Barn fit for an owl

Tammy Naylor – resident of Esk Valley and member of the This Exploited Land Executive Group

Now that the new footbridge spans the Murk Esk near the hamlet of Esk Valley I am regularly meeting friends from Dale End and Green End, not to mention seeing the early morning silver flash of our newly arrived barn owl. A beautiful sight greets the dawn as he spreads his wings and rises over the bridge, looking for rodents, before circling the old building connected with the whinstone mining, set in the bend of the river.

Historically Esk Valley and Green End were closely associated with whinstone mining. Whinstone is a hard basaltic rock formed when the Cleveland dyke cut up through local rocks during Tertiary times. Mines and quarries were opened on both sides of the valley in the 19th century, the stone being either crushed for road making material or knapped into stone setts to pave the streets of West Yorkshire. For the observant the dyke itself can be seen in the bed of the river under the railway viaduct and the Rail Trail dissects it in a short but deep cutting near the bridge. The newly resurrected bridleway follows the railway that brought the rock to the main Whitby to Pickering Railway for transportation. The barn that the owl sees as the perfect location is built of a jumble of brick linings from the nearby Beckhole Ironworks. These are both stories waiting to be told as part of This Exploited Land, along with the recycling of the abandoned industrial landscape by the natural environment.

The photo below is of the whinstone workers on the Green End side of the valley from circa 1900. The three ponies brought the stone out of the drifts and across the old bridge. They were housed in a now demolished stable in an old orchard off the Rail Trail.

Whinstone workers, Green End c. 1900 - from the Naylor Collection.

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