Sleddale Farm

Sleddale Beck is a tributary of the River Esk and joins the North Sea at Whitby. The farm is surrounded on all sides by moorland and is given over almost entirely to livestock production. A study of the map (see here) reveals that the Public Footpath (green dashed line) that crosses Gisborough Moor on the far side of the far, inexplicably stops just before the farm (near the tall tree right of centre). There is no Right of Way past the farmhouse and up the track. This omission has always intrigued me.

For those readers outside of England who may be confused with all this a little bit of history might help. Historically you have had no right to go on to any land without the permission of the landowner who often resorted to force if they were adamant they didn’t want trespassers there. Protests against landowners of vast shooting estates allowing no public access culminated in the mass trepass movements in the 1930s. War interrupted the protests but eventually in 1949 an Act of Parliament was passed requiring local County Councils to produce a “Definitive Map” showing all highways, footpaths and bridleways where access had traditionally existed. Rights of Way were finally explicitly enshrined in law.

So in the early 1950s the County Councils were busy preparing their definitive maps. Armed with earlier editions of the Ordnance Survey maps, surveyors would visit farms and landowners to confirm that the footpaths shown were indeed used by the public and not private. Routes to a village, school, smithy, mill or well travelled by farmers, children or even the postman would be evidence of public usage.

The Act was not universally popular so it is not hard to imagine that some landowners were less than helpful. Some surveyors also would have been more conscientious or persuasive than others. So perhaps this might explain the quirk at Sleddale.


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