On the Limestone

Carboniferous Limestone – Alston Formation formed 337-328 million years ago

The road to Pateley Bridge was closed, the diversion sent me south along a series of narrow lanes. I followed an expensive-looking Audi coupe which was so wide that it struggled to stay on the lane without the outer wheels occasionally slipping into the ditch. The route eventually joined the Nidd Valley road, but instead of turning right towards Pateley Bridge the driver turned left, I guess he realised that perhaps the narrow lanes of the dales were not the right place for his oversized cruiser.

The Nidderdale road passes through a number of villages and hamlets, originally built to house workers from the flax mills and other works along the valley. The walls of many houses have had the black patina that forms on Millstone Grit walls cleaned away, this is a land of shiny Range Rovers and heritage paint. The Dales valleys have become a northern extension of Yorkshire’s golden triangle (Leeds-York-Harrogate). The average price of a house in the Dales is nearly forty percent higher than the average price of a house in Yorkshire.

Passing through Pateley Bridge and then up onto the moors. I’d arranged to meet Graeme at The Coldstones Cut. The Cut is a landscape sculpture and a viewing platform built to overlook the Coldstones Limestone quarry, the last working large limestone quarry in the district. I’ve passed this quarry many times and until recently was completely unaware of its existence.

The Cut was created by artist Andrew Sabin and opened in 2011. In his accompanying essay Sabin references the citadel of Mycenae, which I completely get. He also discusses the nature of the path through the site, this had baffled Graeme and I on our visit, why did the path through the work resemble a modern road? why the yellow lines and bollards?

The base of the Cut is adorned with the dressing of modern towns and the paraphernalia of contemporary streetscapes and rightly so because the pit that lies at the end of the Cut was formed to supply the road builders and landscape makers of 20th century

Andrew Sabin

Despite the minor inconvenience of swarming small insects, we both enjoyed wandering around the Cut. The jumbled stones at the foot of the path and the weird bicycle sculpture seemed a bit out of place but in fairness to Andrew Sabin these were not part of his design. The crowning glory of the Cut is of course the drama of quarry and the landscape beyond.

Whilst at the Cut we could see the outline of this beautiful water tower in the distance, we had to pay it a visit.


Once home I began to reflect on how the operators of the quarry have recognised that their site has value and interest to the wider community. They have explored ways to allow people to engage with not only the quarry but also with the wider landscape and history of the district. This approach is the polar opposite to the situation that we currently have on Teesside where a publicly funded development corporation are taking a year zero approach to a vast steelworks site with the full support of their appointed heritage taskforce. This has resulted in historical and culturally important elements of the site being lost forever.

The Coldstones Cut website


5 thoughts on “On the Limestone

  1. i must admit i was a bit disappointed by the coldstone cut – seen from above there is some very strong symbolism, but on the ground there is no sense of this and the visitor is left scratching their head at the bollards and roundabout within a passage way made of large stone blocks.
    Even The artist’s statement avoids mentioning the symbolism of the design, but his comments suggest he saw the quarry as the womb of nature bringing forth the materials needed to build the man made environment. His art work in the shape of the human female reproductive tract represents this process, and what is being given birth too. Maybe the quarry company asked him not to go into details.?
    Then again i might be getting carried away and “sometimes a cigar is just a cigar”.

    1. I’m not sure that dwelling on the gynaecological aspects of the work would play well with the National Park & Hansons touristic aspirations for the site.
      Perhaps allowing people to come to their own conclusions about the meaning of the site is the best way forward.

      1. True enough, but then you end up with the ‘it looks like a massive cock’ comment on tripadvisor – When the symbolism suggests something far deeper and more thought provoking. Then again maybe it does represent the male organs too, and man f@%king the environment with roads and concrete?
        As visitors making our way along the passage that would make us …. 🙂

  2. Ironopolis, A great post, loved it.. I’m catching up one everything at the moment after a routine dentist visit turned into anything but, basically life turned completely upside down. In simple terms check-up of fifteen minutes and clean turned into hospitalisation and and a twelve and a half hour operation to sort a cancer. Now for the next stage but I am, it would seem clear. Anyway I will now work my way through your posts as immersive therapy. ATB, John

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