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Barton-upon-Humber Clay Pits

Helen Mark stands on the south side of the Humber Bridge to see the flooded clay pits that make up the landscape around Barton-upon-Humber.

Helen Mark finds out about the flooded clay pits that make up the landscape around Barton-upon-Humber.

Standing on the south side of the Humber Bridge, the pits look like a series of holes punched into the landscape, or a piece of lace attached all the way along the Humber bank. The pits were excavated for the fine clay they contain, to make beautiful red bricks to build local houses that are still so typical here, and tiles which were packed into barges and taken off to London to feed the housing boom of the nineteenth century.

There are two tile-works alive and kicking at Barton, still making traditional tiles in exactly the same way they have for the past two hundred years. The clay digging that used to take half a year of hard labour with a wheel barrow is now done in a couple of weeks by a digger, so it's not quite the task it once was. For a small town, Barton has a vibrant present and a big industrial past, manifested by the Ropewalk, a museum and cultural space housed in what the managing director, Rachel Benet, calls the town's 'cultural quarter mile'. It is a narrow red brick-and-tile building a quarter of a mile long, designed to allow the manufacture of rope in one long, straight piece.

But it's the clay pits that have made the biggest mark on the landscape around Barton-upon-Humber. Many of them are now wildlife reserves run by the Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust, home to bearded tit, bittern and marsh harriers.

Producer...Mary Ward-Lowery.

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25 minutes