Whin, Cliff Rigg Quarry

Gorse or furze is one shrub which flowers throughout the winter but at this time of the year it’s yellow flowers are in profusion. Another name is whin on account of its liking for rocky soils such as that in the old whinstone quarry on Cliff Ridge, Great Ayton. Or may it is the rock that is named after the plant.

Winn’s Quarry

57 million years ago Europe, North America and Asia were locked together in a great continent called Laurasis. Volcanic activity near what is now the Island of Mull in Scotland cause injections of magma deep underground in what geologists call the Mull Dyke Swarm.   The magma cooled and formed a vertical dyke of hard igneous rock known as Whinstone. One such dyke outcrops in Cleveland where it is known as the Cleveland Dyke and on Cliff Ridge whinstone has been extensively quarried for use in road building. It is said that the streets of Leeds are cobbled with Great Ayton stone. In the 1880s Percy Winn took over the quarry from Leeds Corporation and is still referred to locally as Winn’s Quarry.

The photo shows the line of the dyke along Langbaurgh ridge heading towards Mull. Beyond Nunthorpe it goes underground but outcrops again at Preston Park on the north bank of the Tees and Cockfield Fell near Hamsterley. The word whin originates from the Old Scandinavian word for gorse, the prickly yellow flowered scrub which flourishes on the sides of the quarry.

Cliff Rigg

The remains of yesterday’s snow lie of on the fields of Aireyholme Farm below the heavily quarried Cliff Rigg. The tractor driver is flaying the hedges, a winter job which by law has to stop by the beginning of March so as not to disturb nesting birds. Mechanical cutting discourages the growth of lower branches so thinning the hedge which eventually loses its effectiveness for stock control. So the farmer has to erect wire fence to supplement the hedge.

First light

An early start on a frosty morning with cloudless skies. Roseberry summited as the first rays of sunshine are reaching the summerhouse below. Cliff Ridge and Newton Woods are still in shade.

Hawthorn, Cliff Ridge

This lone hawthorn tree is on one of my regular routes over Cliff Ridge. I often take a photo of it, just in case no other opportunity turns up. Today it was its lucky day with blue skies and interesting wispy clouds.

Parasol Mushroom, Roseberry

I love mushrooms. Sautéed in butter with a hint of garlic. And if this is a Parasol Mushroom, Macrolepiota procera, it is reputed to be one of the best to eat. But if it’s a False Parasol, Chlorophyllum molybdites, I would be in trouble as it’s poisonous. Although native to North America it has been found in Scotland. Or then it could be a Shaggy parasol, Chlorophyllum rhacodes, but I may still end up with bad stomach ache. So am I confident? Absolutely not.

Capt. Cooks’ Cottage Archaelogical Dig

That’s it. That’s as far as we go. The archaeological excavation at Aireyholme Farm, near Great Ayton, is done.  Today has been spent tidying and cleaning for photographing and recording.

Going on the evidence of oral tradition of the farmer at Aireyholme that the boyhood home of Capt. James Cook was within a stand of larch trees on National Trust land a preliminary excavation was carried out last year. Stone foundations, broken roof tiles and bricks and a small section of cobbled floor indicated an 18th century building. Lime mortar suggested domestic use.

This year a more ambitious trench was opened revealing a 5 x 4 metre building with a cobbled floor and a hearth in one corner. Finds included shards of pottery and window glass and a small piece of a bone comb all of which could be 18th century. The comb has been sent away for carbon dating and we are hoping to have archaeomagnetic dating carried out on the hearth.

There is still work to be done recording the surface. A plan needs to be drawn meticulously detailing every cobble. Levels need to be taken. Afterwards the remains will be covered with a geotextile fabric to separate the archaeology and to protect it from weeds and root growth. Then the site will be backfilled.

A very rewarding experience.

Cliff Rigg

Dashed up to Cliff Rigg above Great Ayton to catch the sunset. Not spectacular but good after a dull overcast morning.

Misty morning, Cliff Rigg Quarry

The yellow flowers of the gorse brighten the misty morning. A mist which hung around for the rest of the day. Gorse is also known by the name of whin because of its preference for growing where whinstone outcrops. Whinstone is a hard volcanic rock that makes up the Cleveland Dyke, an intrusion which originated 58 million years ago from a volcano centred on the Island of Mull off the west coast of Scotland and extends under the North Sea near Whitby. At Cliff Rigg whinstone was extensively mined in the late 19th century for making into setts, or cobbles, and aggregates for road making.


Capt. Cook’s Boyhood Cottage

The fifth day of this year’s archaeological excavation at Aireyholme Farm near Great Ayton on a site where oral tradition says the James Cook lived as a boy before embarking on his naval career and gaining fame as an explorer.

The remains of an 18th century building have certainly been uncovered with much lime mortar indicating it was a dwelling rather than agricultural. On the right a wall line of dressed sandstone blocks can be seen. And on the left is a section of cobbled stone floor which seems to be intact across the whole floor.

All salvageable material has been removed at some time leaving the site covered with demolition debris: broken pantiles and brick, and stone rubble. Each stone has to be painstakingly drawn and recorded before it can be removed which the archaeologist, Kevin Cale, is doing. To his left, in the top corner is what is thought to be an hearth. This has not yet been excavated as it may be possible to use archaeomagnetic dating to give an estimate of the date when it was last fired.

Finds include pottery shards, pieces of both window and bottle glass all pointing to 18th century use. And a sixpence dated 1950!