Three stones

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.

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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.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe 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.

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Moorland sands wash out from the peat and collect on the trackway.

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Towards the head of the valley the remains of ancient trees are visible where the peat has eroded away.

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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.

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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.

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The weather suddenly changes as a storm blows-in from the west. As the storm increases I decide to head back.

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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

The Legend of the Giant’s Lapstone

A giant lived in a cave near the top of Stony Ridge. He was a kindly bloke, a cordwainer by trade. The giant had a daughter who is described by Blakeborough as rarely with her father, and whilst absent on mysterious and ethereal missions left control of the household to an old housekeeper. The daughter longed to transform the cave into a luxurious home but could only use her magical powers for the good of others.

Stony Ridge

A wicked baron moved into the district and went about corrupting the local young men leading them into licentious, drunken and debauched behaviours. The women of the district were terrified of the baron and his entourage, many of the women fled in fear.

The giant began to hear tales of the shame that the baron was bringing to the women of the district and a number of men and women approached the giant to ask for his protection. On hearing of what was happening the giant was so shocked that his lapstone dropped from his knee with a crash that shook the local hills. He took the stone and hung it over the entrance to his cave. Then taking a metal bar he struck it three times calling on the gods to rise in vengeance.

Soon a beautiful chariot, fashioned in the shape of a giant boot and drawn by thirteen swans, descended from the sky driven by the giant’s daughter.  The daughter demanded to know why she had been summoned. Her father showed her the men and women who had come asking for his protection.

Woodcut,_showing_Venus_in_chariot._Wellcome_L0006603

The daughter turned to the men and told them that they had fallen because they were inclined to evil therefore their sin was their own. She then turned to the women and said that their case, in some, was different. Some were forced to wickedness but others, like the men, had brought themselves to shame and that they would be tested. The daughter then took her father’s knife and magically fashioned a hole in the lapstone, she then called upon each of the women to step forward and be tested by attempting the place their leg into the hole, then, depending on the verdict of the stone, divided the women into two groups.

Once the testing was complete the daughter addressed the first, largest group telling  them that they had nothing to feel ashamed about and any children born to them would crown their heads with blessing and not with remorse or shame,  she also informed them that any wrong done to them would be avenged on that very day. She then turned to the second, smaller, group of women and told them that the stone had convicted them and although their tempter will be removed, their shame will follow them for the rest of their days. The daughter then took the lapstone into her flying chariot and was seen, in the distance, to drop it onto the side of the bank of the Basedale Beck.

As the group retuned home from the giant’s cave they met a maiden who told them that she had been chased by the baron and his hounds. She told them how she had fled to the Basedale Beck hoping that she could escape from the pack by crossing running water. As she reached the edge of the beck the baron was just about to seize her when she lost her footing and slipped down the bank. At that moment she heard a loud thunderbolt fall to earth at which point she fainted. When she came around the hounds were lying dead around a large stone that had fallen to earth and there was no sign of the baron. Blakeborough ends the tale saying that the stone had at once become a Nemesis and a tombstone, and had rid the district of an evil thing.

Baysdale

Source – The Hand of Glory. J. Fairfax Blakeborough. 1924

Image of Venus on her chariot being drawn by swans by Albumasar Abalachi [CC BY 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

 

Crown End

This morning I headed over to Westerdale Moor. I’ve been visiting this moor for many years and have always had the place to myself. As I walked up to the moor from Hob Hole I noticed a group of estate workers over on Little Hograh Moor, I made a small bet with myself that I’d be getting a visit from a gamekeeper within half an hour of setting foot on the moor.

The heather is in full bloom and the moors look stunning, after a few short minutes my boots were covered in a fine dusting of heather pollen. Later I encountered thousands of tiny bees congregating on a sandy bank at the side of the path, I presume these were Miner bees making the most of the pollen harvest.

