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Yarnbury and the old lead mines above Grassington

If I had to pick a favourite spot in the Dales, this would be it. To me it's a place of magic; totally evocative, full of memories from a great camping holiday 35 years agoSmelt mill chimney at Yarnbury and mystical.

When I first came here as an eleven year old it was like nothing I'd ever seen in my life. A scene of industrial desolation set among the beauty of the dales. And I do recall that we didn't see another human being the entire time we were there.

Nowadays it's a little better known, but it's never exactly crowded. It's also been civilised, because someone has been round and stuck dirty great labels on everything. They're certainly informative, but they do spoil the feeling of desolation that makes the place what it is. There's also the mandatory health and safety warnings everywhere telling you that you'll fall down an abandoned mine shaft and die if you so much as step off the track.

To get to Yarnbury is dead easy. Just go up Grassington High Street and keep going till the road runs out. If you're in a car there's plenty of room to park so don't worry about that.

Read the information board and head off to the right. You're now in the finest lead mining remains in England. There's various highlights, but the great centrepiece is the chimney (1849) and the system of flues running up to it. The flues run from "cupola corner" where the lead was smelted up the side of the hill and finish at the chimney. They're big enough to climb through, and it's great fun to do so, but for goodness sake don't tell the health and safety mafia! The flues weren't just a means of disposing of the fumes, they were really designed so that the lead in the fumes would  condense on the side of the flues. Apparently, that was then collected by washing out the flues and collecting the lead from the pond the water drained into. That must have been quite an operation. In total there's over a mile of flues, so plenty to explore.

Smelt mill flue at Yarnbury Mining finished around 1880 when cheap imported lead became uneconomic, but since then the spoil heaps have been worked to recover barytes and fluorospar which were discarded as waste when the lead was originally mined. It's probably frowned upon, but if you dig in some of the smaller heaps you can still find examples of all three.

Just to the left of the chimney is a disused chemical works which I assume was connected with the mining of the spoil heaps. I was once told it was a chemical weapons plant during WWII, but I don't think I believe that one. On the other hand this are was used for military training at the time, so you never know. Speaking of which, many years ago it used to be quite common for walkers to find hand grenades while out walking these moors. Why hand grenades I do not know, but the ones handed in at the police station were carefully disposed of by being dropped into the Wharfe. Can't imagine that happening nowadays. If you do find any unexploded ordnance, steer well clear.

The track which goes left behind the back of the chemical works goes all the way over to Mossdale. Not a lot of people know that, and you won't find it marked on the map either. In parts it looks like it was made to carry heavy vehicles, so I would guess Bedford four tonners  towing artillery pieces could be the answer. The track is completely on access land, but the land has a no dogs restriction on it.

Most people stop when they reach the chimney, but that's a mistake as the little reservoirs going out towards Blea Gill are a nice picnic spot. If you want to go further out onto the moors proper take a compass as it can be very disorienting.


Pictures of the Mines

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Comments (1)
I have walked in the Grassington area many times but yesterday was the first time I came across the information signs re: the Lead mines at Yarnbury.I found it fascinating. As I did not have time to check everything out I decided to Google before my next visit.Your site was number one. A great site,good photography and interesting to read. Thank you
posted by June 10/09/2010 14:46:38
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