Barns given new lease of life in two special Swaledale projects

Picture by Bruce Rollinson
Picture by Bruce Rollinson
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DILAPIDATED barns in North Yorkshire are to get special attention over the next 18 months in a bid to give them a new lease of life.

Local builders will be using traditional materials, techniques and craft skills to conserve the barns in Upper Swaledale for future generations as part of a new project in the Muker parish.

The scheme will be paid for partly from an £100,000 legacy left to the authority by someone who wished to remain anonymous. Additional funding is being provided by the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority and Yorkshire Dales Millennium Trust.

The authority’s new local plan, which will set the framework for future planning policy in the national park, encourages the restoration and re-use of barns. There are more than 600 in Swaledale and some have already been identified which could benefit.

The project will get together with barn owners to consider the options for each building. As well as repairing the buildings, it aims to support a broad range of training events and opportunities focused on developing skills in this area.

And thanks to National Lottery funding, the restoration work will be complemented by another national park authority project called ‘Every Barn tells a Story’. This will record the history and the stories of the barns, which in Upper Swaledale are called a cow house, pronounced ‘cowus’.

They will also provide opportunities for them to be used and understood by local people and visitors.

‘Every Barn tells a Story’ has been awarded £65,800 from the Heritage Lottery Fund with the authority contributing an additional £20,000, and Yorkshire Dales Millennium Trust £5,000.

Julie Martin, the authority’s member champion for cultural heritage, said: “Each of these barns has a unique place in the landscape of Swaledale and in the social history of the farming communities that built them –and each one has its own story to tell. But many of them are in a bad state.

“Together, these two projects mean we will be able to work with farmers and residents in Muker Parish to help reverse some of that decline. At the same time, we will be able to record and share the buildings’ stories with our visitors

“The barns in Swaledale are a main attraction for tourists who come to the area from all over the world, and we hope visitors will go away with a better understanding of why these barns are such a special part of this landscape.”

The project will involve volunteers and officers from the national park authority as well as input from the Keld Resource Centre, a charity which works to preserve historic buildings that demonstrate the rural heritage of Swaledale.

Centre manager and facilitator Glenda Calvert said: “We will provide space to exhibit the results and so help unlock the mysteries of the field barns that are an essential part of the unique landscape of Upper Swaledale.”