Nearing Cock Howe, a Bronze Age round barrow on Noon Hill, we disturbed three Greylag Geese grazing on grasses on the moor. After a noisy lap to check us out they headed off north towards Brian’s Pond, happily honking away. Heather moorland is not their usual habitat. They might be in transit heading back north to their breeding grounds in Iceland or then they might some that are permanently resident in Britain.
Greylags are large pink legged geese with characteristic orange beaks. 3,300 years ago they were domesticated from which our common farmyard geese are descended. Which happened to be around the time that the burial mound at Cock Howe was constructed.
The oak woods of Newton skirting the foot of Roseberry are beginning to wake up from its winter hibernation. This lichen has probably been there all winter but I must admit that only in the spring sunshine have I noticed it. They say that lichens are a sign of clean air which is a good sign close to industrial Teesside. Lichens are notoriously difficult to identify. I think this is Oakmoss or Evernia prunastri by its scientific name. It is still used in the French perfume industry as a fixative where it is known as Mousse de Chêne.
In search of the chambered cairn on Great Ayton Moor. These stones, one adorned with modern graffiti ‘Bela Vista’, looked a likely candidate but after studying the archaeological sketches from a 1950s excavation I am now not so sure. Chambered cairns are rare, unique on the North York Moors. Eight large flat stones leaning together with a headstone to form a chamber. No skeletal remains were found but given the acid conditions that is not surprising. Pottery shards and various flint and stone objects were found. Pollen analysis helped dating the site to the Neolithic.
I am standing on one of the spoil tips for Spa Wood Ironstone Mine looking east over the East Cleveland hamlet of Charltons. The sites of three more ironstone mines can be seen in the valley below: Stanghow, South Skelton and Boosbeck. In addition Aysdalegarth and Slapewath were just off to the right and the smoke from Lingdale would have been just visible from just over the brow of the hill. It must have been a noisy and smelly place in the early years of the 20th century.
Charltons is the rows of cottages on the right built by Thomas Charlton for miners at his Slapewath mine. Margrove Park is right of centre and the village of Boosbeck is far left.
Boulders of Oolite sandstone litter the south west slope of Roseberry, the result of a monumental landslip in 1912. It was said at the time the ironstone miners were to blame but the geologists tell us now that was not so. It would have happened anyway, and it is still happening. The softer mudstone shales are still being eroded weakening the foundations of the crag. A new rockfall will occur. It might be a thousand years but it will occur.
Down below the oakwoods of Newton Wood adorn the escarpment of another sandstone layer, of a much poorer quality to be useful for building stone and in the distance, on the Cleveland Plain, the village of Great Ayton wakes up on this Monday morning.
A wet and windy morning. Cockpit or Blakey Howe is a Neolithic round barrow sited immediately behind the Lion Inn on Blakey Ridge between Rosedale and Farndale. It is one of thousands on the North York Moors, originally burial mounds but believed later to have some territorial significance. The stone post is 18th century and probably erected by Thomas Duncombe on the boundary of his Duncombe Estate although it may be a recycled prehistoric standing stone. There is a depression on the howe which is thought to have been used for cock fighting hence its name.
I remember running down this track in the 1990s. It was then a B.O.A.T., a Byway Open to All Traffic. You could take your car down it if you wanted, and many did. Landrovers anyway. On this day a convoy of Landrovers were trying to get up the hill. Ropes were tied to trees and the winches on the Landies, a de rigueur accessory, were in full use. One vehicle was on its side. All jolly good fun but not so good for this ancient route from Scugdale into Bilsdale. Recently, after much protest by the off road enthusiast community, the track has been downgraded to Public Bridleway status. All motorised vehicles are prohibited, although the Ordnance Survey map still shows it as a by way. I came up the track today and, in spite of signage showing the new status, saw plenty of evidence of recent motorcycle usage. It seems the prohibition is being ignored.