Aysgarth and District Parish Council, John Dinsdale, was delighted in October 2017 when Thornton Rust ’s Kennel Field Trust was highly commended at the Yorkshire Dales Millennium Trust awards ceremony. The award included £4,000 which, he said, would cover the cost of more environmental work at the Kennel Field. My article (below) about the Kennel Field which was published in The Dalesman in 2014.
The Kennel Field
Above Thornton Rust there is a very special place to sit and enjoy the beauty of Wensleydale – and thanks to the hard work of many of the villagers there are no ugly blemishes on that landscape. Instead the Kennel Field is bedecked with wild flowers in Spring. (Above: Looking down from the top of the Kennel Field with the restored barn on the right, the mash house below it, and Thornton Rust in the distance. Click on this picture to see more photos)
Deborah Millward was so excited in November 2014 that she had to tell everyone connected with that field: “Hurray! Today a black grouse was feeding on one of the old hawthorn trees.” Deborah, who had just retired as chair of the Yorkshire Dales Biodiversity Forum, had a very different view of the Kennel Field when she first saw it in 1983. She and her husband, Ian, had walked up to field next to the lime kiln on the south side of the village. Looking back towards Carperby Moor she thought: “Wow – this is a beautiful place”.
But then she glanced downwards and saw the kennels which had been built as the summer retreat for the Wensleydale Hounds in the 19th century. “They were a real blot on the landscape,” she said. The other two buildings in the field – the mash house and a traditional barn – were also semi derelict.
When she studied the field more closely, however, as part of her moving from being a microbiologist in the food and water industries to a botanist, she realised that it was home to over 120 species of plants. “That is quite impressive. A lot of pastures are not as nearly as diverse,” she explained. “The field had never been improved and there is a wet bit with marsh marigold and meadow sweet. Probably the rarest thing in there is the flat sedge. That has declined nationally and the Kennel Field is a hot spot in the Yorkshire Dales National Park.”
She began dreaming of protecting the field and discussed her ideas with some of the villagers, including Aysgarth and District parish councillor and local farmer, John Dinsdale. As a child he had played there with his friends and so the idea of the field being special was a novel one.
What did concern him was that the old kennels were becoming so unsafe. “They were a danger to kids – because they used to play on the roof and that could have fallen through.” And they might then have been impaled on the old railings.
He added:“The barn and the mash house were going to fall down if they didn’t have something done to them. It’s a lovely spot now and it’s canny you can go up there and sit on the seat and enjoy it.”
That transformation came about because Deborah realised that funds might be available through the Yorkshire Dales Millennium Trust (YDMT) after it was set up in 1996. But first she needed the landowner’s permission to demolish the kennels. To her surprise the owner, Arthur Metcalfe, suggested they should buy the field. And so the Kennel Field Trust was born with John as its chairman. The many hours he, Deborah and other members of the management group spent working in that field counted as match funding.
Deborah put the project forward to the YDMT to be included in its application to the Millennium Commission. “The Kennel Field ticked all the boxes for the Millennium Commission,” explained David Sharrod, the YDMT director. “It came from the community, it was wild life and it was restoring historical sites. It was one of the first we managed to fund and certainly one of the first that we made work.”
The YDMT not only allocated some of the Lottery funds to the Kennel Field Trust but also obtained some European funding for the project. In addition to a small grant from the Yorkshire Agricultural Society the Kennel Field Trust also received a grant from the ESA Conservation Plan and that was used to purchase the field.
But back in Thornton Rust it wasn’t all plain sailing. There were some who were very suspicious and were worried that the Kennel Field would become a financial burden on the small community. One who expressed his doubts was Colin Day. “Afterwards I felt I had done wrong and I thought I would chip in and do a bit,” he said.
He certainly did chip in for he set himself the task of cleaning the lime mortar off of 100 bricks a day. “I chipped away at many, many thousands. It was snowing at times and it was jolly cold.” John would regularly drive a tractor to the field to knock down more of the roofing and Colin helped to demolish the walls. Others did help with cleaning the bricks and slowly they accumulated 8,800 which were sold to the builder who was restoring the barn.
That bit of extra money helped as Deborah hadn’t budgeted for buying good quality Northerly calcareous mix of seeds to restore the land where the kennels had been. The verges along the lane to the village were also reseeded as so much had been swept away by flooding before the new culvert was installed. The breeze blocks from the kennel runs were crushed and used to create the bridge over that culvert.
The rich mix of wild flowers in the Kennel Field had come about because Arthur Metcalfe had only grazed cattle there. Sheep would have damaged many of those plants explained John. Now a local farmer grazes her cattle there just twice a year the first period being for six weeks from June 1 – after that glorious display of wood anemones, marsh marigolds, cowslips and early purple orchids.
The cattle return after the summer flowering of plants like scabious and ox-eye daisies. “They graze it again in the autumn just to take all the growth off. It would just form a mass of dead material and the little seedlings wouldn’t be able to get through,” Deborah explained.
With so little grazing the field could easily become overgrown with hawthorn bushes if Deborah didn’t regularly weed out newcomers. Ragwort has no place there for the members of the management group pulled so many out in the first few years after the Kennel Field was officially opened in 2000. These were stored in the mash house until they were dry enough to burn.
The management group organises a maintenance day each Spring when woodwork is treated, injurious weeds like dock are pulled out and there is a general tidy up. Other jobs have included putting up a fence to stop calves going into the lime kiln and damaging it.
There wasn’t that much to do until someone realised a few years ago that a corner of the barn was sinking. John explained that the marshy area was increasing in size as it was being fed by a stream flowing down the field near the barn. So some of the villagers installed a drainage pipe.
“We do need a small steady income to maintain the two buildings, the gates and some fencing,” Deborah commented. That income has come from the ESA scheme since the field was bought but that ended in 2014. So now those on the management committee are looking for ways to cover this shortfall. For they are determined that many others in the future will be able to sit on that seat and share in that Wow factor.
Deborah reported in November 2017 that sadly the black grouse was no longer using the field’s hawthorn tree.