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The landscape of the Esk Valley

an image looking south to Eskdaleside from Aislabyside

Visitors to this beautiful corner of Northern England may find it hard to believe that they are viewing the remains of a busy industrial past, and before that, a large forest. The moors were once covered in trees, and because of that much wildlife as well. At one time the rent for farmsteads was reduced by a figure dependent upon how many wolf's heads the tenant could produce. The wolf was a natural predator of the animals that the Lord's hunted for sport. The Wolf Pits at the head of Fryup dale were said to have been places where the wolves were chased into and then slaughtered by the waiting tenants. The natural purple of the heather moors disguise the fact that the landscape has been sculpted by man's own hand. The trees of the once densely forested moors have been felled to provide timber for dwellings, boat building, charcoal and fuel.

After the forest was felled, (There are many black and white photographs of the Esk Valley where there is barely a tree left standing), man got busy digging into the hillsides where coal of a poor quality had been found. Not only coal, but also iron ore was found in some small seams. This brought about some small furnaces where the iron ore was converted to iron. Not only that but the iron ore was transported to Teesside and Cleveland where larger ironworks were constucted.

An image Sandsend looking North East across the beach

The coastline also had an industrious past not only with the fishing fleets, but also the whalers that went far to the North in search of these leviathans of the deep. On the coastline large alum deposits were mined. The alum was exported and also carried inland to be used for curing animal hides.

All this industry meant that the Esk Valley and surrounding areas looked a lot different from the way they do now, but also shows how nature can recover from many things that man does to it, and now all that remains are small relics of buildings of that industrial past buried in the rural splendour of the moors and the coastline.

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