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.

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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

Into the Tabular Hills

The Old Wifes Way – Newgate Brow – Newgate Moor – Grime Moor – Bridestones Griff – Needle Point – Dove Dale – Staindale – Adderstone Rigg

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The Old Wife’s Way has always been a bit odd, today is no exception. The plane owner gives us a wave. We later see him flying over the fields.

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We follow the Prehistoric Dyke along Newgate Brow. I will never tire of this view.

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We leave the track and cut out onto Grime Moor, a slow worm scuttles through the shimmering red grass. An undisturbed barrow occupies the high ground

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After crossing a large enclosure, we choose to follow the less trodden path around the High Bridestones.

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The Low Bridestones on the opposite side of the valley. The steep-sided valleys of the Tabular Hills are called Griffs. They are the product of ancient climate change. The melting of the permanent ice during the last Ice Age caused lakes to build up behind ice dams, when the dams finally burst, huge torrents of water and debris formed the valleys that we see today.1

One folktale concerning the origin of how the Bridestones got their name concerns a pair of newlyweds who died after spending the night in one of the shallow caves that exist beneath a number of the stones.

There is some debate on precisely how the Bridestones were formed. What we do know is that the the outcrops are composed of Calcareous Gritstone and Passage Beds and have been subjected to processes of erosion.

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We walk along Needle Point and drop into the beautiful meadows of Dove Dale and Stain Dale.

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We follow the road out of the dale to Adderstone Rigg to take a look at the Adder Stone. Within .5km of this massive stone there are two large Prehistoric Barrow Cemeteries, indicating that this was a significant location for the people who lived here during prehistory.

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We get lost looking for a track to return to the valley bottom, we notice a small sign that simply says Rachel Whiteread, intrigued we follow the path to a forest clearing…Nissen Hut..I had no idea this was here, just stunning, the highlight of my day.

 Nissen Hut

A Charm

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An ancient charm to counter witchcraft as told by Joseph Ford of Castleton. The charm was undertaken at the Old Bleach Mill in the Esk Valley. The owner believed that a witch had cast a spell upon his cattle.

The Charm

The heart must be taken out of one of the cursed beasts and brought into the house. It was then pierced with nine new pins and the same number of new nails and new needles. These were all embedded in the heart which was then to be over a slow fire made of elder, rowan or ash wood. Great care had to be taken to ensure that the doors were all securely bolted and barred and the windows covered up with thick bed quilts to ensure that no light could be seen from the outside. Extra care had to be taken that no one witnessed the mysterious proceedings.

The heart, hanging from a hook over the fire would then be left to slowly shrivel and contract until the dead hour of night drew near. The lighting and tending of the fire had to be gauged so that the burnt and blackened heart would be shrivelled up and ready to burst into flames and fall to ashes just as the clock struck the midnight hour. At this crucial moment the leader of the weird proceedings had to begin the the final act by reading aloud two verses of a particular psalm from the scriptures. That was the deed done, if undertaken correctly, the curse would be lifted and the cattle would return to health.

Ford also tells us that if you are passing the house of a reputed witch, To shield yourself from her evil spells you should hold your thumb in the palm of your right hand.

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Source – Some Reminiscences and Folk Lore of Danby Parish & District. 1953

Map Image – Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland

Jeannie Biggersdale

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This is the story of Jeannie who lived in a cave called Hob’s Cave in a small valley called Biggersdale in Mulgrave woods near Sandsend.

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The folktales of Jeannie call her a fairy with a notoriously bad temper, given the name of her cave and her intense dislike of being disturbed I’d suggest that she was probably a Hob or a witch. Many local misfortunes suffered by the local farmers was often blamed on Jeannie so who can blame her for her desire to lead a solitary life. The locals were quite happy to let Jeannie live in seclusion, fearing the consequences of angering her.

That was until one local lad, John Roe, convinced himself that Jeannie was a beautiful fairy and a good person who just needed someone to love and marry to cure her foul temper. So one evening after working on the farm John mounted his horse and rode into Mulgrave woods to try and find Jeannie.

No one knew the exact location of Jeannie’s cave so John began to search the woods. Not far from the old ruined castle John came across the narrow ravine of Biggersdale, he dismounted from his horse and started to scramble his way along it.

\He eventually came across a large cave with the remnants of a fire and other signs of habitation outside of it. John approached the cave mouth when all of a sudden a hairy, fearsome, shrieking creature with a long wand in her hand bolted out from the cave. John, scared out his wits, ran for his life with the Jeannie in swift pursuit. He climbed out of the ravine, onto his horse and bolted through the woods with Jeannie hot on his heels.

