Formerly in Kirkleatham, this is a collection of cottages attached to the ironworks. Now entirely obliterated is the medieval chapel of St. Sepulchre, and a burial ground. Gone too is the large 18th century grain warehouse. Over fisherman’s crossing is a road leading to Tod Point or South Gare, at the mouth of the Tees commenced in 1861
Cleveland An A-Z Guide by Alec Wright. Dalesman Books 1972
Another one of Graham’s beautiful films. Filmed during a walk we took around the Bran Sands, using an ancient Ensign Auto-Kinecam camera and 16mm film hand processed in Ilford ID-11. The soundtrack was created by Greg Marshall
Pretty much at the top of my post-lockdown visit list was a trip to visit Jenny Twigg and her Daughter Tibb and the Sypeland Crags in Upper Nidderdale. Following a minor navigational blunder, nothing new for me, I met up with Mr. Chappell and Mr. Vasey and we set off across Fountains Earth Moor.
Travel almost anywhere in the Pennines and their foothills, you’ll see crags and cliffs defining the upper slopes of the Pennine Dales and hilltops. These outcrops are generally composed of either sandstones or limestone. Millstone Grit is a generic term for a number of Pennine sandstones. Both the sandstones and the limestone were deposited over 300 million years ago during the Carboniferous Period.
At first, with some spread of warm shallow seas, limestone formed, the Carboniferous or Mountain Limestone that was to be built into some of the most solid and respectable piles in England, buttresses of its pride and self confidence. The work of silting up these Carboniferous seas was completed by deposits brought from the northern continent of Atlantis, then hot, mountainous and swept by monsoons. A large river with tributaries drawn from territories stretching from the north of Scotland to Norway poured out its coarse sediments across north-eastern England. So were Norwegian pebbles brought to Yorkshire and held in the Millstone Grits that were laid down as the deltas of this northern river.
The Pennine limestones are massive and dense and form great scars where they outcrop along the scarp edges of the hills. Limestone can be weathered chemically, the weakly acidic rains and rivers of the uplands gradually dissolves the limestone to form the deep gorges and caves and the iconic limestone pavements of the Karst landscapes of the Pennine Uplands.
When Millstone Grits outcrop on the scarp edges they tend to form crags and cliffs. These sandstones are resistant to chemical weathering so are eroded by wind and ice. the weather is able to erode the weaker beds within the sandstones and sculpt the rocks into strange shapes. There are many of these sculpted outcrops along the Pennine edges and tops, almost all were formed during the last Ice Age, the most well known being Brimham Rocks which is now owned by the National Trust and has been a popular tourist attraction for many generations.
Sypeland Crags are little known and somewhat off the tourist beat and track, this was evident by the lack of ancient or modern graffitti on the rocks. The rock type here is the Lower Brimham Grit, a course grained sandstone. There are only 3 named rocks on the moor, Jenny Twigg and her Daughter Tibb and a massive boulder called Tib’s tent.
The origin of the Twigg and Tibb names is not known and there are very few literary references to the stones. I first read about them in Guy Ragland Phillips book, Brigantia – A Mysteriography. Phillips quotes a passage from William Grainges 1863 book, Nidderdale.
..is a large group of naked rocks, some of them of enormous bulk, called Sypeland Crags; they are of the course millstone grit, like those of Brimham, the grotesque grandeur of which they imitate, though on a smaller scale. Two of them a short distance from the main group are tall upright pillers and at a distance have the appearance of giantesses in broad bonnets, from which resemblance they have recieved the names of Jenny Twigg and her Daughter Tibb,
The folklore of the area says that Jenny Twigg and Tibb were the keepers of a drovers inn on the side of Dead Man’s Hill. They are said to have robbed and murdered three drovers and buried their decapitated bodies. When the bodies of the men were discovered Jenny and Tibb were found guilty of murder and hanged. Another tale says that they were witches who were turned to stone, a familiar tale at number of megalithic sites. The tale of the witches being turned to stone is very similar to tales in Scandinavian folklore where are number of large rock features are thought to have been giant trolls, of both sexes, who were instantly petrified when the suns rays fell upon them.
Ragland Phillips book doesn’t mention the murders and there appears to be no official records of the trial and execution of the women. He does mention the summit of Dead Man’s Hill, telling us that three headless bodies were found at a point where three tracks diverge into Wharfedale, Coverdale and Nidderdale. He goes on to say that it is also the point where three walls meet at a ‘peculiar’ structure known as Jenny’s Gate. It strikes me that the burial of three headless bodies at the point where three important tracks meet, if true, sounds more ritualistic than anything else.
