The terrier is quite old now, he is happy enough but his days of traipsing across moors have come to an end. The path between Slapewath and Boosbeck is ideal for him, it runs along the bed of an old railway built to service the local ironstone mines. The path is wide with no inclines, just right for a half blind, half deaf border terrier who likes to do things in his own time.
Slapewath is a strange place, at first glance it looks fairly rural but peer into the woods and along the tracks you’ll see scrap and storage yards, workshops and plant yards, most built over old ironstone mining sites. During the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries at least half a dozen mines operated locally, extracting ore to feed the furnaces of Teesside.
Ironstone wasn’t the first extractive industry to leave its scars on this valley. Jet has been quarried from the escarpment edges for millennia, jet is only found in this corner of North Yorkshire and was highly prized by our prehistoric ancestors. Beautifully carved jet objects have been found in high-status prehistoric burials throughout our islands.
Another industry that left its mark on the local landscape was alum production. During the seventeenth century, thousands of tons of rock was quarried and processed to produce alum.
The pathway is very muddy in places, local footpaths have taken a hammering during lockdown. Beneath the footpath is a tunnel /culvert. It’s empty apart from some beer cans and a pair of knee-high ladies boots.
With the summer foliage gone, it is possible to get a better view of the remnants of Carr’s Tilery at Margrove.
Slape Wath – Slippery Ford’ from ON sleipr and vao
Near this place, and elsewhere on this shore is found Black Amber or Geate. Some take it to be the Gagates, which was valued by the Ancients among the rarest stones and jewels. It grows upon the rocks, within a chink or cliff of them; and before it is polish’d, looks rewddish and rusty , but after, is really (as Solinus describes it) Diamond-like, black and shining..
Jeat-stone, almost a gemm, the Lybians find,
But fruitful Britain sends a wonderous kind;
‘Tis black and shining, smooth ever light,
‘Twill draw up straws, if rubb’d till hot and bright,
Oyl makes it cold, but water gives it heat.
Camden’s Britannia 1586. Translation & edition of 1722 by Gibson
My friend Chris Corner made this lovely animation telling the story of Whitby Jet