My friend Martyn Hudson has published a very special book called, on blackamoor. Martyn has an intimate knowledge of the moors, but more that that he has a deep love of the place, something which is very evident in his writing, as he takes us on a very personal journey through its unique landscape and history.
If you have any interest at all in the North York Moors or the history and folklore of a landscape, I would encourage you to read this beautiful book. Copies can be purchased here
Watch Martyn talking about the Moors for the recent Discover Middlesbrough History Month here
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 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.
Source – Some Reminiscences and Folk Lore of Danby Parish & District. 1953
Map Image – Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland
A lovely painting of the Old Wife’s Neck standing stones by my multi-talented friend Tony Galuidi.
Check out more of his work here
Blakey Ridge – The Honey Poke – Flat Howe – Esklets – Sweet Banks – South Flat Howe – Bimshaw – Blakey Gill Head
It was a fine day on the coast so I thought I’d take a walk onto the moors. As I climbed onto Castleton Rigg the wind picked-up and the skies started to darken. I decided to wander over to the head of Westerdale via Flat Howe and the remains of the Blakey colliery bell pits.
The moorland path starts at one of the most accessible of the moorland prehistoric standing stones, Margery Bradley. The view is to the south into Rosedale.
The path is marked by small walker’s cairns and the occasional estate boundary stone. This one, marking the boundary of the Feversham Estate, has been broken for many years.
Moorland sands wash out from the peat and collect on the trackway.
Towards the head of the valley the remains of ancient trees are visible where the peat has eroded away.
Sediment profiles taken at nearby Esklets also provides a vegetation record from the late Mesolithic, showing a heavily wooded landscape dominated by alder and hazel, perhaps indicating low stature woodland, rather than oak forest.
Netting made from natural fibres has been laid on the worst of the eroded areas, presumably to give the moorland grasses a foothold and try to limit the erosion of the peat.
The weather suddenly changes as a storm blows-in from the west. As the storm increases I decide to head back.
The storm has passed, I arrive back on Blakey Ridge close to the old road mender’s boundary stone.
Source North East Yorkshire Mesolithic Project Phase 2 Report by Mags Waughman
“Some artists create a distinctive sound, others magic up an accompanying persona and backstory. Kev Oyston and Chris Lambert have gone one further: their Black Meadow project has seized control of an area of the North York Moors and used it as the backdrop for a deliberately confusing, unsettling multimedia mix of disturbing folklore and Cold War paranoia.
“…the story is set out in the shadow of an early warning ballistic missile station at RAF Fylingdales where a mysterious village, trapped in a pre-industrialised web of sinister superstition, appears sporadically from the mist. “The Village Under The Lake” is a sweeping orchestral overture with banks of synthetic, otherworldly choirs, impressively echoing the cinema work of John Williams. Meanwhile, “Ghost Planes” reverts to haunted type with the crackle of analog MOD communications and the rumble of discontented synths soundtracking investigations into a mysterious aircraft seemingly spiralling backwards through time. “Song Of The Meadow Bird” is a disquieting pastoral delight, all ersatz harpsichords and flutes, the half forgotten theme to some spooky 1970s BBC children’s drama.”
Bob Fischer, Electronic Sound Issue 61, January 2020
Release date 31.01.2020. Available for pre-order here
On an overcast Solstice day, I go looking for one of Frank Elgees prehistoric settlement sites in the Commondale Beck valley
Limekilns are few and far between on the northern moors
Tall solitary pines are also a rarity.
Sunlight briefly breaks through, a moment of joy
The sound of the train fills the valley
The settlement site sits on a terrace overlooking the Commondale Beck. Elgee found other sites on located on the same terrace on both sides of the river.
An old hollow way leads to one of the many rocky outcrops on the valley side, a quarry for field walls and butts.
Clouds are moving rapidly westwards across the moors, I catch a glimpse of the sun.
An alignment of grouse butts runs across the moor, tops covered with fresh turfs.
The moor is sodden, there is a possible alignment of standing stones on the moor top
I return to the road, blue skies can be seen through a break in the clouds above the Kildale Gap, I head west.
On the edge of the escarpment I encounter the sun, I drink tea and bask in its warmth.
When I dee, for dee I s’all, mind ye carry me to my grave by t’church-road
Street Lane – Water (Great Fryup Beck) -Long Causeway Road – Nun’s Green Lane – High Gill – Fairy Cross Plain – Water (Little Fryup Beck) – Stonebeck Gate Lane – Slate Hill – Church Way – Danby Rigg – Tofts Lane – Crossroad – St. Hilda’s Church
Choose the wrong path, risk waking The Old Wife.
Round Hill & The Fairy Cross Plain
Stoups guard the route
The descent into Danby Dale & St Hilda’s Church