I must have driven through Commondale a hundred times but it’s only on when biking I noticed this hand stone just west of the village. It lies on the old Stokesley to Whitby turnpike road and gives directions to GISBE (Guisborough), WHITBY and STOXLAY (Stokesley) although these inscriptions are a bit weather worn.
The stone probably dates from 1711 when the Justices sitting at Northallerton ordered that guide posts should be erected throughout the North Riding at all moorland crossroads.
Robbie Leggett and Alf Cockerill were boyhood friends who knew these moors well. Later they both became shepherds for the Gisborough Estate. When the First Work War broke out they were amongst the first to join up, taking off to London to join the Grenadier Guards. Neither were to return to the moors. Robbie had lied about his age, he was just 17 and was killed in action at the Battle of the Somme in 1916. His body was never found. In the same year Alf suffered a serious head wound at Ypres developing epilepsy. He was repatriated and hospitalised back but never recovered, dying of epilepsy and meningitis in 1920.
West House, a former farmstead on the road to Westerdale. In 1871 a vagrant, Sam Edmunds from Staffordshire, called at the farm looking for work. The farmer agreed but later that evening it seems Edmunds became worse for drink and threatened the farmer. The farmer bolted himself in and a farm servant managed to slip away to get help from New Row, a terrace of ironstone miners’ cottages, a good mile away in Kildale. Sometime later the servant returned with two other men and confronted Edmunds near the railway bridge, a short distance from the house. In the resulting scuffle Edmunds hit one of the men with a stick who died the next afternoon. Edmunds received the death sentence at York assizes.
Link to map.
In 2014 this bus stop was nominated as the most loneliest in the UK in the BBC magazine. It’s two kilometres from the nearest house at Commondale and once a fortnight the No. 26, operating from Glaisdale to Guisborough, passes at 10:30 in the morning (alternate Thursdays excluding public or bank holidays). That leaves you with two hours forty minutes to enjoy the delights of Guisborough market before the return journey.
The bus stop is more well known for the artwork inside of Shaun the Sheep.
In all directions plumes of smoke can be seen on the moors on a good day at this time of the year. The gamekeepers are burning the heather.
Grouse feed on heather. Young shoots provide the best nutritional value but grouse require taller heather for nesting and cover. To provide a managed supply of young heather patches of heather are periodically burnt. This burning cycle, lasting between 7 and 25 years result in the familiar mosaic of colours on heather moorland. The Scots call this muirburn.
Heather can only be burnt by law between 1st October and 10th April when the heather is dry but the undying peat is wet. If done correctly the heather roots are undamaged by the fire and the seeds quickly germinates. But I guess any self sown trees and shrubs such as birch and rowan will be destroyed by the fire so maintaining the North York Moors iconic heather moorland.
I spotted this fire close to the Kildale to Westerdale road on a ridge of moorland called Kempswithen.