One of the many old stone barns in the Yorkshire Dales
The defining characteristic of the Yorkshire Dales for many, is the intricate pattern of stone walls and field barns that leave no part of the valley floors and sides untouched. These are the legacy of upland hill farming which has formed a unique historic landscape. The barns were built in haymeadows, to house the annual crop. Cattle were then kept in the byre end of the barns over the winter months and fed on the hay, their manure being used to fertilise the hay-meadow to ensure a good crop the next year. And so the cycle continued year after year. This proved a more efficient way of farming than centralising it at the farmstead. A farm may have had up to ten barns in the fields and many farmers can still remember having to go to each twice daily to water the cows. The majority of the field barns were built between 1750 and 1850, although they continued to be built through the first decades of this century. A con- servative guess of the number of field barns in the Yorkshire Dales must exceed 6,000. At their densest there are over 100 per square kilometre, or one every 100 metres.