'Ryedale Windypits' by Richard Myerscough, from the University of Hull.
The Ryedale Windypits are located in the Hambleton Hills within the North York National Park and have attracted both archaeological and geological interest since the Rev. Buckland first descended 'Buckland's Windypit' in the 1820's .For the last 50 years they have been popular with cavers and now provide important protected bat roosts. The name is derived from cold air rising from the pits with such velocity as to blow out leaves and other debris .The Windypits are vertical fissures in the Upper Jurassic Corallian Group (Lower Calcareous Grit and Coralline Oolite Formations) formed by cambering over the underlying Oxford Clay Formation on scarps and parallel to fault scarps. They differ from the fluvial caves in the Corallian, e.g. Kirkdale. The concentration of Windypits in the Hambleton Hills west of the valley of the River Rye is now seen as stress fracturing associated with a combination of tectonic features and examples from The Cotswolds and Roquefort-sur-Soulzon in Southern France will illustrate the fracturing process associated with their formation.
At least 4 of the Windypits (Antofts , Ashberry, Buckland's and Slip Gill) attracted ancient peoples to use them as ritual burial sites . In The Neolithic Period (Radiocarbon date 1750+/-150bc) Beaker pots with selected animal and human bones /skulls were deposited in the pits. While in Romano-British times (C1st-4th) at least one pit (Ashberry) was used a temple site for ritual sacrifices using animal bones ,metal and other votive objects as sacrifices to the Gods of the Underworld. Parallels are to found in 'Windyholes' of Africa. The historical importance of valley of The River Rye and new Windypits to be discovered by Aerial Photograph survey, Geophysical investigation and excavation supported a recent application to Channel 4 'Time Team'.
The Windypits are a group of fissures in the corallian limestone or the lower calcareous grits along the near the main valley of the River Rye.
There are 8 major windypit- type fissures known in Ryedale and four major cavities.
The name comes from the phenomenon caused by warm or cold air rising from the fissures and coming into contact with the air outside the entrance. In winter a steamy vapour rises in puffs or jets from the holes. In warmer months cold air can be felt in the passage entrances, sometimes moving so violently as to vibrate the foliage nearby.
Most of the known windypits have been excavated and have yeilded corded ware, gritted ware, flint ,stone and bone impliments and both human and animal remains. The recovered materials date from the late Neolithic to the Romano British.
"Finds from the windypits have added greatly to our knowledge of the beaker folk in Ryedale and the food and habits of the people of this period. They were probably partially of wholy nomadic hunter-herdsmen, though stones have been found in the fissures which may be grain rubbers, suggesting a more settled agricultural way of life.
Given a warm dry dry summer, the windypits would serve as a temporary habitation in the winter.
It is likely that they were also used for burial. A cave or a fissure was a likely origin of the chambered tomb of Neolithic times."
The History of Helmsley Rievaulx & District
by Members of The Helmsley & Area Group of the Yorkshire Archaeological Society.