Kettleness

A coastal walk with Graeme Chappell

Kettleness – Cat Beck – Randy Bell End – Hob Holes – Runswick Sands – White Stones – Redscar Hole – Hill Stones – Kettleness Sand – Kettleness Scar – Wind Hole – Long Sand – White Shoot – Maiden Wyke – Lucky Dogs Hole – Kettleness Alum Works

The Fairies long gone, the sound of Claymoor battledores no long ring over Runswick shores.

Hob has flit, kink coughs go untreated.

A whale lays headless and rotting on the rocks at White Stones. The stench of death and decay is all around, even the gulls avoid this place. We push on, scrambling over rocks, mouth breathing.

17th of December 1829. The village and Alum Works of Kettleness slid down the cliff to the sea. No lives were lost. The village and works were swiftly rebuilt.

Ore was gathered from these beaches when Teesside furnaces were still an idle dream.

Iron returns to its source, the sea reclaims its own

Shap Granite, batholith born, ice borne.

The sun is shining, we are bold.

We wade through whin following a cliff-top path to the Alum Works, we watch Gannets. A very good day.

British Steel – South Teesside 1974

Mark Lawton very kindly sent me a scan of a book that he’d recently found. It’s a lovely snapshot from 1974 of the South Teesside Works when it employed 16,000 people.

You can download the whole book using the link at the bottom of the page

Cattersty

Escaping the crowds of Saltburn we headed to Cattersty Sands. Skinningrove has none of the seaside amusements of it’s neighbour so sees far less visitors, what it does have is a beautiful beach and a very good fish and chip shop which sadly was closed today.

Iron was mined here before the discovery of the main seams in the hills at Eston and prior to mining, iron-rich stone was collected from the beaches at Hummersea. An ironworks was established above the town in the late nineteenth century to process the local iron ore with coal and limestone imported from County Durham. The slag from the furnaces was poured onto the cliffs and also used as a building material in and around the village. The cliffs are an impressive site and are now home to nesting Fulmars and Jackdaws.

The names Cattersty, Hummersea and Skinningrove are all Scandinavian in origin. The cliffs to the south of the village are the highest on the east coast. Archaeologist Dr. Steve Sherlock’s work at nearby Street House has revealed evidence of occupation since at least 3900BC.

The Skinningrove/Loftus area does not see a great many visitors compared to other parts of our district but it has a fascinating landscape and rich history, all well worth seeking out. If none of this interests you and you just fancy a walk on a mile of so of beautiful uncluttered beach I’d recommend a trip to Cattersty.

If you want to learn more about Dr. Sherlock’s work at Street House there is a video here of him giving an online lecture at the Royal Archaeological Institute.

Slapewath

Lockdown walking

The terrier is quite old now, he is happy enough but his days of traipsing across moors have come to an end. The path between Slapewath and Boosbeck is ideal for him, it runs along the bed of an old railway built to service the local ironstone mines. The path is wide with no inclines, just right for a half blind, half deaf border terrier who likes to do things in his own time.

Slapewath is a strange place, at first glance it looks fairly rural but peer into the woods and along the tracks you’ll see scrap and storage yards, workshops and plant yards, most built over old ironstone mining sites. During the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries at least half a dozen mines operated locally, extracting ore to feed the furnaces of Teesside.

Ironstone wasn’t the first extractive industry to leave its scars on this valley. Jet has been quarried from the escarpment edges for millennia, jet is only found in this corner of North Yorkshire and was highly prized by our prehistoric ancestors. Beautifully carved jet objects have been found in high-status prehistoric burials throughout our islands.

Another industry that left its mark on the local landscape was alum production. During the seventeenth century, thousands of tons of rock was quarried and processed to produce alum.

The pathway is very muddy in places, local footpaths have taken a hammering during lockdown. Beneath the footpath is a tunnel /culvert. It’s empty apart from some beer cans and a pair of knee-high ladies boots.

