STRETCHING OVER a mile, for centuries the fortress-like walls have protected one of the most magnificent jewels in Yorkshire’s glittering heritage crown.
Standing equally proud is the line of lime trees which have arched over the avenue leading up to Castle Howard for more than 300 years.
They may have been loyal guardians of the 10,000-acre estate since it was founded, but these crucial elements of the picture-perfect landscape are under threat. While the building itself has been finely preserved, time has taken such a toll on the Stray Walls, and tree-lined avenue that they now sit on English Heritage’s ‘at-risk’ register.
The organisation is highlighting the plight of the features in this year’s list, which highlights the nation’s historic sites and buildings in critical condition.
“The lime trees are reaching the end of their life and the mortar which holds the stones of the walls together has moved over time,” said Craig McHugh, Yorkshire’s principal at-risk officer.
“We’ve been working closely with Natural England on but its still in need of attention, and we’re trying to bring that into focus.”
Meanwhile on the North York moors, a number of scheduled monuments, from ancient barrows to lead mines, appear on this year’s register.
There has been some progress, however.
Local volunteers and organisations have already helped to cut the ‘critical’ number from 198 to 70, and English Heritage predicts this will reduce further by the end of the year.
And it is not just the plight of Yorkshire’s countryside monuments which has been brought into focus. The remnants of the heyday of the industrial age lie in the crumbling buildings in desperate need of conservation work.
In West Yorkshire, Halifax’s Old Lane Mill, the oldest and largest example of a steam-powered textile mill in the area, has been added to the risk run-down. Success stories come with the restoration Grade II-listed Dalton Mills, Keighley, the 1886-built yarn factory which once employed 2,000 people, which is being given a new lease of life as a retail, office and leisure space.
Work on an expert survey of what it will take to bring Leeds’ First White Cloth Hall, the 18th-century building which played a vital role in the county’s textile trade, back to life is also set to begin thanks to an English Heritage grant.
Sheffield’s ‘at risk’ Kelham Island conservation area, where work to preserve the city’s metal-making history is already under way, has been singled out as a priority site for 2015.
Mr McHugh said: “This inheritance needs to be passed on to future generations to enjoy and learn from.”
Elsewhere, Eastbourne Pier, built in Sussex in the 1860s and devastated by fire in July, has been highlighted as in urgent need of repair.