Wandering over Danby Rigg

Danby – Village of the Danes

Rigg – Ridge (OScand hryggr)

Little Fryup Dale – Crossley Side  – Old Wife’s Stones –  Enclosure 738 (Ring Cairn) – Rake Way – Double Dykes – Bakers Nab – Hanging Stone

If you have an interest in history Danby Rigg is a great place to visit. It was a busy place in the past,  the northern end of the Rigg is covered in prehistoric cairns, low walls, embanked pits, hut circles and dykes. There are also Medieval features including the Viking-Age Double Dykes, iron bloomeries and trackways. Many of these features are quite subtle, especially where the heather is long, but once you get your eye in you begin to spot them everywhere, trying to make sense of them is a different matter.

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The Rigg is also rich in folklore with the Old Wife’s Stones and a Corpse Road which leads from Fryup Dale across the Fairy Cross Plain to St Hilda’s Church in Danby Dale. The dales around the Rigg are littered with tales of Hobs, Spitits and Witches.

Many years ago, when I first started visiting the Rigg, I was overwhelmed by the amount of prehistoric remains that could be seen. Over the years I have learned to focus my visits on one or two features and try and work out their relationships to the landscape.

On this visit I decided to take a look at a natural feature called The Hanging Stone. On my way to the stone I thought I’d have a quick look at the Old Wife’s Stones and a large circular monument close to the Double Dykes. It was a blistering hot day with barely a breeze, following the Old Wife’s Stones road up the side of the Rigg, I realised that midday was probably not the best time to be doing this.

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On old OS maps the Old Wife’s Stones are shown as a pair of stones, today only one remains. It sits close to the Old Wife’s Stones Road at the base of the steep scarp and overlooks Little Fryup Dale, the Fairy Cross Plain and Round Hill. On the image above the road running off to the top left follows the route of the Church Road also known as The Old Hell Road, a late Medieval Corpse Road that runs over the Rigg from Fryup Dale to St. Hilda’s Church in Danby Dale.

ring

Just to the north of the Double Dykes is a large circular monument. The ring has a diameter of approximately 20 metres, it comprised of a low stone-built ring with a possible northern entrance.

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This site was interpreted in the past as a settlement site. It was originally excavated by Atkinson in 1863. It was excavated again in 1956 by W.H. Lamplough and W.P. Baker and then re-examined by A.F Harding and J. Ostoja-Zagorski in 1984.  Harding’s conclusion was that it was an Early Bronze Age, Ring Cairn, one of a number of similar monuments that run across the Rigg.

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Walking on to the Double Dykes, a number of fairly low upright stones can be seen along the earthwork.

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The Hanging Stone sits on the scarp edge of the Rigg overlooking Danby Dale. The rock itself is part of the Dogger Formation, a group of sandstones formed in shallow seas 170-174 million years ago. The stone is covered in graffiti, there are also a number of cup marks, one of which shows signs of being pecked. Given the amount of modern graffiti on the stone it is impossible to say whether the cup marks are prehistoric or modern.

Sources

Prehistoric and Early Medieval Activity on Danby Rigg, North Yorkshire. A.F. Harding with J Ostoja-Zagorski. Royal Archaeological Institute 151, 1994.

The Place Names of the North Riding of Yorkshire. A.H. Smith 1928

Maps reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland

Lealholm Moor

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I took a walk from Danby Beacon to Lealholm Moor to have a look at a Ring Cairn that I had recently read about.

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The wide track from the Beacon is made of slag, the slag would probably have been brought from the furnaces of Teesside during the early days of WWII when a large radar installation was built on the moors. Ironstone travelling from Rosedale and the Esk valley down to the furnaces of Teesside with iron-rich slag returning to the moors.

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A rainstorm blows into Great Fryup Dale from the high moors

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The storm tracks along the Esk valley, the sun briefly follows behind.

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At the side of the track a gorse bush has grown a hedge around its base, a prickly windbreak for itself and the moorland sheep

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On the rigg the thin moorland soils offer little, this is compounded by the regular burning and draining of the moors, ensuring that very little apart from heather and a few grasses can thrive. In times of increasing climate instability and the loss of native species, the management of grouse moors is coming under increasing pressure to change its ways.  Stanhope White once called the moors ‘a man made desert’.

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A moorland cross base and cradle, the remains of Stump Cross. The cross was located at the junction of 2 medieval trackways, Stonegate and Leavergate.

The cross base sits at the foot of Brown Rigg Howe, a Bronze Age Round Barrow located on a small hill. The barrow is intervisible with a number of other prehistoric monuments including mounds on the other side of the Esk Valley.

