To maintain, restore and increase understanding of the historic Wensleydale landscape and celebrate the history of pastoral dairy farming.

Why is this important

The historic environment underpins and influences the landscape of Wensleydale at every scale. It is a key draw for tourism within the area, both in relation to specific heritage sites, but also in providing the scenic qualities of the landscape: in particular, the barns and walls landscape. As such, the historic environment underpins the economic success and potential future prosperity of the Dale.

The historic landscape of Wensleydale tells the story of the development of farming from seasonal transhumance in later prehistory through settlement and the creation of the first field systems, to the extensive arable agriculture of the medieval period and the specialised dairying landscape that has developed in recent centuries. The story also involves the parallel development of extractive industry in the Dales, particularly lead mining, but also coal mining and sandstone and limestone quarrying. Lead mining in particular still has an ongoing environmental impact on the catchment today.

What are the specific problems

While the historic environment occurs across the project area, and there are many important historic and archaeological features, there is relatively little formal protection for the historic environment. 

There are few scheduled monuments, most of which relate to relatively small areas. Similarly, very few traditional farm buildings are protected by Listing, and in recent years the ESA (Environmentally Sensitive Areas) scheme provided the main input into the repair and maintenance of agricultural buildings in the project area theseis.

The ongoing loss and deterioration of traditional farm buildings, one of the special qualities of the National Park and of the project area as a whole, is having a significant impact on the landscape.

A lack of funding for the management and conservation of archaeological sites is leading to the deterioration of significant heritage and the loss of opportunity to interpret that heritage to the public.

A lack of detailed information about where intensification is taking place and specifically of the impacts on earthwork remains. Some former lead mine sites are actively contributing to diffuse pollution within the catchment.

What are we going to do?

Develop a three stranded project called ‘The archaeology of the dairy industry’, which will trace the development and specialisation of Wensleydale as a pastoral landscape.

This will include:

An investigation into the development of farming and the pastoral landscape with a clear aim in raising public awareness using innovative interpretation.

A strategy to identify and manage archaeological remains most at risk within areas of intensively managed grasslands. Provide targeted detailed management advice to farmers with remains at high risk.

A collaborative project using volunteers to record and create 3D photographic models of field barns most at risk. Make the outputs publicly available online via an interpretative website and available for academic research.

Develop a separate water focused project which will research the history of exploitation and management of water in the catchment and showcase the results in an interpretive exhibition. This will feed into other aspects of the wider project, giving context and providing historical interpretation to complement other project activities. This is a key outcome, enabling the project to balance historic significance against the justification for work in a transparent way.

A further strand would look at historic attempts to manage and control water and flooding: flood banks, deepening of channels, incidences of major flooding of roads and bridges and the impacts on properties and communities.