With the summer foliage gone, it is possible to get a better view of the remnants of Carr’s Tilery at Margrove.

Slape Wath – Slippery Ford’ from ON sleipr and vao

Aysdale Gate – Asi’s valley’ from ON Asi and dael

Asda, Aldi & an Ironstone Mine

I took a walk over to Skelton to have a look at the remains of the Longacres Ironstone Mine located on the edge of the Hollybush Industrial Estate. I followed the waterlogged track over the fields towards the retail park.

Most of the field is covered in small trees and brambles. There’s a large earth bank running across the field, the result of the levelling of the site to build the retail park. The occassional chunk of concrete pokes through the undergrowth but on the whole nature is doing a decent job of reclaiming the site. A small pond containing bulrushes has formed at the foot of the bank.

Between Asda and Aldi a track leads up the bank into a small wood.

The arched concrete roof of the mine’s explosive store is just visible from the bank top. The building is buried into the bank, with no obvious access from above I followed the path down into the wood.

A pair of large gateposts marking , the entrance to a tiny litter-strewn concrete-walled dell, day-glow pink graffiti marks the territory of the ‘Skelton Possy‘.

The overhanging foliage has been cut-back to allow access, tall curving concrete walls lead to a blockhouse, The bank and walls deaden the sounds of the nearby retail park. It has the air of a strange brutalist hermitage.

On the top field, the mine buildings have been cleared, the area is now used as a rough cycle track and hangout for local kids. The path at the bottom end of the field follows the embankment of the old railway branch line.

In an adjacent field the mine shaft is capped with an oval stone and brick wall, there are remains of campfires around its base. A nearby former engine bed provides a viewing platform.

The mine operated from the late nineteenth to the mid-twentieth century. More information can be found here

Boundaries, Pits & Zeppelins

I’ve been interested in the notion of boundaries recently so decided to combine this with a wander over Easington High Moor following the route of an eighteenth century perambulation that I found posted online a few years ago.

route

Manorial perambulations are an ancient practice, the boundaries of the district are walked to confirm ownership and ensure that no territorial infringements have taken place. What is interesting about this route is that it continues to be used as a formal boundary to define at least 13 different regional, county, unitary authority, parliamentary, and parish territories.

The route starts on the little-walked western section of the moor beside the Danby Road at a stone called Harlow Bush, the perambulation states that it is also called Harlot-Busk,  Harlot-Thorn, otherwise Harlow-Thorn, otherwise High- Thorn.

The early OS map shows Harlow Bush and High Thorn as two separate stones. I was unable to find the latter stone but there has been much road widening since the map was drawn so the stone has either been removed or is lost in a mass of gorse and brambles at the junction between the Danby and Moors road. it doesn’t take the moor long to swallow-up the fallen.

A number of the stones have dates carved into them, mainly from the early 1800s and post-date the enclosure of the moor in 1817. The names of the perambulation sites imply that prominent stones and trees were used as boundary markers, this was formalised during the 19th century by the erection of many of the boundary stones that we see across the northern moors today. Some of them, especially the earth-fast stones, probably pre-date this period.

Others stand beside older stones and bear their names.

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I cross a marshy section and come across a long section of cast iron pipe. The 40″ diameter pipe is a remnant from an attempt to build a railway across the moor. The railway, known locally as Paddy Waddell’s Railway, was supposed to be built to carry iron ore from the mines at Skelton and Brotton to the ironworks of Grosmont. The project was halted due to lack of funds and a recession in the iron trade

The Great Dinnod stone has fallen, beside it is a concrete post marked GT on one face and DT on the other. Further along the low ridge is the Little Dinnod, still standing.

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Beneath the Great Dinnod ridge is a beautiful low grassy valley, it’s a marked contrast to the heather moorland that surrounds it. The valley terminates at the Mellowdale Slack. As I walk along the slack, dozens of tiny birds fly out around me and land in the trees. It’s a magical place. I stop and sit in the shade of a beautiful Rowan listening to the chirruping birds and watch dragonflies busying themselves along the valley.

