Something Old, Something Borrowed, Something Blue ... Nothing New
£1m burning ambition to expose untold story of moors moves closer to reality by Stuart Minting, Northern Echo
A COALITION of 30 groups, ranging from English Heritage and Natural England to local history societies, will learn late next year if lottery bosses approve its action plan to highlight the impact an explosion of industrialisation had on the North York Moors. Heritage and environmental champions say they are determined to secure a £3m Heritage Lottery Fund grant to highlight the national and international significance of Rosedale and the Esk Valley.
Leaders of the project, titled This Exploited Lane, have revealed a key element of the project would see the recreation of the pre-Victorian ecosystem and teams of volunteers being trained to conserve 90m-long ironstone kilns built close to the ironstone mines at Rosedale. The kilns entered English Heritage's Heritage At Risk register earlier this year as a high priority, after what it described as a major collapse, while residents say they have been degrading for many years.
Stephen Croft, of North York Moors National Park Authority, said the structures, were key to a story, parts of which have never been told, which he hoped would capture the public imagination. He said the kilns could never be rebuilt, but by spending about £1m conserving them they would remain landmark features in the area for generations to come. Mr Croft said: "We need to point them up and reinforce them, tying structures together using expanding stainless steel fixings, to stop some of the elements cracking, sliding and falling away. "Farmers have used the stone to build walls, the kilns have been used as a quarry since the 1930s when they closed.
"We are keen to preserve the structures, but the really important thing is to tell the story, so when people from Teeside, Darlington and others parts of County Durham come here they can see where and why it all started." While the project will celebrate the early stages of the ironstone industry in the moors, from the 1830s, at the height of its production between 1873 and 1914, about 19 per cent of the world’s demand for iron came from the Cleveland Hills and the North York Moors.
Mr Croft said: "Rosedale village and the surrounding area now has about 400 residents, but at the height of the ironstone industry there it 2,500 people living there who had to be accomodated. "There was a lot of speculation and people came in and struck a claim on the local area, some making a fortune, some losing a fortune.
"It was like a mini Klondike, people arrived in their thousands from all over the country and eeked out a living. Some of the kilns would have been going 24 hours a day to semi-refine ironstone, millions of tonnes of which was exported by the railway across the moors to Teesside."
The group has nearly completed surveying of all the built monuments in the area, including an an ironstone mine site near Grosmont which is hopes to open to the public. It has found all the original bridge structures are in place on the original route of 1836 George Stevenson railway between Goathland and Grosmont and is examining structures remaining from the support industries running along the Esk. If lottery bosses give the five-year scheme, which would start in 2016, the go-ahead, about £1m will be used to manage the programme, create a gallery to display exhibits, signage and launching volunteer and apprenticeship schemes and about £1m on natural environment improvements to a 200sq km area.
The project has identified gaps in ecologically significant habitats, partly caused by industralisation, so the main focus will be to improve their quality and extent. This would include removing barriers to migratory fish along the River Esk to benefit salmon and sea trout which, in turn, would benefit the endangered freshwater pearl mussel population by providing more fish hosts at their larval stage.
Linda Chambers, a member of the executive group for the project and secretary of the Rosedale History Society, said: "We feel very lucky to have been given this important opportunity to focus attention on our nationally important ironstone mining and processing area, and hope to benefit from part of the £3 million Heritage Lottery Fund award which covers Rosedale and the Esk Valley. Our dale is very beautiful and remote, but we increasingly rely on visitors who come to walk and admire the scenery. They should benefit from better information, and we hope that our iconic but fragile structures may be secured for the foreseeable future for all to enjoy and admire. The aim is to help preserve and secure our impressive. but fragile structures and promote this beautiful area."
So another indierect tax on the poor aka the National Lottery will be funding a fortunate few. Well good luck with that. To preserve, promote and ... prosper?
