Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Lime Kilns

Peter Lane Lime Kiln, Near Warton, Lancashire
If I had visited this Lime Kiln today I would have a nice snowy photograph although with the amount of snow that has fallen in the past week the kiln may have half disappeared under it but I took it earlier this month and there was only winter grass and we thought spring was in the air. There are hundreds of old lime kilns in woods and valleys in  northern England sometimes like this one alone in the middle of the filed and sometimes
Hyning Lane Lime Kiln, Hyning Scout Wood, Nr Warton, Lancashire
camouflaged with overgrown vegetation. They sometimes have almost disappeared but hese kilns were restored as part of the Arnside and Silverdale Limestone Heritage Project from 2001-2007.  Originally used for burning limestone (calcium carbonate) which gives quicklime (calcium oxide).  I seem to remember Charles Dickens killing someone off in one of his novels by falling in a quicklime pit so avoid that.   Mixed with water this produces slaked lime (clacium hydroxide) which was used as mortar for buildings.  Soft when mixed with water but with time it absorbs carbon dioxide and it reverts back to calcium limestone and this is how the Romans used it.  Spread as agricultural lime it is invaluable for improving the fertility of acidic soils.  My uncle used to say it was like spreading sugar on the land. Before the mass production of lime in the industrial revolution all lime was produced locally in the 18th Century, often by  local farmers.
And this is how the process would have looked.  Kilns are set into the side of a shallow hill so that carts could deliver limestone and firewood to the kiln. The lime would be crushed into lumps and it would take a day to load, 3 days to fire, 2 days to cool and one to unload and start the process all over again for this reason they are called intermittent kilns. The alignment of kilns often takes advantage of prevailing winds to hasten the burn.  The kilns were built using the handy limestone and were lined with fire-bricks or sandstone slips but one rarely sees these as  the majority were removed and recycled for other uses.
Smardale Gill Nature Reserve
You can see the limestone pavement and the Lime Kilns inset  in this photograph, taken when the Hawthorn blossom was in full flower.  These are later than the first two I have shown and are commercial lime kilns from the 19th Century.  Today old lime kilns, if one is lucky, boast bat roosts, sometimes they are home to small mammals and the limestone pavements are protected from being used, their unique nature means they house rare and unusual plants.  I believe that Britain and Ireland have the most of this habitat in the world. It was laid down in the Carboniferous era 300 million years ago when the conditions in this area would be similar to the Great Barrier Reef in Australia but with the movement of the earth's crust (plate tectonics) the Lake District was pushed up into a dome structure and rocks were tilted, faulted and folded.  The eroded rings of limestone seen today have been called a "necklace of limestone".
Bruntscar Lime Kiln near Whernside, Yorkshire

This kiln is in a county also famous for its limestone pavements and is on the popular route down from the top of Whernside in the Yorkshire Dales. The finger-post shows two directions, straight on to Scar End or the much more attractive option  at the end of a walking day, turn  left to the Hill Inn.

An entry to ABC Wednesday - a journey through the alphabet stopping off this week at  K


Roger Owen Green said...

what a nifty structure
ROG, ABC Wednesday team

Leslie: said...

Wow, fascinating history of lime kilns...and I will try to avoid falling into one.

abcw team

Rajesh said...

Wonderful shots of the place. Good to know the history of the place.

Anonymous said...

Fascinating historical post and great photos for K ~

Enjoy ^_^

Unknown said...

Incredible structures and histories attached to them. Humans are so clever in the ways we use the landscape to fit our needs

Chubskulit Rose said...

Wonderful part of history!

Keeping the Balance
Catching up with letter K (again).
Rose, ABC Wednesday Team

Dave said...

This was fascinating joy. Thanks - Dave

Unknown said...

"A Raft of Apples" has been included in the Sites To See for this week. Be assured that I hope this helps to point many new visitors in your direction.