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On top of the barrow is a steel plate, a base plate of a military searchlight, used for guarding the nearby Radar station during WWII.

ironstone-axe-bladeThe Brown Rigg barrow was opened by Canon Atkinson of Danby, he found a cremation burial and a stone axe made of basalt. A number of stone axes have been found locally including one made from Ironstone, it is now in the Whitby Museum.

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Rabbits have made the mound their home, their paths revealed where the heather has been burned-off.

2I walk on to the next barrow, a gamekeeper cruises by in his large 4×4. The keepers work for the Baron of Danby, Viscount Downe owner of the Dawnay Estate. The Dawnay estate website states that the Barons ancestors came from Aunay in Normandy. I would like to think that a number of my ancestors lie beneath the earth and stone mounds of the moors.

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I arrive at the Ring Cairn. As with most surviving North Yorkshire moorland Ring Cairns there is very little to be seen, the 14 meter diameter ring can just be made out in the heather.

What draws me to these places is not necessarily the physical remains of the monuments but the opportunity to walk and observe their viewsheds, seeing how they sit in the landscape and speculate on their relationship with the many other prehistoric monuments of the area. Lines of mounds running across the moors and along the coast, marking the trackways and territories of the people of the Bronze Age.

MAP

intervisibility/alignment – monuments – invasion beacons – radar stations – trackways

axe – ironstone – scoria

 

A great article on the WWII radar site at Danby Beacon http://liminalwhitby.blogspot.com/2012/12/danby-beacon.html

Heather Burning Article Yorkshire Post March 2020 

 

 

Siss Cross

High Thorn under Will’s Hut passing Harlow Bush to the tank road. South passing Robin Hood’s Butts to Sandy Slack Head, west at Elm Ledge crossing Black Beck Swang peat pits to Siss Cross Road.

trees

Swang

butt

..the last earth fort

podzol

Podzol

sheep

Born waiting to die

Viewshed sunwise – Gerrick Moor – Elm Ledge – Beacon Hill – Glaisdale Rigg – Great Fryup Dale – Heads –  Danby High Moor – Danby Rigg – Ainthorpe Rigg – Danby Dale – Castleton Rigg – Westerdale Moor – Kempswithen – Kildale Moor – Haw Rigg – High Moor – Siss Cross Hill

A Danby Perambulation

perambulation

I recently found this on my hard drive. I’m not sure of the source.

Perambulation of the Boundaries of the Forest, Dale and Lordship of Danby, August 1792

BEGINNING from the Water of Eske, up Commondale-Beck to Thunder-Bush Beck or Lane; from thence to Bank-Top, through two Inclosures where one William Carter formerly lived, and now or late occupied by John Rickaby; from thence to Tod-How, near Leaden-Well; from thence to White-Cross; from thence along by Sandwath by the Middle of the Common King’s Highway, leading from Stokesley to Whitby; to a Place called Harlot-Busk, otherwise Harlow-Bush, otherwise Harlot-Thorn, otherwise Harlow-Thorn, otherwise High- Thorn; from thence to Water-Dittings; from thence to Beckwith-Stone; from thence to Little-Dinnond; from thence to Great-Dinnond; from thence to the Stone on Frankland-Dyke; from thence to Long-Stone; from thence to Good Goose-Thorne; from thence to Nan-Stone; from thence to the Head of Hardill-Beck, and so into the same Head, going down the said River, toward the South, unto the Lane of Woodall, and further by the same River there, called Woodall-Beck, and by a Ford called Stonegate-Ford, into a Place where the said River falleth into the Water of Eske, going down the said Water unto Glaizedale-Beck, to a Place there called Firris-Bridge, or New-Bridge, (at the low end of Glaizedale;) from thence going up Glaizedale-Beck, towards the South, up to the Upper Head thereof; from thence to the Yoak; from thence to Lamb-Folds; from thence to Holed-Stone; from thence to, Shunner-How; from thence by a Rook of Stones to Loose-How; from thence to White-Cross; from thence to Ralph-Cross; from thence descending the Top or Edge of the Hill, between Danby and Westerdale, by Gallow-How and Crown-End, even as the Rain-Water falleth both Ways, even to the Water of Eske, and so down to the Place where Commondale-Beck meets with the same, where it first began.

Botton Cross

botton-cross

Botton Cross overlooks the head of Danby Dale presumably on an old trackway from Eskdale to Rosedale. In his 1993 booklet, The Crosses of the North York Moors, Lewis Graham  remarks that it may be of interest to lay hunters that Botton, Fat Betty and Old Ralph are in a perfect east-west line though Young Ralph is to the north. 

botton-head-s

The original word in Icelandic botn, and it is applied to the head of a bay, lake, dale or the like, the compound word dals-botn being a word of actual occurrence. Moreover, Vigfussen remarks that “Botn” is a local name still in Iceland.

