Geoff Taylor – Kirby, Great Broughton & Ingleby Greenhow Local History Group; and member of the This Exploited Land Executive Group
“As a volunteer supporter of the This Exploited Land (TEL) project from its early days there are some really positive potentials for our Partnership to build on. Whilst the public often view the North York Moors as a fairly static and unchanging landscape our role is to interpret and preserve some of the features which made it an area of rapid and dynamic progress during a period when Britain led the world in the making of iron and steel.
It took some courage to seize upon industrial archaeology as the basis for a Heritage Lottery Fund bid but our success at first try has given us great heart and our two person team of Stephen Croft and Louise Cooke have already generated great progress toward the stage 2 submission of our proposals by late 2015; the interval is as frustrating as it is necessary!
The ‘Rosedale railway’ line is walked by thousands each year as part of the ‘Coast to Coast’ walk. A brief diversion toward the Incline above Ingleby Greenhow or onto the giant flat contour loop in the direction of the Rosedale mines throws a whole new insight into the landscape and its past; the stone kilns must have appeared in thousands of photographs as a feature or stunning backdrop and yet the inevitable process of erosion and decay will take them and the story they represent from future generations unless we act to conserve these and similar features as we intend to do through TEL.
Just as important is the task of reconnecting some of our local communities with their past; each of the stations on the Esk Valley line has its own story to tell and the challenge for us is to encourage and support the local population to research and share that story whilst it is still accessible. We hope to deliver heritage trails for each of our communities which once created can only serve to provide pride and a real sense of relevance and purpose from a different period of time.
So much of Teesside and the North East of England’s heritage is based upon production – solid and tangible items like girders, ships, bridges and bolts – much of that has gone and we owe it to the people whose families played their part in that story and who still live in the area to preserve at least some elements for the generations yet to come. As part of the process we have the opportunity also to add significantly to the National Park’s current offering in terms of biodiversity – for industrial/post-industrial Teesside the North York Moors is still a green lung, a place to step back from the pressure of 21st century Britain.
For young people, if TEL can achieve its aims some of our ‘pearls’ can become open air classrooms where the relatively straightforward technology of mining and engineering from that period can be displayed in ways which can be readily understood and these first principles once digested can lead children on to move to more complex and challenging processes.
The passage of the steam trains to and from the mines across the high moorland landscape must have been incredibly dramatic in the 19th century, the track bed was unfenced so that it must have been possible to stand within a few feet of one of these awesome transports throughout the year. We hope to recreate a little of that drama using virtual reality as part of our project so that anyone equipped with an Internet link can witness for themselves this aspect of our truly remarkable story.
My own local history group based in Broughton, Kirby and Ingleby Greenhow linked up in partnership with the Rosedale History Society back in 2009 to support the work of Malcolm Bisby who had studied the Rosedale railway in great detail and to celebrate the 150th anniversary of its inception. That work proved to be one of the building blocks for the TEL project and we continue to strongly back the excellent National Park staff who will see the project through to completion. As our bid gathers substance and the detailed costings for conservation and interpretation come to hand we shall be able to publicise more of how the task is to tackled but we know we want to deliver to our visitors a really rich experience and with the team we have I am confident we can.”