Friday, 23 August 2013
Nestled in the shadow of the huge limestone cliff that ends in Kilnsey Crag, the hamlet of Kilnsey these days seems much less significant than it once was. The through road skirts the edge of the village, so most people don't stop to explore. I was lucky enough to be able to join a guided walk, led by members of a Dales archaeology group, who explained the interesting history of the area. It grew up alongside Mastiles Lane, which comes over from Malham Tarn and was originally a Roman marching road known as Strete Gate (a Roman camp has been discovered close by) and later an important drovers' route. Sheep were brought to and from the rich summer pastures, when the area was a monastic grange,farmed by lay brothers attached to the Cistercian monastery at nearby Fountains Abbey. The monks used to provide accommodation for travellers. Cattle were driven down from Scotland on their way to be sold and packhorses used the route to carry fleeces and other goods. It was a bustling place!
The 17 or so village houses, many of which date back to the 17th century, cluster around the village green, the field in my picture bounded by drystone walls - a rough, sloping pasture that is a far cry from the manicured village greens of many English villages. At one time this area held a lime kiln (limestone was burnt to produce lime, used in building mortar, for whitewashing walls and for agriculture). The tallest building in the centre of my photo is Kilnsey Old Hall and lime would have been used in building that. In later days the village became a popular place for day-trippers and there were two pubs - The Tennants Arms (named after a prominent local family), which still trades, and The Anglers Arms. Nowadays, the main attractions are still the pub (which does meals too), Kilnsey Park and Kilnsey Crag, which is a huge overhang and attracts serious climbers.
There's also the annual Kilnsey Show, an agricultural show famous for its fell race, when runners run right up to the top of those cliffs and back down, over 1000ft in a mile, with a suicidal descent down 'the chimney'. If you have a few minutes, check out this video. There is a rumour that someone once did it carrying an ironing board!