A visit to the Moughton Whetstone Hole in two parts

Discussion in 'Hones/Honing' started by Seveneighth, Oct 28, 2018.

    Moughton Field Trip Part 1

    Yesterday was a bright but cold October day and being in the area I decided to drag child 2 and child 3 out for a brisk hike across the Yorkshire Dales. I had read in Grinding and Honing part 3 and in various walking blogs about the route to the Moughton Whetstone Hole. Good exercise for the kids... And maybe a hidden agenda from me.

    As you can see on the map the hole is actually the site of three springs which start in a valley below Moughton Scars. Moughton stones can still be found in the bed of the stream that emanates from these springs.


    There are two main routes to the Whetstone hole, from Austwick, which is the most direct route and the road of the old quarry, and from Horton in Ribblesdale following the Three Peaks route which is longer but more picturesque. Unfortunately I got confused over the location. I thought it best to start in Helwith Bridge so that's where we headed and had lunch before I realised my mistake. As it's not clear exactly where you can start on the Austwick route and the day was already half gone I drove up to Horton in Ribblesdale and parked there.

    The route is straightforward and there are a quite a few hikers walking the three peaks. You cross the river and walk through the town, cross the railway line and there join the three peak trail. Within about 15 minutes the kids started complaining about the cold and how they wood any moment catch hypothermia, but we all settled down to an easy pace and in truth it wasn't too hard going, except for the cold and the wind. The path undulates but generally climbs until you get to a fork in the path leading South West.

    From there we were on our own. The other hikers were all continuing due west to climb the peaks.

    Over the brow of hill we reached wall and the path continued in the shelter of this until we got to a large stile. The other side of the wall was a barren rocky plateau upon which were a couple of derelict stone shelters. It was cold and lonely, and I couldn't help thinking of the men that had worked up there around the quarry. From what I've read these stone shelters were originally built by shepherds but later used by stone "getters" in bad weather.


    We reached the edge of the plateau and looked over. To our right the Moughton scars snaked into the distance, to our left Moughton and over that Austwick. The ground dropped away in front of us and... there they were, down a steep drop, where the slope meets the valley floor, the three Whetstone springs glittering in the autumn sun, the source of Moughton Whetstones.

  1. Moughton Rock Samples

    Here are some of the rock samples I came across.

    By the side of the first spring, were several medium sized, very fine examples. I don't know whether these had washed up or had been left there by a previous visitor.

    The rocks in the higher spring were covered in algae, and I didn't find any interesting stones there. On another visit I might be tempted to bring along a wire brush to clean rocks in order to examine them.

    Alongside the stream at various points I found thin, flat, patterned rocks. These were wide enough across to make hones but did not contain much substance.

    Some stones were clearly the same as the lighter Moughton Rock material without the darker veins. Others had both inclusions but in patches rather the patterns. I could have easily confused some rocks with Charnley Forests. The inclusions and colours looked so similar.

    Child 3 got into the hunt - especially after I had promised a tub of magnetic putty from the toy shop for a big find. This eventually paid off when we found two large rocks, the best loose specimens of the day... and then the best find of all - a large rock buried in the ground. It lay alongside a thin broken piece which had snapped off it and which had perfect pattern running through it. The buried rock was certainly large enough to contain enough material for a hone. I didn't disturb it.

    There was a recent Moughton Ebay Listing where the vendor had sealed the edges for strength using CA glue. I think we could do better than that. Some of the skinnier stones might make good hones if reinforced with a strong backing. I am thinking you could set them in resin and then lap the stone.

    Obviously the best outcome would be to find a large enough rock from which to cut a perfect rectangular hone.

    I would like to experiment with plain rocks, rocks with some inclusion and highly patterned rocks to see what difference the patterns make, whether these are the best samples or whether they just look the coolest.

    Sample Collection

    In part 3 of Grinding and Honing Henk Bos says that it's OK to pick up rock samples in the UK but not to dig them or cut them out of the ground. The trouble is when I've researched the law on this I can't find this definition or guidance anywhere. Does anyone have a definitive source?

    What I have found is different. It seems, in fact, that the UK has more Liberal laws than say Germany or USA in the matter. Researching fossil and rock hunting websites, societies seem to talk about taking a geologists hammer to a rock to find samples. Most of the guidance is about preserving and reporting fossil finds and not disturbing the balance of rock formations and local ecology.

    There are two notable exceptions, however, beaches - where customs and excise laws kick in - and national parks. There have been some highly publicised incidents of local councils persuing people after they have removed rocks from beaches.

    As far as I can make out National parks might be more relaxed than beachcoming legislation but you have to get permission to remove anything. The Moughton Whetstone Hole is in the Yorkshire Dales National Park, which means this restriction would apply. I think morally I would prefer to observe full transparency with the park authorities. This is such a rare and unusual site, more should be done to preserve it and make more of it.

    For the moment I left all the rock samples behind.

