Dales children write and publish book on lead mining history

When members of the Swaledale folk group Fourum wrote ‘Gunnerside Gill – Remembered’ more than 30 years ago, they could have had no idea how prophetic the last verse would prove to be.

Walking in the steps of the long gone lead miners, the song leads up the gill to the old workings, now grassed over, where: ‘…the children play and shout as they sing and run about, perhaps they’ll read about us one day!’

A group of local primary school children have now gone one better; not only have they read about the lead mines but they have written and published their own book on them.

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Written and illustrated by pupils of Reeth and Gunnerside Schools, with the help of author and retired teacher John Haden, ‘Lead from Swaledale’ was produced by 14 children in years 5 and 6, who researched every aspect of the industry in a project which brought together several strands of their curriculum.

This was noted favourably in the recent Ofsted inspection report which commented that: “This topic-based approach also includes literacy and numeracy activities across the curriculum.

“A good example of this is the recent lead mining project, where pupils worked with an author. They contributed their writing and poetry to a book called Lead from Swaledale.”

This is the second book in a series which John Haden is writing with primary school children about metals which the Romans mined in Britain.

The Reeth and Gunnerside children were able to visit many of the local sites such as Gunnerside Gill to get a real sense of what it would have been like to work there, before writing about it in their literacy classes.

Excursions on the school’s mountain bikes helped them to explore and interpret the landscape and a visit to Killhope Mining Museum gave hands on experience of working conditions above and below ground.

The pupils covered every aspect of the industry from the earliest references to its final decline, as well as the uses to which it was put and the impact of the mines on the local community in a combination of factual and imaginative pieces of writing.

Their contributions were then linked together by Mr Haden who attended the official launch of Lead from Swaledale at Reeth School at the beginning of December. Earlier in the afternoon two members of Fourum visited the school to teach the children some of their lead mining songs and accompanied them when they performed them for an audience of parents and guests, interspersed with reading extracts from the book.

Gordon Stainsby, headteacher, thanked everyone involved in the project, including pupils and their teachers, John Haden, members of Fourum, and a group of local historians for proof reading the text.

All concerned were delighted with the outcome of the project and the way the children had engaged with it – demonstrated by the fact that a number of the pupils who have now moved on to secondary school came back to Reeth on what should have been a day off for them to take part in the presentation.

Lead from Swaledale is on sale locally at the Hudson House Community Office in Reeth and the Dales Bike Centre at Fremington.