A Day on the Hollow Mountain
By Robert Nichols
Monday 10 Nov 2008 16:41:00
Browse all History articles

It was raining and cold so it must have been the summer of 2008. Maybe not the ideal day to go up into the hills. Then again if you are trying to glean even a glimpse of understanding of the spirit needed and hardship endured by the men that hacked the ironstone from this hollow mountain then it is probably ideal.


Actually the sun was shining when 30 or so of us assembled at Base Camp, Flatts Lane Visitor Centre at 9am on a Saturday morning. Craig Pancrack was already unravelling maps and plans displaying the incredible lost heritage beneath Eston Hills. A heritage he was going to expertly unravel for us in the ensuing 9 hours. A full day wandering west to east before returning on the other side of the escarpment, covering 8 miles. Scrambling up and down the bracken covered slopes. Peering into black holes and peeling back foliage to re-discover giant building blocks of a former civilisation. It was incredible day and one I would recommend to anyone should they repeat the walks next summer.


What did we discover? Well, walking eastwards along the base of the hills re-traced the old tramway and one after the other the sites of the former mines. All the time Craig showed us old photos, plans and regaled us with so much history he could have filled a whole series of encyclopaedias by the end of the day.




The photos tell something of the story. From former drift mine entrances. The thick concrete walls of the former powder house where miners bought their explosives. An old ventilation shaft, known as the SS Castle to generations of quizzical kids.


We clambered up to the Nab where the former Napoleonic War signal station was still occupied by a family at the time of the mines. Then we walked over the hills to the ghost village of Pit Top Barnaby Moor of which hardly any relics now remain. A village so remote that weekly goods and provisions were drawn up through the mines below.


It was an absolutely fascinating experience. I’ve never soaked up so much knowledge or rainwater in a day’s walking. To think that the whole of those hills were once riddled with mine workings. Only by physically walking on the surface the extent of the Eston district do you get an idea of the scale of this enterprise.


Imagine walking home after a full day blasting and hacking away at the seam in all kinds of weathers, flopping into your crude “cottage” in California before preparing to go back to the face again the next day. They were tough people that’s for sure.


I would recommend anyone to buy Craig’s award winning DvD A Century in Stone



Also contact him for details of guided walks next year. It was one of the highlights of my year to be honest.

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