Lead mining, and to a lesser extent coal, once employed thousands in the dale. With the closure of mines in the late 19th century the population drastically declined.
Upland Sheep Farming
Upper Swaledale is where the famous Swaledale Sheep are bred. This tough breed is able to withstand the weather at these high altitudes. As modern farming practices were introduced this led to a decline in the number workers in this industry.
The moors are maintained for grouse shooting employing game-keepers, beaters and others.
Many are drawn to the Dales for their beauty. Keld lies where two important long-distance footpaths, the Pennine Way and the Coast to Coast Paths cross. Some visitors will fish in the Swale and a few intrepid kayakers shoot the rapids. Tourism supports hotels, B&Bs, campsites, restaurants and cafes.
With the end of mining and fewer people employed in sheep-farming the population in the dale declined. This is offset today to some extent by retired people coming into the dale together with some craft workers and others who can work from computers in their homes. The overall effect has been the closure, not only of chapels and churches, but schools, pubs, shops and post-offices as well.