By Betsy Everett
The rolling stone of Gayle Beck has stunned villagers with its sudden and mighty journey downstream as storm Aileen brought torrential rain to the region.
Residents say the torrent of water that swept the three-ton boulder fifty feet down the river in the dales village was probably the strongest in living memory.
Stan and Barbara Roocroft, who have lived alongside the beck for more than 40 years, were woken in the early hours of Wednesday by the sound of the “tidal wave” which swept the massive limestone boulder off its ledge towards the ancient stone bridge.
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“We heard this tremendous noise at about 2.30 in the morning and when I looked outside in the daylight I shouted to Barbara that the stone had gone. I couldn’t believe how far it had travelled. It’s moved slowly over the years, just a few feet at a time, but this was just incredible,” said Stan, musical director of Hawes Silver Band and the Aysgarth Singers.
Barbara, who directs the Young Voices choir, said only last week children were playing in the beck. When the limestone boulder was further up the river, just below the first waterfall, village children used to jump onto it from the ledge. It had first moved about ten years ago and eventually came to rest above the second waterfall.
Mary Dinsdale who was born in the village seventy years ago said she thought the force of the water had never been so strong as it was during the latest storm.
“My son went out to see it in the middle of the night and said the river almost filled the arch of the bridge. My father used to say that if it ever reached the top of the arch the bridge would collapse with the sheer force of the water.
“The rain was absolutely torrential. There have been floods before and each time the stone has moved a little way but never anything like this. Everybody’s been to see it. It must be the worst it’s been in living memory,” said Mary.
Stones on the top of the wall alongside the waterfall south of the Hawes bridge had been swept away, she said, and nobody had recalled that happening before.
Denise Hartill who lives opposite Stan and Barbara on the other side of the beck, was inspecting debris in her garden which is normally well above the water level. She has lived in Gayle since 1988. “This has never happened before. The river has never been as high and I can only imagine that there was such a volume that it couldn’t get under the bridge so just spilled over the sides. I’ve never known anything like it.”
- The stone is approximately 6ftx3ftx3ft which is 54 cubic ft. The density of limestone ranges from approximately110lb per cubic ft to 160lb per cubic ft, an average of 135 lbs per cu ft. So the rock will weigh approximately 3.3 tons.