Cro suggested last week that perhaps I could do a post on field barns in the Yorkshire Dales.
Yesterday we went up the dale (Wensleydale) for Sunday lunch and I took my camera, intending to persuade the farmer to stop at one or two barns for me to take a few photographs. No two barns are alike on the outside, although they are more or less the same inside.
Unfortunately there was a massive time trial cycle race using the road through the dale at the same time, so there was quite enough disruption to the traffic without us causing more.
So this lunchtime we took Tess for a walk as far as one of our field barns and I thought this one would have to do to explain the principle.
This barn stands in the corner of one of our fields. The wall alongside used to have a corrugated shed fixed to it and was used as a hay store. This blew down years ago and was never replaced.
We tried to get planning consent to convert it into a bungalow for the farmer and me in our retirement, but it was not allowed unless we agreed to just one bedroom, a kitchen and a bathroom, all opening off one room. So now it falls into a sad state of disrepair.
These barns date back to the days when milking was done by hand. This particular barn housed six cows in the winter - two to each stall - and they would be chained up all day. Twice a day they would be let out to drink. There is a well in one corner of the field. If it ran dry (which it did on occasions) then the cows would be driven down to the beck, two fields away, and then driven back.
Twice a day - early morning and early evening (remember there was no electricity)- somebody would walk across the field, milking stool on their back, bucket in hand and hand milk all six cows.
The farmer's father, born in 1900, did this for years from his early teens - it was the accepted way of doing things before the advent of the tractor for transport and the automatic milking machine. Often he would milk before he went to school in a morning. (no wonder many of these farm boys fell asleep during lessons).
If you look in the right hand back corner of the picture you will see that there is an open door. The 'corridor' at the back of the wooden stalls was where the feed - usually hay in those days - was kept and it would be brought to that door by horse and cart and unloaded into the passage.
Nowadays, as you can see from the mess everywhere, it is unused - apart from a barn owl who uses it as a roost every night (hence the owl pellets - see the one the farmer is holding).
There are two blackbirds' nests along the beams in the roof; and one Sunday a few years ago, when I looked in as I walked past with my dog, I saw what I thought was a dead body on the floor in one of the stalls. I ran and fetched the farmer and we returned to the barn to find that it was a drunk who had been taking a short cut across the footpath from the pub and just couldn't keep awake any longer!