The story “The Knitting Party” is set in the lead mines on the moors above Grassington, in North Yorkshire. Featured in the first sampler pamphlet – Abandon Hope: Vol. 1 of Ghosts and Other Tales – the story was first published by the Yorkshire Dales National Park on an app they made to accompany the Tour De France.
The Yarnbury area to the north of Grassington is an extraordinary example of a post-industrial landscape. For at least two thousand years there have been lead mines up on these bleak moors. There are even older human structures – henges and circles – to be found amongst the mine shafts, derelict factory buildings, slag heaps and reservoirs.
The views across the moors are incredible. Pendle, Simon’s Seat, Kilnsey and Bardon Moor form the backdrop. The horizon seems to spread further than the songs of the skylarks which make the heather tussocks their summer home. Everywhere one looks there is distance – both in space and in time.
The initial idea for “The Knitting Party” was inspired by a line I read in a history of lead mining. The miners during the 18th and 19th centuries often supplemented their meager incomes by knitting coarse woolen hats. These were destined for the American slave market. The sheer horror of working with lead, in conditions which could genuinely be considered unspeakable, ran through the whole story writing.
I have returned again and again to the lead mines, for poems, stories and art works. These have been exhibited both during the Grassington Festival, and in an exhibition with artist Cheryl Garner at The Wishbone Gallery run by Carine Brosse and David Ashby in Grassington.
To find Yarbury Lead Mining area, leave Grassington by the north road through the village, and head on up to the moors. There is (limited) parking, and a walk, with fascinating information boards. It is a place of many stories – just waiting to be told.
(Photographs copyright Garner and Jones)