Pylons power our nation beneath a fiery sky in Yorkshire

The orange, fiery sky against which this line of pylons is silhouetted on a cold winter’s evening could be seen as somewhat apposite to those thinking figuratively.

A line of Pylons silhouetted against a fiery sky on a cold winter's evening. Photo: James Hardisty
A line of Pylons silhouetted against a fiery sky on a cold winter's evening. Photo: James Hardisty

For it is these metal giants, numbering more than 90,000 across Great Britain, that help to power the nation, supporting cables that carry electricity used to heat and light our homes.

Denounced by some as smears on green landscapes, they have been one of the most recognisable symbols of the country’s electricity system in the UK for almost a century.

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Remember these? From space hoppers to hungry hippos, these are some of the most popular toys of Christmas pastAccording to power generation firm Drax, the first successful attempt to transmit electricity over long distances using overhead wires took place back in 1882 over on the Continent.

The line carried electricity from a steam engine-powered generator to the glass palace of Munich, where it was used to power the motor for an artificial waterfall.

More than four decades later, the first “grid tower”, as the pylon was known then, was built in Britain in 1928, in the Scottish capital of Edinburgh.

And by September 1933, the last of the initial 26,000 pylons that made up the National grid were installed.

It was from Ancient Egypt that they drew their name, as Drax explains: “In Egyptology, a pylon is a gateway with two monumental towers either side of it.

Poinsettia - the jolly Christmas plant bringing a splash of festive colour“These represented two hills between which the sun rose and set, with rituals to the sun god Ra often carried out on the structures. It was an epic name to match the grand ambitions of creating a national grid.”

In this photo, captured by The Yorkshire Post’s James Hardisty, the sun sets over a line of the structures between Ledsham and Fairburn villages in North Yorkshire. It is a scene of industry and power but only a stone’s throw away is the picturesque RSPB nature reserve of Fairburn Ings.

The site, once home to mining operations transitioned from coal face to ‘wild place’. Like the pylons, it has played a key role in Britain’s industrial history.