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As John galloped through the woods, Jeannie began gaining on him. John remembered that his Grandmother had told him that evil spirits couldn’t cross running water so John headed for a low cliff, which would allow his horse to leap across the ravine of the Mickleby Beck to safety. As they approached the beck, Jeannie was upon them, scratching and clawing the horse’s hindquarters trying to dismount John. John spurred his horse on and as they leapt across the ravine, Jeannie stuck the horse with her wand killing the poor animal instantly. The horse fell into the beck and John was thrown to the safety of the opposite bank.

John picked himself up and saw Jeannie was shrieking at him from the opposite bank of the beck. He ran and ran until he reached the safety of his farm. Out of breath and traumatised he was unable to speak until the next day. Since that time no one else has ever dared to look for Jeannie or her cave, deep in Mulgrave woods.

 

Map Image – Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland

Illustration – John Faed’s illustration for the poem Tam o’Shanter. Copyright Ayrshire Museums and Galleries

Sluttish Whitby, the Devil & the Old Witch

John Ray (1627-1705) was one of the pioneers of modern botany. A parson naturalist, he was the first to classify plants by species. He undertook a number of tours of Britain and Europe where he collected and described the local flora and topography.

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The following passage, describing his visit to North East Yorkshire, is taken from Selected Remains of the Learned John Ray with his life. By William Derham published 1760.

We ascended the top of that noted hill, called Roseberry or Ounsberry Topping, the top whereof is like a sugar loaf and serves for a sea-mark. It may be seen at a great distance, viz. from Stanmore, which is in a right line above 20 Miles off. From hence we had a prospect of that pleasant and fruitful vale, part whereof is called Cleveland a country noted for a good breed of horses.

The ways here in winter time are very bad, and almost impassable, according to that proverbial Rhyme,

Cleveland in the Clay

Bring in two Soles, carry one away.

Near this hill we went to see a well celebrated for the cure of sore or dim eyes, and other diseases. Every one that washes in it, or receives benefit by it, ties a rag of linen or woollen on a shrub or bush near it, as an offering or acknowledgement.

The People of Gisburgh are civil, cleanly, and well-bred, contrary to the temper of the inhabitants of Whitby who, to us, seemed rude in behavior and sluttish.

In the way from Whitby to Gisburgh we passed by Freeburgh Hill which they told us was cast up by the Devil, at the entreaty of an old Witch, who desired it, that from thence she might espy her cow in the moor.

Image – National Portrait Gallery / Public domain

 

Croglin – A Cumbrian Vampire Tale

I read this tale on Bob Fischer’s BBC Tees show last night

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There was a house in the village called Croglin Low Hall, the house belonged to a family called Fisher.  For reasons of business the Fishers moved to Essex and let the house out to two brothers and a sister. The new tenants got on well with the villagers and were well liked.  There stay at the hall was uneventful until the second summer of their tenancy.

One particular evening the brother and their sister had sat outside and watched the sun set and the moon rise and had then retired to bed. The sister sat in bed looking out into the Cumbrian summer night. As she looked she became aware of two lights in the graveyard next to the house. As she gazed at the lights she became aware that they we attached to a figure that was gradually making its way towards the house.

A feeling of uncontrollable horror seized the sister. As the figure got closer she longed to scream for help but the voice was paralysed as if her tongue had been glued to the roof of her mouth.  She jumped out of bed and tried to unlock her bedroom door, as she was fumbling with the lock she heard a scratch noise upon the window followed by a pecking noise as the figure picked away at the lead of the window. A pane of glass fell from the window then a long bony finger turned the handle of the window, opening it.  A tall, thin hideous creature then climbed into the room through the window. The woman was so terrified that she could not scream, the creature twisted its bony fingers around he hair and dragged her head down to the side of the bed and then bit her violently in the throat.

As the creature bit her she found her voice and screamed. Her brothers rushed to her room but found a door locked, y the time they had broken the door down the creature had escaped. One brother attended to his sister’s wounds while the other pursued the creature into the night. The creature appeared to take giant strides and eventually seemed to disappear over the wall into the churchyard.

The next day the doctor attended the sister and the attacker was thought to have been an inmate who had escaped from an asylum. Over the next few weeks the sister seemed to be recovering well but the doctor thought that a change of scenery might be good for her so her brothers took her to Switzerland.

