Capturing Peak’s farm heritage

Sheila Hine, author of Field Barns of the Peak District
Sheila Hine, author of Field Barns of the Peak District

A new book captures the memories and heritage around historic Peak District farm buildings.

Limestone and gritstone field barns are a special element of the Peak District landscape enjoyed by millions, but with changes in farming practices many of these centuries-old buildings are slowly falling into ruin.

They are caputured in the book Field Barns of the Peak District, by Sheila Hine.

Sheila, a farmer with an interest in landscape photography, set out to capture images and memories of barns in all parts of the Peak District before it is too late.

“They sit in the landscape organically, usually made from locally sourced stone and often set in stunning scenery,” she said. “They’re a far cry from modern agricultural buildings which although functional often sit as a scar in the landscape.

“This book captures where we are now and celebrates field barns before many more of them are lost back to nature or recycled into another building.”

Sheila, who farms at Meerbrook in the Staffordshire Moorlands, interviewed farmers to record how individual barns were used for housing cattle, lambing, milking, winter shelter or hay storage, and what their condition is now.

The Peak District National Park Authority supported the book as field barns are a special part of the area’s heritage and landscape.

Cultural heritage manager Ken Smith said: “Field barns help us understand how our landscape was created and managed for hundreds of years. They’re also valuable wildlife habitats - their disappearance would be an immeasurable loss on several fronts.

“Farmers are understandably reluctant to put money into maintaining them when there’s no immediate purpose, and consequently some are in good condition and others are ruinous.

“Sheila understands farmers’ financial constraints and she highlights the problem of looking after them. Only a small number of barns can be saved by grant schemes, so it’s a question of creative thinking to bring them back into agricultural or perhaps rural crafts use.

“Conversion into houses isn’t the answer as most of these barns are simple structures that should remain part of the wild open landscape of the national park. House conversions would spoil that, with a drive, utilities and all the urbanised paraphernalia of modern living.

“Sheila’s book celebrates the barns and their part in social history, acknowledging the sheer graft of people who built and worked in them, and I hope it inspires people to look at ways they could be utilised once more.”

Field Barns of the Peak District by Sheila Hine (ISBN 9781904546924) is available in Peak District National Park visitor centres or through the publisher Churnet Valley Books on or 01538 399033 (£16.95, UK post-free).