Jenny Twigg has a hole running through the stone, the hole is large enough to pass your arm through. In some parts of our islands there was a tradition that any oath or vow sworn, including marriage, and shook upon through a holed stone, was ‘sealed in stone’ and never to be broken
There are a number of beautiful weather-sculpted rocks along the edge of the crags.
Some of the rocks have been undercut by the elements, one has been walled-in to form a rock shelter. Others have small pools of peat-stained water at their base and on the top surface of one large rock there are a number of large basins, the most I’ve ever seen.
Pereidolia – The Kiss
Tibbs Tent and light snow
This is a grouse moor, the butts are well kept, there is a maintained shooting house and there is grit left out for the birds, over the course of our day we only saw one grouse on the moor. We left for home watching squalls over the distant Vale of York.
Sypelands – Sibberlands 1609
Nidd – British river name. Root Nei – to be brilliant. Nedd/Neath – Wales, Nita – Germany, Nidar – Scandanavia
Moors. Remains of Elmet – Ted Hughes 1979
A Land – Jacquetta Hawkes 1978
Brigantia, A Mysteriography – Guy Ragland Phillips 1976
Map Image reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland
The Consise Oxford Dictionary of Place Names – Eilert Ekwall. 1974 edition
My multi-talented friend Graham Vasey has written a book. Graham is an artist, writer, photographer, countryman and fisherman philosopher, he also brews wonderful beer. I’d recommend you take a look.
The one positive thing to come out of lockdown for me is I have finally finished my book “The Fishing Flies Of A Teesdale Angler” in which I look at over 30 flies published by Robert Lakeland in the 1850’s. Within the book I discuss the flies individual history (many of which go back to the 17th century) the materials they were created with and how we can replicate these simple but effective fishing flies. It is available to buy directly from Blurb.com for £25 plus postage, but if people would like a copy please contact me, if I can order over 20 copies I can offer it at a significantly cheaper at £15 plus postage.
I took a trip into the Durham Dales with my friend Graham Vasey. County Durham is a bit of a mystery to me, growing up on the south bank of the Tees I’ve always viewed County Durham as a place of declining post-industrial townships hastily built in the service of king coal and the ironmasters; Institute walls maintaining memories of explosions, collapsing shafts and pals whose bones fertilise foreign fields. Graham is slowly enlightening me and correcting my ignorance.
We arrived at Escomb to visit the beautiful Saxon church of St John, itself once a ruin, now saved and restored.
Boundary walls topped with raw slag and scoria brick paving speak of the district’s recent past
Keys at No.28
An austere beauty, each stone block has a tale, many carved by Roman hands
The near-by Roman fort at Binchester was a convenient quarry for the Saxon masons; an intact Roman arch, it’s underside decorated with remnants of a medieval fresco
The altar cross recycled, below it a beautiful Frosterley Marble Grave slab
Two sundials, one the oldest in England
The key to the interpretation of the sculpture lies in Saxon mythology, to a period before the emergence of the cult of Valhalla and the Viking Gods. For just as the beast’s head has little resemblance to a stag, so too it bears little resemblance to a wolf. We are looking at a chaos monster… Nicholas Beddow 1991
Cockfield Fell is described as “one of the most important early industrial landscapes in Britain”. In addition to four Iron Age (or Romano-British) settlement enclosures, there is evidence within the landscape of early coal mines (the Bishop of Durham licensed mining here at least as early as 1303), medieval agricultural field patterns, centuries of quarrying activity, a railway line established in the 1830s and several earlier tramways All together, Cockfield Fell constitutes England’s largest Scheduled Ancient Monument, described as ‘an incomparable association of field monuments relating to the Iron settlement history and industrial evolution of a northern English County’. One reason for its preservation – unusual for a lowland fell – is that it was not subject to enclosure in the 18th or 19th centuries, perhaps due to its highly industrialised past. Source
The fell is ablaze with fragrant golden whin
The Cleveland Dyke outcrops on the fell and was quarried for roadstone.
The remains of the Gaunless Viaduct
Gaunless ME gaghenles ‘useless’ (from ON gagnlauss). The name may refer to scarcity of fish or the like. English Place-Names. Eilert Ekwall. 1959
Coal was mined on the fell from the early medieval period until the late nineteenth century
Beehive coke ovens on the valley floor
A beautiful Cob keeps me company
Map reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland
Many thanks to Graham Vasey for showing me around this wonderful place