For about 31 miles between Blea Hill Ridge near Robin Hoods Bay, and Eaglescliffe, runs a straight, narrow band of hard rock called the Cleveland Dyke. It cuts through the surrounding sedimentary layers as a nearly vertical wall, and it is believed to have forced its way up from the interior of the earth about 58 million years ago. Near Great Ayton the dyke protrudes to form Cliff Ridge and Long Barrow, the latter having given its name to the wapentake of Langbaurgh. The rock is usually called whinstone, and its presence near Ayton gave rise to an important local industry. Near the village the stone is particularly accessible as the dyke is about 80 feet across at the surface.
It was the coming of the railway which really turned Ayton into an industrial village. In 1864 a rail link was opened, for freight traffic only, between Battersby and Nunthorpe, on which the only intermediate station was Great Ayton. The original purpose of this link was to transport ironstone from Rosedale to Teesside by a more direct route than hitherto. However, the railway passed close to several mines and quarries near Ayton, making the transport of local whinstone and ironstone a much more commercial proposition.
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