Project explores Wensleydale’s dairy heritage

Leading milk in the 1930s: Mr Heseltine on the horse, Matt Heseltine with donkey, at Hogra Farm near Redmire Station. Photo: Ann Holubecki collection.

A two-year project exploring Wensleydale’s dairying heritage will get underway in Hawes next week.

The Dairy Days launch event will be held at the Dales Countryside Museum (DCM) on Tuesday, April 24 from 10.30am until 3pm.

The project closely involves the local community and will include:

  • Researching archaeological sites linked to cattle farming and a community ‘Big Dig’ excavation of one of them.
  • Oral history interviews with local people and former residents.
  • Workshops for schools and visitors.
  • Training people to undertake archaeological field survey work and 3D recordings of buildings.
  • Research on the history of milking in the dale, as well as cheese, cream and butter making.
  • The creation of new interpretation for local organisations and visitor businesses, as well as a new ‘Milky Way’ three-day walking trail and a series of short walk leaflets.
  • A summer 2019 exhibition at the DCM, drawing on fresh research of the collections and local archives.

Dairy Days is being run by the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority (YDNPA) with support from National Lottery players via a £37,700 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

The first five people to bring along a National Lottery ticket to the launch event at the museum will win a Yorkshire Wensleydale cheese.

There will also be free dairy-themed snacks and a cuppa available for everyone.

YDNPA Dairy Days project officer, Karen Griffiths, said:  “Dairying has been at the heart of the Wensleydale economy since records began and is still thriving today.

“The Dairy Days project aims to research and then share the story of this unbroken thread.

“We already have a wonderful resource of historic dairying artefacts and archive photographs thanks to historians such as Marie Hartley, Ella Pontefract and Joan Ingilby.

“Their collections were the foundation of the Dales Countryside Museum.

“However, much of the context for the artefacts and photos has been lost over time.  This is an opportunity for local farming families to re-engage with the artefacts collected from their distant and not-so distant relatives – and to provide a much fuller, more human story to go with the collections.

She urged people to get involved:  “If you or your family have been involved in dairy farming or processing milk in Wensleydale and would like to share your memories then we’d love to hear from you. If you have old photographs or dairying utensils from the area then please bring them along to the launch event.

“Thanks must go to National Lottery players for making the project possible.”

Matthew Bell, a dairy farmer at Semmerdale Hall Farm near Askrigg, said Dairy Days was a timely project.

“I think there is a generation my dad’s age [he’s in his eighties] that started hand milking cows in field barns and then onto the first milking machines and up to fairly automated milking parlours of today.

“They have this knowledge, which I think needs capturing.”

The Dairy Days project will cover two of the themes identified in last year’s strategy document for the ‘Wensleydale Project’ to provide opportunities to celebrate the dale’s hill farming traditions and to offer and a wide range of outstanding opportunities to understand and enjoy its special qualities.

For more information – or to sign up to a regular Dairy Days newsletter – please contact Karen Griffiths by phone on 01756 751619 or by  email:

Follow the project as it happens by visiting the new Dairy Days blog: