Saturday, August 25, 2012

Pickering Church

The wall paintings at the church at Pickering – St.Peter and St.Paul

The wall painting on both sides of the church are beautifully depicted, there is almost a feminine hand to be seen.  Painted flowers adorn the panels between the panels of stories, painted feet stray into the patterned areas.  Subject matter covers biblical stories as well as historic matter.  The church replaced a Saxon church 900 years ago.  The early Norman church, rebuilt in 1140 would have been of the simple cruciform lay-out.  It was later enlarged, after the massive tower collapsed, which then took a total of 300 years to build.  The wall-paintings was probably done around the date of 1450, but only a 100 years later they were covered at the time of the Protestant Reformation.  They were then rediscovered in 1852, but apparently because of their “Popish superstitions’ the then vicar had them covered once more in whitewash, and it was only in 1876 a more sympathetic vicar had them uncovered and once more restored.

St.George and the slaying of the dragon on the left and St.Christopher on the right

St. Christopher

Christopher normally faces the entrance to the church in his role as patron saint of travellers.   His legend tells us that a young man Offero set off on a journey to find the ‘greatest king’ so that he could devote himself to the king’s service.  He travelled round the world progressively serving greater monarchs until, at last he found his way to a monastery there to serve King Jesus, as some sort of penance for not being able to say his prayers or able to fast, he was set by the abbot to carry pilgrims and travellers across the river to the monastery.
One evening he heard a child crying on the far bank, he carried the child on his shoulder but found him much heavier than anyone Offero had ever carried.  The child said “Your load is heavy, because you are carrying someone who carries the sins of all the world”  After that he was called Christian the ‘Christ-Bearer’


Edmund was born in 840 AD and at 14 he became the Christian king of East Anglia.  In 869 the invading Viking armies marched through Mercia and into East Anglia destroying the abbeys of Peterborough and Ely.  Edmund was defeated at Hoxney, and the Danish king offered to set up Edmund as ‘puppet king’, if he would renounce his religion and his God.  Edmund of course refused and on November 20th, 870 AD he was martyred.  He was stripped, tied to a tree, and shot with arrows and then later beheaded. ……..  There is something maliciously cruel about the deaths of the middle ages, spiteful and cruel, a way of keeping the populace under control.


Catherine of Alexandria, was to become the patron saint of women, virgins, philosophers and students after her persecution and death at the hands of the Emperor Maxentius (306-312).  She had protested to the emperor about the worship of idols, she also debated with philosophers about religion and turned them in favour of her argument.  This so enraged Maxentius that he had the philosophers killed, Catherine was brought out of prison, stripped to the waist and flogged.  She is visited in prison by the Empress Faustina who is also converted, the emperor again is so enraged that he kills the empress, and then tortures Catherine on a spiked wheel and then she was executed.  The story is told in a strip cartoon form, the little prison house is tiny, with poor Catherine looking out.
Also of course, the whirligig firework  called the Catherine Wheel is named after her.

Nearly all the photos came out dark, so a certain amount of lighting had to be done, it was an impressive these wall paintings, a slightly nondescript Saxon font, in all a pretty church standing above the little town

Grand children

Well as we were there, the A level results came through on the 20th and Tom, my eldest grandson who had sat his exams, must have been on tenterhooks the night before.  Apparently he came down to breakfast clutching his computer, over the moon, he had passed and was offered a place at Middlesex Uni, his chosen place to study, basically because it is near London and serves the Met.  Yes he wants to work in the police force and is willing to take on the enormous student debt that our children are now saddled with - foolish child!  He got a distinction in his law exam, so we are all terribly proud of him.
Ben is the next (age 12) to be launched into the world, but that won't be for a few years yet.  As for the girls, now thereby hangs the tale of Lillie falling in the fountain.  They had come to stay the night, even Lillie who never strays far from her mother but she had decided to be independent. Everything went well and the next morning I said I would take them up to Pannett Park play area, the usual heart in the mouth time as Matilda with all her energy threatens to go over the top of the swings or fall on her head as she swings upside down on the bars.  But it all went safely and we went down to the lily pond.  Matilda is like a young gazelle, never still and Lillie follows her, so when the splash came it was unexpected. She emerged in tears and covered with pond weed and we all walked home, she to a hot bath.  The following photos includes one of Lillie reading the plaque, two months ago she was hardly reading, now everything is read and my abiding memory of her at the cottage is flat out on the cushion reading her book completely absorbed.  Matilda is very caring to her younger sister and it is a lovely relationship, though of course she grabbed the camera and took a shot of the dripping Lillie.

Morris dancing and folk music

Writing in his The Anatomie of Abuses (1583), a sort of Elizabethan version of the Daily Mail which excoriated the declining state of England and the degenerate behaviour of its people, Stubbs turns the full force of his censorious quill on the morris men: "They strike up the Devil's Dance withall: then march this heathen company towards the church and churchyards, their pypers pyping, the drummers thundering, their stumpes dancing, their belles jyngling, their hankercheefes fluttering about their heads like madde men." More than four centuries later, they are still doing so; in fact, the pastime appears to gaining popularity. taken from The Independent.

We stayed longer in Whitby because there was a folk festival, and regatta, happening in the third week.  So for a few days we heard the merry jangle of bells as they passed the entrance to the yard.  The bells were on the dancers legs and wrists, quite a few women groups and stave and sword dancing, plus blackened faces.
There is controversy over this, politically incorrect but apparently the explanation is to do with the fact that villagers who were forced to beg in front of their friends and neighbours would blacken their faces so as to be unrecognisable.

The town was crowded not only with tourists but with dancing groups, people playing instruments in the street, I came back with a South American music CD (might even have been Ecuadorian), in fact Whitby was enjoying life!  The Elsinore Pub just by us hosted folk music every night, so half the bar room was about a good dozen musicians playing, often joined by people coming in and playing with them and the other half of the room jam packed with listeners.... a unique experience,  The Elsinore is also of course the 'Goth' pub so we might go down in October to experience that as well.

There is a revival of Morris dancing, we see it down here in Essex, whatever you may think of grown men and women dancing in this manner, it is uplifting, the music, the steps being called out by the leader, even by a small girl proud to be amongst her elders, so in that dottiness that we call British history and tradition, let it reign!

Friday, August 24, 2012

The Wheeldale Roman Road

Travelling over our favourite bit of the moors past the little beck that tumbles down over the rocks, a dark brown colour (this due to the peat on the moors), we find the roman road about a mile on from the beck. It is just off the moor road, stretching down to another little beck, and having at its other end a cairn so the map says.  There is some dispute over this road it seems to march towards Pickering and a small roman fort outside, but only has some of the characteristics of a roman road.  For a start there is no gravel over the large flagstones, but it is ditched on either side with large stone forming curbing along both sides. And every now and then there is a retaining curb going horizontal across.  The theory mooted is that it might have been earlier, or even later Saxon, who knows?  Photos around the 60s decade show a road cleared of vegetation but now it is very overgrown.

I find sheep fascinating, they always manage to move from the road as we drive past, dotted through the heather, they go their weary way chomping on the grass, this one at Wheeldale Beck is quite sprightly.

Road closed, at the beck but the roman road is but a mile or so further

Wheeldale beck

Horizontal kerbing across the road

the road stretching down to the water

moor and forest
You can see from the following photos that the terrible coniferous foresting of the middle of last century has taken hold of the landscape, a dark green mass that sits on the horizon

Over the Moors

Second left along the A171 and we head for the moors once more, its bleak barrenness never fails to create a moment of wonder.  Climbing the small steep lane, the shuddering of the car as it goes over the cattle grid and there it is.  Brown is the colour that immediately strikes you it stretches for miles in all directions also there is the sight of burnt heather, which is deliberately burnt each year for regeneration of the heather itself, creating a patchwork effect on the slopes. As you drive further onto the moor a green valley will start to appear down below with small clusters of houses scattered along a white ribbon of a lane.
Stop the car, and then you notice the small palette of colour around you, in fact the heather flowers are coming out, a rich purple, paler mauve and then white, the tiny flowers being mined by bees.