Refreshed, I climb up onto Middle Rigg to have a look at a form of Prehistoric boundary marker, a Segmented Pit Alignment or SEPA. Double pit alignments have been found in other parts of our islands but this particular class of monument is unique to the North York Moors. This definition is taken from the excellent official blog for the North York Moors National Park

A SEPA earthwork however is made up of two or three pairs of pits inside two parallel enclosing banks largely made from the spoil from the pits, these are generally in what appear to be conjoined segments. The segmentation suggests development over time rather than a linear structure created in one go as a land boundary.

In each case the SEPAs appear to be aligned with nearby Bronze Age barrows (burial mounds), which suggest the SEPA are Bronze Age too and could have had a related ritual purpose. The alignment of all the SEPAs is north-west to south-east. This alignment seems to have taken precedence to any alignment with the barrows. The parallel banks were oddly low, which means the earthworks were not prominent in the landscape when they were constructed, unlike the barrows.

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Most of the pits are filled with grasses and sedges, the low enclosing banks are visible where the heather has been burned-off.

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One of the pits has an excavation trench running across the pit and bank. This may have been left from Canon Atkinson’s 1848 excavation where he interpreted the pits as the remains of an ancient British pit village.

lidar

There is another line of pits close to the SEPA, this has a much more recent history and has nothing to do with boundaries. The LIDAR image above shows the pit alignments and barrows of Middle Rigg. It also shows a curving line of four pits, these are bomb craters caused by the dropping of bombs during a Zeppelin raid on the North Eastern coast in May 1916. A full account of the raid can be read here

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I walk over the rigg to the Long Stone. This beautiful monolith with it’s strange disc is probably one of the tallest stones of the Northern Moors and is one of my favourites. Is it prehistoric? I don’t know but would like to think so. It is also a fitting end point for my wander across this section of this lovely moor.

Sources

Maps and Lidar image reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland

The Official Blog of the North York Moors National Park

Zeppelin Raids Gothas and ‘Giants’, Britain’s first blitz by Ian Castle

The Sheep Fold by Bryan Hoggarth

Maggra

Walking from Boosbeck to Margrove Park, known locally as Maggra, the path follows the route of the old Guisborough to Brotton branch line. The line was opened in 1865 servicing the East Cleveland ironstone mining communities.

Hidden in the woods beside the path is one of the kilns from Carrs Tilery which operated from 1867 until 1879 and produced land drains, pipes and tiles for the Skelton Estate and the local ironstone mines.

Pipes produced in the the kiln can found in the undergrowth. The buttresses supporting the walls appear to be later additions.

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I’ve been unable to find out if there is any level of official protection on this building.

Remnants from the past and present

The ponds are now a nature reserve managed by the Tees Valley Wildlife Trust, beautiful orchids line the footpath.

This area was once home to a thriving mining community with an ironstone mine located at each end of the small valley. The few structures that remain of this industry and being allowed to decay, which is a shame when so little is left.

Boosbeck

Bosbek 1375 Barbour’s Bruce

‘Stream near the cowshed’ from OE bos(ig) and bekkr.

Margrove Park / Maggra Park

Magerbrigge 1230-50 Guis

Maugrepark 1407 YI Maugrey 1575 FF

v. pearroc. The form Maugre– possibly indicates that the first element is the OE pers. name Maepalgar; cf. Meagre

Sources

Hidden Teesside

Tees Valley Wildlife Trust

East Cleveland Image Archive

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

Thanks to Chris Wynn

Kilton

A remnant from the age of iron

Kilton Ironstone Mine

1870 – 1876 Kilton Ironstone Mine Company

1894 – 1916 Walker, Maynard & Company

1916 – 1963 Dorman Long & Company

Source – Catalogue of Cleveland Ironstone Mines. Peter Tuffs. Industrial Archaeology of Cleveland. 1996