Out of lockdown I took a short trip up onto the moors. The skies were grey and threatened a downpour but it had to be done. I chose Haredale, it’s close to home and one of those places that many people pass but few visit.
Haredale is a short valley running across the western edge of Moorsholm Moor from the top of Smeathorn Road down to the A171 Moors road. A small beck runs through the valley and crosses beneath the Moors road to become the Oven Close Beck which after a short run becomes the Swindale Beck then the Hagg Beck, which joins with the Liverton Beck to become the Kilton Beck and eventually finds the sea at Skinningrove.
I’ve been interested in this tiny dale for years as it’s on the margins of an area of quite intense prehistoric activity. Half a mile to the east of the valley there are burial mounds, enclosures and prehistoric rock art. At the head of the valley is a probable prehistoric trackway that follows a line of Bronze Age barrows across Stanghow Moor to Aysdale Gate.
On the valley side is a glacial mound called Old Castle Hill. A row of at least 3 standing stones were erected on the low hill that juts out onto the dale and probably dates to the Bronze Age.
Today there are only two stones left, both of which are laying flat in the heather.
There are also a pair of small upright standing stones at the top of the valley.
The head of the valley is deeply scarred with long linear ditches, these were caused before the modern road was constructed. The ditches are multiple trackways formed by people and horses using a track until it became too deep or difficult to navigate, and then starting a new trackway parallel to the original. Over a period of a few hundred years, multiple trackways are formed. These features can be seen all over the moors.
On arriving on the moor I walked down on the keepers track along the western edge of the valley towards the stone row. When I was last on the moors they were still in their winter coat of browns, there are now vivid green patches of bilberry spread across the valley, in a month or two the heather will begin to bloom and the bilberries will be ripe and sweet.
On the opposite side of the valley is a large erosion scar, when ever I’m around here I take a look to see what is washing out of the peat. I scrambled down to the valley floor. In my joy at being out on the moors again I neglected to pay attention to where I was walking, what I thought was a small island in the middle of the beck was in fact a deep bog. My first leg went in to the top of my thigh, my second leg, just over the knee. A moment of panic, I’m stuck in a bog at the bottom of a valley with no one around, time to be calm, I lay across the surface and slowly levered my legs out of the mire.
I sat on the bank for a few minutes checking that I’d not dropped anything into the bog, car keys, camera all present. I was sodden and mud-caked but happy, laughing at myself for making such a basic error.
I had a mooch around the scar, at its head is a chalybeate (iron-rich) spring, the red waters of the spring contrast with the grey stoney clay, eroding-out from beneath the peat..
..then the heavens opens, soaked from the feet up and now being drenched from the head down, I decided to give up and head back to the car.
This may all sound a bit grim but it isn’t. It’s days like these that make me feel truly alive and thankful to have such wonderful places to escape from the present awfulness of the world.
On checking the North York Moors Historic Environment Record, the Stone Row and Standing Stones are listed as prehistoric but unlike nearby prehistoric monuments, show no statutory protection, which is a shame as they could so easily be lost.