The wind is blowing fiercely, no sheep around, but the turf has been bitten to a fraction of its former size and there is a tapestry of tiny white and yellow flowers interwoven.  North Yorkshire Moors are probably one of the largest moors in Europe a vast wasteland only good for grouse, sheep and wildlife.  Awe-inspiring is perhaps another word to use, for to those of us bought up in towns this ‘wilderness’ is spectacular, the occasional small farm culling the wilderness and making inroads with their green fields, but you notice the incipient rush, or reed forcing its way into the green sward.  The bracken fights for its space as well, its gentle fronds are poisonous to animals as well as humans, yet there are acres of it.

We stop so that I can take a photo of an old  stone by the side of the road, it has attitude this stone, prehistoric probably, way marking stones can be found along these isolated roads across the moor, they trace the path of the road when the moors are buried in snow.  Walking towards the stone I notice harebells blowing in the wind protected by the more solid heather plants.  Sky blue gentle nodding flowers they always uplift the spirit, it is the clarity of their colour, a blue not often found in the flower kingdom.

Driving for miles over this landscape, grouse butts are different here to what we have seen before, grassy banks with stones delineating their  size, on top of some of them, seed trays have been placed with what looks like salt but we don’t stop to investigate.  Walker cairns stand  isolated and strange in the far distance, walkers I suppose must be grateful for their presence giving shelter from the continuous wind, a bronze age cairn sometimes makes an appearance on the horizon but the presence of the dead has little effect, solitary monuments to those people who may have made these desert like moors.

The stair turret at Rosedale

We arrive at Rosedale Abbey, a pleasant little village, welcoming to tourists with its teashop, nothing much remains of the abbey itself just a small stone staircase turret, close to the church.  The terraced houses here are rather beautiful, as tiny as our cottage, they have pointed window frames echoing the old abbey once, but built more recently, perhaps late Victorian or early  20th century.  There was iron mined in the area and perhaps they were built by the mine owner for his workers, so much history everywhere to discover.  Today these cottages are probably used for holiday homes
Then on to Pickering, (another blog) with its spectacular  wall paintings in the church.  Pickering is a pretty little market town, driving around it on our way down to Whitby, you miss this little town of small shops, a good place to live.  We go on to explore a pub at Levisham, first we must take the road through the Domesday village of Lockton, we turn left down  a small lane,a  precipitous steep fall into the valley below to the right of the car looks worrying, we meet three cars racing haphazardly up the lane, and LS pulls over quickly.  The lane is dangerous, zigzagging down to the bottom  and then into the village.  There is a small train station somewhere perhaps behind the pub which forms the dead-end of the village itself.  We do not stop, LS decides he doesn’t want a pint and then driving back over that road!  But apparently you can walk round to Holcrum Hole from here, a matter of a few miles and presumably catch the little steam train back to Whitby on the return journey.

A visual impression of this area, is sparse dark moors but interspersed with radiant green valleys farmed right to ‘the edge’ of the moors.  Small stone houses, are dotted round begging the question what sort of livelihood people make here.  Our neighbour says that the people of Whitby grumble and are angry about tourist cottages and the great influx of tourists in high season – no jobs for the young and no houses.  Whilst sympathising with this, the cottages you find in the town are very small, hardly conducive to bringing up a family and there is a large surburban area at the top end.

Jobs are a problem everywhere of course, there is a new mine to open soon on the moors, which has given rise to some opposition but it will provide quite a few more jobs, and Sainsbury has just opened its doors giving the Co-Op a run for its money.  We have found that August in Whitby is crowded and perhaps not the best time to come, though of course once out on the moors there is hardly anyone.

Not a good photo, they were blowing around in a very strong wind 

Saturday, August 4, 2012


These two photos are Matilda's photo of Falling Foss, she has not captured the small waterfall that is to the side of the cottage.  Set in the middle of the woods, this little cottage does teas on special days.
We had also been on an earlier trip, and whilst sitting in the car park a person with two dogs came back.  One was a friendly labrador carrying in his mouth something that looked disgusting but he refused to give it up.  When the owner finally got it off him, it was a badly decomposed deer head.
We are off to Whitby tomorrow, car loaded up, with the patchwork cushions I made and dozens of other things, pots of lilies are resplendent in the garden, so we might cut them and take them along, though their yellow pollen stains.
The photo of the waterfall is about as near as you can get, as it is difficult to get down to and probably dangerous as well as the bank is steep.

The trackway down  @ Matilda

Peter Church and licensed for reuse under the Creative Commons Licence