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Photos by Bill Wright and ATV Page last updated: 2020-03-29
West Burton North Yorkshire
NGR: SE030880 Maps: Google  Bing (Ord Surv) Site Height: 280m      Structure Height: 17m
Digital TV: BBC A: 45 D3&4: 39 BBC B: 42
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Comments: West Burton is a relay of Bilsdale

Updated August 2005

The first photo is from ATV and dated August 2005. The remaining images and the text are from an earlier submission from Bill Wright.

West Burton was originally a BBC landlord site which entered service on 7-Jul-1979, with Channel 4 added during October 1987. The original structure was a 17m wooden pole.

The location of the main station at Bilsdale West Moor seems to have been chosen partly with the strategic intent of serving the length of Wensleydale, since Bilsdale transmitter sits on the North Yorkshire Moors exactly opposite the foot of the Dale. In general this works well, and even in the upper Dale Bilsdale often provides a good signal. A few difficult locations remained of course, and the West Burton relay alleviates many of these in the lower part of the Dale.

West Burton site overlooks the meeting of Wensleydale and Bishopdale, in North Yorkshire. The easiest approach is along ancient High Lane, with splendid views of Wensleydale and West Witton village on your right. As the lane and the hillside swing round from Wensleydale into lower Bishopdale it seems that line-of-sight to Bilsdale must be impossible. But at the very last moment the transmitter mast comes into view. The site must have been chosen to be as far round into Bishopdale as possible without loosing sight of Bilsdale.

As often seems to be the case with very low powered relays, the viewers in the valley bottom closest to the site are the least well served [example below].

Houses in Sorrelsykes and Edgley, only 800 metres from the transmitter, need high gain aerials and masthead amplifiers, because the transmitter puts very little signal their way. The transmit aerials point up and down but not across the valley and the resulting radiation pattern, although no doubt carefully tailored, is in practice rather unkind to those houses just down the slope. Of course these receive sites are off-axis vertically as well as horizontally, since they look up at quite a steep angle to the transmitter. Signals reflected back from the huge face of Bolton Castle can cause faint ghosting in Sorrelsykes and Edgley.

The mast seems to be fairly new. I've driven along Wensleydale many times over the last thirty years and never noticed anything on this hillside. I'm guessing that until recently the mast was just a wooden pole. Now, when viewed now from the main road the structure is very noticeable. The whole thing has been painted brown, presumably at the behest of the National Park mandarins, and it looks much worse in my opinion than if it had been left in its natural colour. All the equipment on the mast seems to be new, and the site boundary has been extended to make room for a new building, which seems to belong to BT. The new boundary is a perfect dry stone wall, but the building represents a serious misjudgement by the National Park. It is a standard steel cabin, plastered with stone cladding and with a false roof made of plastic tiles. The cladding is of the 'pseudo random stone' style popularised by the Duckworths some years ago on 'Coronation Street'. It is completely out of place in an area characterised by dry stone walls and limestone buildings, and looks absolutely ridiculous in this setting. Even the colour of the 'stone' is wrong. Contrast the new building with the old.

In the 18th and 19th Centuries Wensleydale was thriving. Scores of lead mines were in full production and a busy railway ran the length of the Dale. The sheep were eating grass and getting fat as if there was no tomorrow (which for them there probably wasn't). In this entrepreneurial climate, and encouraged by the writings of Jules Verne, civic leaders embarked on a project that would ultimately be known as The Great Wensleydale Moonshot Fiasco.

The technology of the time and the limited availability of suitable materials meant that the rocket ship was constructed from local stone. It was 'manned' by goats, these creatures being considered more nimble in zero gravity and more adaptable in diet than sheep. Despite the ready availability of gunpowder from the lead mines the eight hundred ton stone rocket ship could not be persuaded to leave the ground for longer than two seconds. Many brave goats gave their lives in vain before the project was abandoned, and the distinctive stringy smoked donar kebab of the district remains to this day a local delicacy. The rocket ship still stands in lower Wensleydale, a monument to man's folly, in the shadow of the West Burton TV transmitter.

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