Dales dairy history examined by archaeologists

Oblique aerial image of stack stands on Floshes Hill, by Robert White YDNPA.

Archaeologists and members of the community are surveying earthworks known as stack stands as part of a project exploring Wensleydale’s dairying heritage.

A two-week excavation close to Floshes Hill near Hawes will begin on Monday, while an on site training event took place earlier this weekas part of a project from Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority.

Stack stands are earthwork platforms in meadows that are thought to have been used to store hay; it has been suggested they might precede the building of field barns.

The archaeological work is one strand of Dairy Days, a two-year project supported by National Lottery players via the Heritage Lottery Fund.

An open day is being held next Tuesday, September 18, in Askrigg Village Hall where the latest research and stories will be revealed.

People are being invited to bring along old photos and dairying objects to add to those that have already emerged in the first five months of the project.

Douglas Mitcham, community heritage officer, said:  “Stack stands are poorly understood features of the Post-Medieval landscape.

“Very few have been subject to detailed survey work and there is a particular concentration of them in upper Wensleydale.

“We are really excited about what we are going to find out.  It’s not too late to volunteer to join in the excavation.”

People learn how to use the ‘plane table method’ to survey a stack stand by Floshes Hill near Hawes.

Karen Griffiths, Dairy Days project manager, said: “Stack stands are simple structures, yet mysterious.

“They are typically rectangular enclosures formed by a ditch and bank.  Dozens of them can be seen clearly on and around Floshes Hill.

“We do not know for certain why they were built or what they were used for. Together with members of the community we are going to try to shed light on dairy farming practices in an age before all the field barns and drystone walls came along.

“There will be a lot to share at the open day in Askrigg – so please do consider attending.”