    I have contacted the park authority for permission to take samples. If this is granted I intend to look for the best samples I can find and attempt to make a handful of hones out of them to test the process and the nature of the rock. It would be great to get some help with this: volunteers to test hones and compare them with other natural hones. I will be very happy to give away samples for this purpose if I can find some viable ones. If you are interested, let me know. I can't guarantee we will get any decent Moughton hones out of the exercise, but it will be fun trying.
    Last edited: Oct 28, 2018
  2. Very cool.
  3. Bad_B2

    Bad_B2 Contributor

    That was a very nice write up with lovely pictures, thank you for sharing.
    Im not a rock hound myself and don't have any insight into what our American laws would be. I am pretty sure here in the US, National Park or not, you would have had a few dogs off leashes running around in the background with several off road vehicles, a drone or two flying about and maybe some folks shooting target practice in your photos. I doubt most people would turn a hair at the idea of pocketing a few rocks, theres lots of them here...thats the general consensus, lol. I know Im getting cynical in my old age.

    I do hope you followup on this thread in the event you are allowed to take samples, it would be interesting to see the results.
    Last edited: Oct 28, 2018
  4. Very nice write up!
  5. " It would be great to get some help with this: volunteers to test hones and compare them with other natural hones. I will be very happy to give away samples for this purpose if I can find some viable ones. If you are interested, let me know. I can't guarantee we will get any decent Moughton hones out of the exercise, but it will be fun trying."

    I'm in! I do a fair amount of rockhounding here in Colorado.
  6. very interesting thread, when i get a bit more time i would like to hound around for some natural stones like this.
  7. fantastic thread and pictures
  8. Any tips for dealing with chunks of rock and turning them into hones?
  9. Thanks for the nice comments. I'll keep everyone posted.
  10. When testing an unknown stone I usually take the smallest piece that could be usable to cut down on lapping. Slates can usually be found in reasonable flatness and thickness. If the stone seems worthwhile after testing a small piece I would go for a more normal size. Lapping difficulty is exponential with size, so small is nice.
  11. Unfortunately unless you have one of these.

    I would say sic would be the best option. I guess if you had a large enough piece and a tile saw or even a hack saw with a carbide blade you could cut it pretty flat and then go to the sic and lapping plate. I don't think these are that hard of a stone if I remember correctly. Neil Miller had a twenty or more of these and tested them saying that they where all about the same about 6k some a bit lower some a bit higher. I wonder where all these have gone. He had that many and it was used back in the day, but you just don't see these much.
  12. I got a response to my enquiry and it's not good news...

    Thank for contacting the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority enquiring about taking samples from Moughton Whetstone.

    Moughton Scar has an number of designations which put it as one of the most protected landscapes in the country and is International important. Moughton Scar & the surrounding area designations include:- a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSi), part of the Ingleborough Complex National Nature Reserve and has a limestone preservation order in place. Natural England’s interactive map shows these designations which can be found here:-

    Magic Map Application

    I’m afraid to say that you won’t be able to take a sample of the whetstone due to designations listed above. Here is an extract from the Limestone Pavement order, I know the whetstone is a siltstone but it is still included in the Limestone preservation area.

    ‘These habitats are threatened due to their removal for use in gardens and water features. Many limestone pavements have been designated as SSSIs which affords them some protection. In addition, Section 34 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 gave them additional protection via the creation of Limestone Pavement Orders, which made it a criminal offence to remove any part of the outcrop.’

    Link to the government website can be found here website Limestone Pavement Orders - data.gov.uk

    Any works or removal of material from a SSSi require consent from Natural England


    Glad I left the stones I saw behind.

    The upshot though, is if you see rough pieces of Moughton whetstone that doesn't come from a vintage hone it has probably been scavenged illegally.

    Anyone for a trip to Charnley instead?
  13. Very, very cool!
  14. It's interesting that it's a UK map, but it only includes English(British?) restrictions (not Scotland, Wales, etc.)
  15. Really nice thread and awesome of you to check with the park. I used to be a hone hound and spent many hours scouting old deposits. Tremendous fun.

    Thanks for posting.

    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
  16. Chan Eil Whiskers

    Chan Eil Whiskers Contributor

    Surely they wouldn't miss this one if you just borrowed it and sent it to me and I lapped it and used it for a couple of hundred years and promised to return it?


    What an interesting outing that must have been for you and the children!

    Your photos are stellar. Every aspect of everything you took a picture of is beautiful and makes me want to go see it.

    I had a good friend here who was into digging up gemstones and such. He grew up in a family which owned and ran a small local gemstone shop. He knew all the great places to find and dig for gemstones and such. My guess is he might have known about stones and quarries, too, but I'm not sure. Sadly he's moved away.

    There is a local gemstone society and club. My understanding is there are a good many sites in this area where digging is permitted at least at designated times and/or with permission. This is mostly about gemstones but I would not be surprised if other stones are possibilities. Perhaps there are whetstones around her; however, my guess is if there were good whetstones local to my area we'd all know about them already.

    There are numerous quarries in my vicinity including a huge and deep commercial quarry within the city. I've been told it's hundreds of feet deep. I believe most of our quarries are harvesting granite and gravel, but I know very little about it.

    I should and will find out more about our local stones when I run across someone knowledgeable to ask. Here's an interesting article I came across on finding whetstones and such - link - but it's way below the level of many people on B&B.

    Your story is very interesting, inspiring, and in all respects wonderful, but the pictures make it come to life. Your children will remember it forever I would think.

    Happy shaves,

  17. I could get my wife to do the hiking part as we hike alot but im not so sure i should say anything about looking for rocks....lol.
  18. Just tell her you need to go do your "business" while hiking. Just don't tell her your business is scouting rocks. :)
  19. How do i explain "the new load" in my pants....hahaha

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