JC Atkinson. Forty Years in a Moorland Parish. 1891

 

Easington Moor – Middle Rigg

Danby Beacon

Easington Moor (Danby Low Moor) can be a pretty damp place at the best of times, after recent rains the moor is well sodden. Crossing the moor is difficult, large tracts of sedge, cottongrass and sphagnum are best avoided. Away from the keepers tracks, walking a straight line between any two points on the moor without stepping into a bog is almost impossible

This area of the moor is rich in prehistoric monuments, I wanted to see if I could find a triangular stone setting described by Frank Elgee in his 1930 book, Early Man in NE Yorkshire.

Elgee’s description.. It lies immediately east of the large barrow..The stones form a right-angled triangle, one side of which is about 30 yards long, the other two about 24 yards. The stones are 5-7 feet long with broad bases.  

I was only able to locate one of Elgee’s stones, the photo above shows the stone with the barrow in the background. The barrow is unusual as it has been constructed on a low platform.

A series of embanked, segmented pits are roughly aligned on the barrow. The description below is taken from English Heritage’s Record of Scheduled Monument

The pit alignment on Middle Rigg runs approximately parallel to the line of three barrows, about 120m to the north east. It is in two main sections, slightly offset from each other, with the 23m gap between the two sections lying opposite the central barrow. Each section of the pit alignment is further subdivided into segments, with each segment typically having between two and four pairs of pits flanked to the NNE and SSW by a pair of banks. Each segment is divided from the next by a slight change in direction, or a small break in the flanking banks. The two lines of paired pits are typically centred 10m apart and are up to 3m in diameter with the banks 12m to 18m apart and up to 1m high. The western section of the pit alignment is 138m long and includes 34 pits arranged in four shorter segments. The eastern section is 115m long and has 30 pits divided between five segments. The pits are associated with three large barrows on the same NNE-SSW alignment.

Archaeologist Blaise Vyner describes the pit alignment as sealing a spur of land occupied by the Three Howes and therefore one of  a group of monuments found on the the Moors called Cross Ridge Boundary Monuments.

Just north of the pits and barrows is a large standing stone known as the Long Stone. The stone about 2 meters tall. I’ve never been sure whether this stone is prehistoric or not. It’s sides have been squared and it has a semi-circular carved area on its south face. The sheer size of the stone and the un-squared deeply weathered top indicate that it is quite ancient and not a typical estate boundary stone, as to its origins, who knows?

Sources

The brides of place: cross ridge boundaries reviewed. Blaise Vyner 1995

Early Man in N.E. Yorkshire. Frank Elgee 1930

Pastscape 

J C Atkinson – The Last of the Giant Killers

JC Atkinson

In almost every instance what may be called the starting-point of the several stories depends upon, or is connected with, local legend, local fact (of whatever kind), or ‘local habitation.’ The Giant-casts, Giant building-works ; the King Arthur legend; the legends of the Loathly Worm ; of the nightly destruction of the day-done work of Church-building, and the ultimate flitting of the materials to another site ; of the Barguest or Church-grim; of the insatiable Hunter with his horses and hounds buried with him, and his doom to hunt for ever, or until the Day of Judgment; of the other presentation of the same idea involved in the Gabble-ratchet notion; of the underground passages from historic buildings; of the guarded treasure reachable by some of them; and the like, are — at least have been — not only as actually localised in this district as in any other in England or the northern Continent of Europe, but have been, nay, are still, more readily accepted and accredited than the great slides and falls of rock and earth from the moor-banks, or the former prevalence and sway of the Wolf in our forest fastnesses. For even the fact that, as late as 1395 the ‘tewing’ or dressing and tanning of fourteen wolfskins, in a lot, is charged for in the accounts of Whitby Abbey, while it is enough to suggest that, in remoter places such as the forest-begrown wilds of Danby and Westerdale, those pleasant neighbours must have had a ‘ royal time of it,’ is still not enough to keep alive in the popular mind the circumstance that the Woodales in those parishes were ‘dales’ named after the ‘wolf ‘ and not after the ‘wood,’ or that the many Wolf-pits, Wolf-hows, and so on, we still hear of about, are but the scanty remains of hosts of like-named places or objects.

Taken from the preface of one of my favourite books, The Last of the Giant Killers or The Exploits of Sir Jack of Danby Dale written by the Rev. J. C. Atkinson and published in 1891