Helwith Bridge and Studfold

4 November 2007 — Leaders - Mary and Mike Slater
 North Craven 
 Heritage Trust 

The walk started near the entrance to Lafarge's Dry Rigg quarry to look first at the restitution work being carried out by the company in co-operation with the National Park and University of Sheffield botanists. After removal of a large pile of crushed stone, plants are re-appearing after 15 years of burial and new plants are being incorporated at marked sites to determine what grows best. Dragon flies, endangered newts and other species appreciating clean water have already arrived and birds are finding a new home. The surrounding fine stone wall recently built by David Johnson was admired.

The history, geology and eventual restitution of the Dry Rigg quarry and its current workings of Silurian deposits sitting unconformably at a steep angle under a layer of limestone were discussed, based mainly on information provided by the Assistant Quarry Manager Mike Cardus consulted earlier in the week.

We then turned attention to the adjacent Site of Special Scientific Interest, Swarth Moor which will in due course have a neighbouring bog and lake in the quarry. Swarth Moor is a raised bog in a hollow formed by ice action in the past. The bog is notable for having been used as a source of peat and there are several merestones visible marking off individual plots for peat digging. Elizabeth Shorrock kindly provided a list of plant species to be found there.

We proceeded on the public footpath to Foredale and noted the remains of the limestone working from Foredale Quarry above the highly tilted flagstone beds, with the inclined plane which transported tubs of stone down to the kilns at the bottom clearly visible. David Johnson's book on Limestone Industries of the Yorkshire Dales and his recent archaeological survey provide all the details of this site. Nearby Studfold Moss to the north of Swarthmoor has a small area of wet woodland of birch and willow with tufted hair-grass and purple moor-grass.

With magnificent views of Penyghent, the walk continued over fields towards Cragghill Farm, crossing the railway at the farm, then turning south by the river side. The farm has origins in the 14th century and a neighbouring ruined house has fine stonework. It was then over fields to a footbridge where we crossed the river and made towards Studfold Farm. The hamlet is now much modernized but the farm was mentioned in 1379 and in the 16th and 17th centuries in wills and other documents. The name suggests a breeding establishment for horses in the ownership of Fountains Abbey in earlier times. There is another small flagstones quarry, now closed, across the road. The path back to Helwith Bridge goes through an unsigned gate near the road and passes by Eysdey Barn en route, very near the river on a sunken track. The word ending 'ey' perhaps suggests the presence of an island in the past unless the name has suffered misspelling by mapmakers.

We were lucky to have fine weather for a non-strenuous walk which has geology, history, ecology and notable scenery to commend it.

Cragghill Farm

Cragghill Farm