My first landmark on the moor was the standing stone which can be seen from the footpath on the west end of the moor, this stone is below the crest of the ridge and is about 1.2m  tall

Due north of the stone and about 100m over the ridge of the moor is an alignment of standing stones and boulders that runs for about 70m towards the Baysdale Beck, also known as the Hob Hole Beck. This alignment has  been interpreted as a Bronze Age boundary and features in Blaise Vyner’s inventory of Cross Ridge Boundaries.

Returning to the path I noticed an object embedded in the dry mud at the side of the track. It was a Swiss Army knife, it had obviously been there for a while and had a name dymo-taped onto it, Roger Pybus. I pocketed the knife and a minute or two later noticed a large 4×4 pickup heading across the moor towards me, less than half and hour, I had won my bet.

Roger Pybus

I walked up to the pickup and had a chat with the keeper. He was friendly enough and told me that he was checking to ensure that I wasn’t going to have a barbecue or fly a drone over the moor. He told me about the sculpture that his boss had erected on the far horizon. I told him that I was more interested in standing stones and asked him if Roger Pybus was one of the blokes he worked with, he said he was so I gave him the knife to return to its’ owner.

Seated Man

On the skyline, Seated Man, a sculpture by Sean Henry commissioned by the estate owner David Ross and erected on Castleton Rigg. To the right of the sculpture are a group of visitors.

Cairn

The keeper, satisfied that I wasn’t a hungry drone pilot, went on his way and I continued  eastward across the moor. This side of the moor is dotted with low cairns and banks.

My next destination was the large embanked enclosure on eastern end of the moor. The enclosure is located on fairly level ground just before it dips down into the valley to where the River Esk meets the Baysdale Beck.

The Enclosure is about 40m square with fairly well defined walls. The walls are made of stones with the occasional large upright stone on the inner face. The walls stand at about 1.5m high and 2-3m wide. There is a 3m entrance on the east side. The general consensus is that the structure is Iron Age in date, but this is not certain.

I spent a little time walking around the enclosure and admiring the views along the Esk Valley to Castleton and then headed back to the road and Hob Hole via the Esk Valley Walk footpath.

Regarding the relationship between Hob Hole and the prehistoric remains, Stanhope White makes this observation

..the belief in a race of little men who lived under the earth may stem from the first interaction of the Celts with the indigenous Bronze Age people. When from time to time, a howe was opened for some purpose, possibly to win stone, if the so-called incense cups were found, they were regarded as proof of the presence of little men.

The North York Moors. An Introduction. Stanhope White. 1979

Urn Upleatham

Elgee Map

Frank Elgee’s map of Crown End.

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A lidar image and aerial view of the Crown End enclosure

A Death in Westerdale

 

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It used to be a common belief, for instance, and is so still with many old people, that a sick person cannot die if laid upon a bed composed of the feathers of pigeons or any wild birds. I was told not long since of one Jane H-, from the neighbourhood of Westerdale, that she was lying on a bed of that description; that she was in extremis for a week, and when it was thought she could not die in consequence of being upon a bed of wild birds feathers they took her off it and laid her on a squab, where, I was informed, she died at once.

Yorkshire folk-talk; with characteristics of those who speak it in the North & East ridings

MCF Morris

1844

Westerdale

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As proof of the blessed ignorance which still prevails among these sequestered mountaineers, notwithstanding the “reading, writing, and arithmetic,” – we lay before our readers a casual conversation which we held with three of the villagers :-

First a young lad of 13 or 14 years of age. Author: “Well, my lad, who is the parson of this place?” Lad (sulkily): “He isn’t a parson; he’s a priest.” “What’s his name?” “Ah dean’t knaw” “Where does he come from?” “Ah doesn’t know” Author (ironically): “Is he a man or a woman?” “Ah thinks he’s a woman” “And what makes you think he’s a woman?” “Cause he’s got a grit black gown on” “Thank you my man!”….

The History & Antiquities of Cleveland

John Walker Ord

1846