Landscape Mysteries - The Riddle of the Yorkshire Tracks

Professor Aubrey Manning seeks to solve some of the enduring mysteries of the British landscape through clues in geology, archaeology and natural history. Strange parallel tracks in the rocks on the North Yorkshire coast are the starting point for an investigation which tells a forgotten story from the past. Manning discovers that at the beginning of the 17th century, long before the industrial revolution, the now deserted coastline south of Whitby was dominated by Britain first chemical industry. It produced alum, the vital ingredient which allowed textiles to be permanently dyed. Prof Manning traces the development of the industry and on the beach at Ravenscar he meets John Buglass, who has placed together a picture of the whole operation. Packhorses brought the barrels of alum down to the beach, carts running in the specially cut rutways then carried the load out to boats that were beached on the rocks. Manning imagines what this deserted coastline might have looked like two hundred years ago -teeming with ships, horse-drawn carts and thousands of workers servicing an industry which has now completely disappeared.


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  • Producer Nick Metcalfe
  • Presenter Aubrey Manning
  • Executive Producer Stephen Haggard