Meanwhile, in 'Klondike' downunder:
From boom to bust in Australia's mining towns
After 23 years of growth, including one of the biggest mining booms in the nation's history, tumbling iron ore and coal prices have put a brake on Australia's economy - and mining towns are paying the price. Peter Windle is a casualty of the mining slowdown. The New South Wales mining employee has lost a well-paid job, a company car and an annual bonus that in some years was as high as A$60,000 ($48,800; £31,300). A termination package from the mining company he used to work for has helped soften the blow. But Mr Windle still had to sell his investment property to keep his head above water.
Once part of a vast army of workers in what was Australia's booming resources sector, Mr Windle now gets up at 5.30 am five days a week to clean and drive school buses in the small town of Muswellbrook. For decades, the town had ridden the waves of Australia's coal boom. "It's the worst I've seen it in 28 years in the mining industry," says Mr Windle. "Everyone is getting out. Three hundred houses are for sale in my town, three in my street, and rental prices have collapsed on older weatherboard houses from A$1,000 a week to A$200," he says.
Mr Windle was the purchase and compliance manager at Glennies Creek Coal Mine. Earlier this year, however, Brazilian company Vale - which owns the underground mine and an open-cut mine at nearby Camberwell - suddenly announced it was sacking 500 workers and mothballing the mines.
'Sharpening of pencils'
Mr Windle's story is not unusual. Across Australia, coal and iron ore mines are laying off staff, shutting down operations or putting new investments on hold. Resource analysts say it is the end of a long and lucrative mining boom that was mostly fuelled by demand from China. The number of people employed in coal mining alone rose from 15,000 to 60,000 between 2001 and 2014, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
Mining companies offered high wages to entice workers from other industries, and to mines that were often in remote locations such as outback Western Australia. Preliminary estimates suggest that this year, Australia exported over A$40bn of coal, much of it to China. But as China's economy has slowed, the price of coal used for power generation has fallen, from US$142 a tonne in January 2011 to US$67 a tonne in November 2014, according to the World Bank.
In the case of iron ore, in mid-December it was trading at about US$70 a tonne, the lowest level since 2009. The mining downturn has been painful in small towns like Muswellbrook, which has a population of about 10,000 and lies about 250km (155 miles) north of Sydney. Its locals might find jobs in the region's wine and horse-breeding sectors. But mining has always been the big employer.
Muswellbrook mayor Martin Rush says there are still jobs to be found operating local mines but admits the outlook is subdued. "There has been a 'sharpening of pencils' around the cost side [of mine operations] and a significant reduction in service sector jobs. Contractors were the first to go," he says. In a bid to offset mining job losses, the town is working closely with the tourism and equine industries, and is planning a Muswellbrook university campus in a partnership with the University of Southern Queensland and vocational education provider, TAFE.
The fall in the price of coal is a classic case of supply and demand, says senior economist at St George Bank, Janu Chan. "Over the past decade, prices went up. There was an incentive to increase coal supply, and more mines opened or became profitable. However, as capacity increased, it generated too much coal and prices fell again." But, she explains, thanks to its own downturn, China started buying less coal and iron ore, adding to a worldwide resources glut. In just six months, Australia's export earnings from resources have dropped from A$192bn to A$176bn because of lost royalty income and company tax, according to the Australian government's Bureau of Resources and Energy Economics.
"The Eurozone continues to flirt with deflation risks, sparking debate over quantitative easing from the European Central Bank. Growth remains unbalanced with Germany leading a stronger core while countries with high debt levels continue to lag despite bond yields being back to pre-crisis levels. While growth is returning to the Eurozone for the first time since 2011, it remains anaemic and with unresolved underlying fragilities."
Commodities: In the second half of 2014, China’s crude steel production is expected to remain at the current level of approximately 830 Mt/a, with steel demand expected to grow by between three and four per cent over the previous year. Growth in infrastructure (up around nine per cent), machinery (up around five per cent) and transport (up around 14 per cent) are expected to outweigh the weakness in residential construction activity (down around three per cent).
Nothing New ....