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Drone Survey Helps in Heritage Rescue of Ashnott Lead Mine and Lime Kiln, Lancashire

Ashnott Lead Mine and Lime Kiln, in the Forest of Bowland has been removed from the Heritage at Risk Register.

Mined since medieval times

Ashnott Lead Mine and Lime Kiln, in the Forest of Bowland, is an excellent survival of small-scale industrial remains in the uplands. Lead was mined here from medieval times until the 1830s, when the price of lead collapsed. Workers followed veins of ore, producing a network of shafts, adits and spoil heaps, leaving the characteristic pock-marked appearance still seen on the ground today. They built a limekiln with the stone that was extracted to get at the lead, and crushed limestone was burned to produce quicklime for fertiliser, limewash and mortar.

Understanding problems at the site

Ashnott had been on the Heritage at Risk Register since 2009. Erosion from cattle hooves was damaging the mining remains, while the limekiln was losing stability due to damaging vegetation growth and wind movement from heavy loads of ivy in a nearby tree.

Cross-team and partnership working has solved these problems. Research was undertaken to understand and map the site's development and inform its management needs. Historic England's Research Team used a drone to survey the site from the air and took detailed photographs.

Small Unmanned Aircraft, or drone
The Small Unmanned Aircraft, or drone, used by UK Aerovision Ltd to capture aerial imagery

We compared the drone photos with field survey evidence, historic maps, research by local historians and findings from an underground exploration by the Northern Cavern and Mine Research Group in 1961. The complexity of Ashnott Lead Mine and Lime Kiln made it an ideal site to test this new research methodology as well as trying out the new technology.

The digital surface model derived from aerial photographs of Ashnott mines
The digital surface model derived from aerial photographs of Ashnott mines

Ensuring Ashnott's future

When we discovered important workings beyond the boundary of the scheduled monument, our Listings Team extended the scheduling to protect the whole site, and updated the description of the scheduled monument. Meanwhile, a Countryside Stewardship agreement worked up with Natural England funded a fence to exclude cattle from the mining remains, preventing damage in wet conditions. Finally, a Historic England Management Agreement tackled repair and maintenance of the limekiln. Thanks to the farmer and land agent's willingness, this rare industrial site is no longer 'at risk'.

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