After a few weeks the sister said that she would like to return to Croglin and carry on with her life so her brothers took her home.The winter passed peacefully until one night at the end of march the sister heard the a familiar scratch sound at her window, looking at the window she saw the same hideous shrivelled face and glaring eyes that she had seem on that terrible night during the previous summer.This time she screamed as loud as she could and her brothers rushed into the room, pistols drawn.

The creature scuttled across the lawn with the bothers in pursuit. A shot was fired and the creature was hit in the leg but still it ran. When it got to the churchyard in vanished into a vault, which belonged to a family who were no longer living in the area.

The next day the brothers summoned the villagers and in their presence the vault was opened. On looking in a horrible scene revealed itself, the vault was full of coffins which had been broken open, their contents mangled and scattered all over the floor. A single coffin remained intact however its lid was loose. On raising the lid they found the same hideous withered, shrivelled, mummified figure that they had seen the previous night, the creature also had a bullet wound on it s leg. The brothers then did they only thing you can do to lay a vampire, they burnt it

Saint Hilda’s Well

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Saint Hilda’s Well can be found in the churchyard in Hinderwell.

The legend is, that there was once a drought in the area and Saint Hilda was asked to intercede. Her prayers were answered and a spring appeared on the hillside. The well is said to have healing properties for eye diseases and became a place of pilgrimage during the Middle Ages.

On Assumption Day, a ceremony called Shaking Bottle Sunday was held at the well. Local children would collect the well water in bottles and add a stick of liquorice to make a pleasant drink.

Green-eyed greedy,

Brown-eyes needy,

Black-eyed never blin’

Till it shames o’ its kin.

Trad Scottish

Nanny & the Sexhow Hoard

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An old woman of Sexhow called Nanny, appeared after her death in a dream to a local farmer. She informed the farmer that, beneath a certain tree in his apple orchard, he would find a hoard of gold and silver which she had buried there. He was to take a spade and dig it up, she told him that he could keep the silver for his trouble but was to give the gold to a niece of hers who was then living in great poverty.

At daybreak, after his dream, the farmer went to the spot that the old woman had described where dug and found the treasure. Now, despite his share being more than enough to look after him for the rest of his days, he decided to keep the whole hoard for himself. This was an act of greed that he would live to regret, as from that day forward he never knew rest or happiness again.

Every night, whether at home or abroad, old Nanny’s ghost visited him, reproaching him for his greed and his failure to help Nanny’s niece.Though previously a sober man, the farmer took to drinking, but all in vain as his conscience and Nanny’s ghost would give him no rest.

At last, late one Saturday evening, the farmers neighbours heard him returning home from Stokesley Market; his horse was galloping furiously, and as he left the high road to go into the lane which led to his farm he never stopped to open the gate but cleared it with a single bound.  As he passed a neighbour’s house, they heard him screaming out, ” I will I will I will ! ” and when they looked out they saw a little old woman in black, with a large straw hat on her head, whom they recognised as old Nannie, she was seated behind the terrified man on the runaway horse, clinging to him closely. The farmer’s hat was off, his hair stood on end, as he fled past them, uttering his fearful cry, ” I will I will I will ! ” But when the horse reached the farm all was still, and the rider… a corpse!

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Image Albert Edward Sterner [Public domain]

Strong Hill – Richmond

Dodgson attended Richmond Grammar School for a year while his father was vicar of Croft

Hunting for erratics amongst the river-worn cobbles of Frenchgate.

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Shap granite

Zealous and Consistent members

The town has two subterranean legends. One tells of how a potter named Thompson discovered a cave beneath the castle. In the cave was a round table around which were a group of sleeping knights. Upon the table was a great sword and a horn. Thompson reached for the horn, waking knights from their sleep. Thompson fled and as he ran he heard a voice behind him say..

Potter Thompson, Potter Thompson!

If thou hadst drawn the sword or blown the horn,

Thou hadst been the luckiest man e’er was born.”

The second legend concerns a tunnel that runs from the castle to Easby Abbey. The tunnel was supposed to have been dug to allow the abbots to escape from the marauding Scots. Some soldiers wanted to explore the tunnel but found it too narrow. They sent a drummer boy into the passage and instructed him to beat his drum as he walked, allowing the soldiers to track his progress from the surface.  At a point between the castle and the abbey the drum fell silent and the boy was never seen again.

A stone has been erected on the riverside path to mark the point where the drumming ceased. The local legend is that the drummer boy’s ghost still walks the passage and occasionally his drum can still be heard beating.

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