New project to dig deep into Wensleydale’s dairy heritage

Wensleydale has a long history of dairying, which the new Dairy Days project will aim to tell through human stories, artefects and more. Picture by Bruce Rollinson.
Wensleydale has a long history of dairying, which the new Dairy Days project will aim to tell through human stories, artefects and more. Picture by Bruce Rollinson.
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A new two-year project aims to tell the story of how dairy farming has been an intrinsic part of the Wensleydale economy for generations.

The dale’s dairying heritage will be explored as researchers piece together the incomplete human story behind the industry’s role in the dale’s way of life.

Hawes is home to the famous Wensleydale Creamery. Cheese making in the area dates back to the 12th century.

Hawes is home to the famous Wensleydale Creamery. Cheese making in the area dates back to the 12th century.

The Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority’s Dairy Days project is funded by a £37,700 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund. It will involve research into archaeological sites linked to cattle farming and a community dig. Oral history interviews will be carried out, workshops will be held for schools and visitors, and training in archaeological field survey work and 3D recordings of buildings will be offered.

The history of milking, cheese, cream and butter making will be studied and a new ‘Milky Way’ walking trail will be created.

Read more: Wensleydale Creamery back in profit

The project culminates in an exhibition at the Dales Countryside Museum in Hawes during the summer of 2019.

Karen Griffiths, Dairy Dales project officer, said: “Dairying has been at the heart of the Wensleydale economy since records began and is still thriving today. The Dairy Days project aims to research and then share the story of this unbroken thread.”

A launch event takes place at the Dales Countryside Museum in Hawes on Tuesday, April 24 from 10.30am.

Matthew Bell, a dairy farmer at Semmerdale Hall Farm near Askrigg, said: “There is a generation my dad’s age - he’s in his 80s - that started hand milking cows in field barns and then onto the first milking machines and up to fairly automated milking parlours of today. They have this knowledge, which I think needs capturing.”

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