Friday, August 24, 2012

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 


  1. Interesting to see those harebells - not something I've ever seen on Dartmoor. I love seeing and hearing about any moorland. I'm just drawn to it in a way that I'm not to any other landscape, despite appreciating their beauty and enjoying them enormously. I'm always VERY happy to get back to the moors! I've not been to the Yorkshire Moors since 1983 so I think a visit is overdue...

  2. Yes it was strange seeing harebells in such a harsh environment, they clung to the heather as the wind hit them. The moors are, if not beautiful, very strange, black grouse pop their heads up every now and then as well, very different to the soft Somerset landscape with deer, foxes and badgers....