I discovered this place out of the blue last year, when I was doing a circular walk out of Stainforth. I was walking with my daughter and The Dog, when we came up to what we thought was a singular lime kiln and was in for a pleasant surprise.
It wasn’t what we expected at all and was quite breathtaking. We had a quick look around, not expecting to be distracted like this on our walk. It needed more than just a cursory look around that we could give it that day and promised to return and check it out thoroughly……..
A reasonably dry morning beckoned and we took our chance. It’s a completely hidden gem with no road signs or any hint it was there. Luckily I had checked on a map beforehand, but even as I turned the car down a small single track road and under a railway bridge, I had a hint of uncertainty. We followed the road down a bumpy lane, past derelict buildings and broken fencing. Daughter started to voice her concerns but suddenly, tied to a post, was a sign that said car park and we sighed with relief.
On a cold winters morning, it wasn’t exactly heaving. We were the only car apart from a faded caravan parked long term opposite. It wasn’t exactly screaming tourist attraction. It looked more like an ideal place for a thriller film, where the hapless hero is brought in the boot of a car and given a heavy work over by big burly heavies in black leather jackets and dark shades on. I quelled my daughter’s reservations with what I hoped was a careless nonchalance, but briefly wondered if my car would still have its wheels when I got back. We checked out some noticeboards and worked out that you followed a trail. So we clambered up some steep steps, and contoured along, where more information boards told us that the old lime quarry was once the local rubbish dump and where kiln buildings once stood. We walked down to the lane where we had first came in and back towards the car park. Old derelict barns stood on our left and at the end was a white house obviously lived in. We went through a wooden gate and towards the Hoffman Kiln itself.
It was here last year, when a young family popped out, dad spooking the kids, that we initially thought it was a singular cave-like kiln and you peered up the chimney. We walked into the gloom, expecting a small circular space, but as our eyes became accustomed to the gloom, we realised it was a long corridor extending into the depths with openings on one side. It was basically a long elongated oval. It was truly amazing and totally unexpected. This was making lime on an industrial scale. Apparently they lit two or three of the furnaces and got them going, before lighting another three and so on, so they had a continuing supply of lime production. It was incredible. Now it was dark and damp, puddles on the floor and the need for torches. Water dripped through the brick roof and formed stalactites, water droplets accumulating on the tips. A multitude of colours ran through the brickwork as minerals seeped through. It was spooky, but truly fascinating. It’s own little natural art gallery. We spent ages taking photos and studying the nooks and crannies.
We came out into what seemed blinding light, but was in fact a rather overcast day. We wandered around the grounds – past ruined winch houses and other mechanical artefacts. We stood on top of another lime kiln – this time, three in a row, tall and towering. They were built right next door to the Settle Carlisle railway line and a picture showed workers with wheelbarrows walking wooden planks to dump the material straight into the rail wagons – not a safety helmet, goggles, hi-vis or a health and safety notice in sight! The working conditions must of been atrocious here, though it was probably a very welcomed source of work for people living in this remote valley.
We were stunned that it wasn’t more well known as a tourist attraction and more made of it. Money had been invested into it as there were information boards galore and also an audio system whereby you pressed a button on a post and listened to bygone stories of the men who worked there. But apart from the wonky car park sign nailed by the car park, nobody would know it was there. It all seemed a bit odd and we wondered who had put the time and effort into creating it. The signs and boards advertised that Lottery money and other organisations had funded the site, but the adjoining area wasn’t welcoming at all. Perhaps that land was owned by the house we saw and was a separate area. It was certainly an enigma – money invested into a project, but no highlighting of its existence.
We wandered around a little more, fascinated. We had spent a hour and half here mainly taking photographs in the main kiln and reading boards, but threatening rain clouds were gathering and we headed off, down to Settle for a warming cuppa and a piece of cake. We would come back in the summer, no doubt dragging an unsuspecting relative along, hoping for more visitors and bright sunshine.