In the past, Midsummer was celebrated the lighting of bonfires on the 23rd of June, St John’s Eve. The following Sunday, Head Sunday, was a popular day for visiting healing wells.
…midsummer fires, with their numerous ceremonies, the rubbing the sacred flame, the running through the glowing embers, the throwing of flowers on the fire, the baking in it and distributing large loaves and cakes, with the dance about it, remained village customs.
Forty Years in a Moorland Parish. J.C. Atkinson .1908
I took a walk onto Danby Low Moor to have a look around the old silica rock quarries. The quarries were active from the late nineteenth century until the mid twentieth century.
The stone was transported from the moor via an incline to a crushing plant in Castleton. The silica-rich stone was used in the manufacture of refractory bricks and foundry moulding sand.
Keepers across the moors were taking advantage of the light southerly winds, I could see the smoke from at least half a dozen moorland fires. As the day progressed more fires were lit. Smoke was blowing from the high moors into the Esk valley via Westerdale and Danby Dale.
Looking eastwards along Eskdale , a low bar of smoke could be seen running along the coast where the light onshore winds met the stronger offshore wind, pushing the smoke northwards along the coastline
The smoke from the northern moor tops gradually made its way to the escarpment edge and could be seen dropping down into the Tees valley and East Cleveland. If you were beneath the escarpment you probably wouldn’t notice the smoke, however, it was quite visible from above.
The periodic burning of the moorlands is a controversial issue with arguments for and against, there is no doubt that it is a destructive process and can have a detrimental effect on the delicate ecosystems of the upland moors and bogs.
What isn’t often discussed are the human health effects of these burnings. In an attempt to cut pollution and improve air quality, the government is currently legislating to reduce emmisions from all sectors of society but I can’t find any reference to the burning of moorland in the Government’s Clean Air Strategy
In many ways, the grouse shooting industry seems to be untouched by the modern world. It occurs to me that with the current pandemic, many people are experiencing breathing difficulties, any increase in atmospheric pollutants is not a good thing, especially for those who live in the moorland dales.
Smoke is defined as the gaseous products of burning materials especially of organic origin made visible by the presence of small particles of carbon
It is unlawful to cause emission of smoke which is prejudicial to health or causes a nuisance. [Section 79 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990] The Heather & Grass Burning Code
When a cinder springs sharply out of the fire it was called either a purse or a coffin; the distinction depending not on the shape, but on its making a cracking noise or being perfectly silent; in the former case it is called a purse. This idle piece of superstition is not attended with very violent emotions either grief or joy, although originally, no doubt it was supposed to forebode wealth or death to the person nearest to whom it first fell.
A glossary of provincial words used in Teesdale. Frederick P Dunsdale. 1849