I’m enjoying a lunchtime pint of Tetley Bitter in the Craven Heifer in Stainforth. The last time I was here was at the end of February 2020 when I stayed a night mid-walk. “It was Chinese New Year, and they were fully booked in the restaurant for a Chinese Banquet, but the chef was able to cook a fish and chip supper for me before festivities commenced.” There was talk in the bar of a new virulent virus spreading in China. We all know what happened next.
Hopefully the virus is now behind us, and it is good to be walking in Limestone Country. The barman says the pub closed during lockdown and only reopened under new managers last year. It is still owned by Thwaites, the present landlord has a five-year lease but grumbles that trade hasn’t really picked up. One problem is that the village is becoming dominated by holiday cottages, not many locals left, and the cottages are only occupied less than half the time. Who would want to run a pub in these cash strapped days? I finish my pint and bid them good day.
I’m halfway on a short walk mainly devised to explore the Craven Lime Works. It was only recently that I was made aware of this Industrial Heritage site on the delightful Walking Away site. I must have walked and driven past dozens of times without realising its existence.
There is further information from these two sites.
Visit Settle – Craven Lime Works & Hoffman Kiln “Without doubt the centrepiece is the huge Hoffmann Kiln. Built in 1873 it is a huge industrial scale lime kiln”
Good, that’s saved me trying to interpret and explain everything.
There is no signage off the road north of Langcliffe, but Hoffman Kiln Road sounds promising, it leads to a large new purpose built office and light industrial complex in the grounds of the former lime works. A lot of money has been spent by Craven District Council with help from European cash – we are going to miss that. I only hope this is a successful enterprise as at the moment the majority of the units are standing empty.
The almost hidden car park for the Industrial Heritage site is impressively large even with electric charging points. It is situated directly below the massive old quarry on the hillside that supplied all the limestone for the kilns. We used to climb up there in the distant past, I think that is discouraged now. Today I am the only car parked on the site.
I wander into the ‘preserved’ site, the interpretation boards are very good. This has been a vast industrial complex – limestone from the quarries, converted in coal-fired kilns to lime which was transported off site by the integrated railway. As well as the kilns there are so many other associated ruins to see – inclines, winding houses. weigh bridges, water courses, tunnels, old rails, tram ways, spoil heaps. The operation lasted from the mid C19th to the 1940s.
First I look at the remains of the buttressed bases of a pair of massive vertical Spencer steel kilns. Difficult to visualise the scale of this operation that provided purer lime from the beginning of the C20th.
Back round onto the quarry floor and a dilapidated weigh house.
And then along to the Hoffman Kiln – wow it’s massive, think football pitch. In I go, you don’t need a torch as the frequent limestone inlet arches give enough light, in fact a magic image. I’m enthralled. There are the vent holes for the smoke up to the now demolished central chimney; there are the holes in the roof for the coal inlets; there are the ageing firebricks; there are the miniature stalactites from the slow seepage over the years. Are there bats or giant spiders in here? I walk around the massive kiln twice, and even think about a third, this is so atmospheric.
At the far end is a tunnel which accommodated a line bringing stone from the quarry above. A waterway used for counterbalancing a crane lower down delivering fuel into the kiln from the roof. Ingenuity far beyond our present engineers involved in the HS2 going above budget from week to week. They can’t even sort out the Euston terminus after 10 years, money down the drain, revised plans costing another £5bn! How many cycle lanes could you build for that amount of money.
The only part of the complex that wasn’t viable was the separate Murgatroyd quarry and overhead triple kiln next to the railway at the northern end of the site. A smaller scale operation which collapsed in 1887. Today I couldn’t make out the tops of the three kilns for the abundant vegetation, I realise now I should have dropped down to see the lower outlet of the kilns.
Industrial history satisfied I walk through the fields up to Stainforth and my pint. I come back, not on the familiar riverside path but on a higher way through Stainforth Scar. Gently climbing out of the meadows into the trees on the scar and emerging on the limestone plateau. The way ahead is etched into the fields, signs of an ancient passage way to Winskill Farm. 1675 says the date stone with the initials NBCB. What history could these walls tell. It is surrounded by what look like traditional meadows with a variety of flowers and butterflies.
From up here looking back over my right shoulder is the prominent Smearsett Scar and distant Ingleborough. Over my left shoulder Pen-y-ghent has suddenly appeared quite close by.
There are some tempting ways leading to Attermire Scar from here, but I’m only looking for a short day. My path is clear through stiles in the extensive network of fields and old lanes. The view is down the shallow valley with its patchwork of fields to Langcliffe. That’s where I was planning to head, part of Wainwright’s Pennine Journey, until I spot a vague path/sheep trod going between a wall and the Langcliffe Quarry, now alongside. Will it take me on a shortcut? I said I was looking for a short day especially after that pint. Worth a try and yes it brings me out into the Lime Works without any serious obstruction, but don’t necessarily follow me on any of these walks. Mine was still the only car in the car park.
I would highly recommend a visit to the Craven Lime Works with or without a walk.