Bunton Hush MYD2368 (c) YDNPA, 2023
Bunton Level and the impressive hushes around it were part of the Lownathwaite mining complex in Gunnerside Gill. Lead was worked here from the late seventeenth century and the hushes are perhaps the most spectacular in the country.
At this point, the valley cuts across four major veins of lead ore. The exposed veins in the valley sides were easily exploited by open-cast working and later, by driving levels into the valley sides.
Hushing is a form of open-cast working where water is used to clear off topsoil and vegetation to expose the veins underneath. Miners would build a dam above the valley side which was fed by hand-dug channels or leats. Once enough water had collected, they would break the dam and allow the torrent of water to rush down the hillside scouring away soil and plants. The rock and hopefully, veins of lead ore, would then be exposed and could be dug out. The water which built up again behind the hush dams would then be used to help in dressing the lead ore, separating it from other minerals. It might also have been used to flush unwanted material into the stream below. Thousands of tons of debris ended up in the River Swale, permanently altering its natural flow.