A break in the clouds. The bell heather is passed its best. The ling is beginning to bloom. It’s going to be a fine day. A view from Easby Bank.
The year 1668 started off with a duel between George Villiers, the Duke of Buckingham and the Earl of Shrewsbury over the Duke’s affair with the Countess of Shrewsbury. The Earl was fatally wounded after which the Countess moved in with the Duke and his wife, Mary. Un ménage à trois. At the time the Duke was a major landowner on the moors. King Charles II was on the throne and London was recovering from its Great Fire two years earlier. And above the hamlet of Low Easby a stonemason was carving the date 1668 onto the gatepost on the left.
The farm is Borough Green Farm with the Cleveland Hills in the distance. Borough Green Farm is the farm where Leading Aircraftman Atholl Barker managed to reach in February 1940 in the early hours of the morning when his Hudson NR-E crashed close to Captain Cook’s Monument killing the other three members of the crew Flying Officer Tom Parker, Sergeant Harold Berksley and Corporal Norman Drury. Suffering from concussion Barker would have stumbled across these fields in the dark to raise the alarm.
Thurkilsti, or Thurkill’s hill road as mentioned in Walter Espec’s grant of land to Rievaulx Abbey in 1145. An ancient route across the moors from Welburn and Skiplam descending here down Turkey Nab on its way to Ingleby Greenhow and Stokesley. The route is now classified as a Byway Open to All Traffic which makes it very popular with off road vehicles.
The wall corner is named as Park Corner on old Ordnance Survey maps, the corner of Park Plantation. The blip on the horizon is Roseberry Topping, mostly hidden behind Easby Moor.
I don’t want to sound disrespectful but I was rather dismayed to discover this celebratory inscription on a sandstone outcrop near Captain Cook’s Monument on Easby Moor. It’s very obtrusive, with six inch high capital letters, so overall quite an area.
There seems to be a modern predilection for public memorials to passed loved ones. I know of a whole poem carved in a crag face near Boulby, plaques bolted to rock or screwed into trees are becoming commonplace. There are four memorial benches on Roseberry. How many more can the hill take? Shrines are everywhere too, with bouquets of flowers often still wrapped in their cellophane. At popular beauty spots too there are deposits of little piles of ashes, not scattered to the four winds. Until very recently on Roseberry there were ashes still in the polythene bag supplied by the crematorium. And at this time of the year there seems to be an increasing number of clumps of (non-native) daffodils.
But of course commemoration is not a modern idea. The inscription in the photograph is overlooked by the 19th century monument to Captain James Cook. And of course the four thousand Bronze Age burial mounds that are known to exist on the moors can not be ignored. So perhaps in the past it was always those with power who could make a lasting mark of commemoration.
I just had to climb Easby Moor today to visit the monument to Captain James Cook R.N. Today, because on this day in 1779 Capt. Cook was killed at Owyhee in the Hawaiian Islands. The Wikipedia account of his death makes it sound as though Cook’s arrogance and assumed superiority contributed to what the inscription on his monument of Easby Moor describes as a massacre. One recent TV programme I’ve seen suggested that Cook was suffering from the onset of mental illness. It is easy to look with modern eyes but news of his death, by the time it reached our shores, shocked the nation. James Cook spent his childhood at Airyeholme Farm in Great Ayton and has become deeply engraved in the psyche of the village. He went to school there and his statue as a schoolboy stands overlooking the village green.
I thought I would head for Captain Cook’s Monument on Easby Moor this morning as on this day in 1778 Cook became the first European to visit the Hawaiian Islands naming them the Sandwich Islands, after John Montagu, the 4th Earl of Sandwich and the First Lord of the Admiralty.
On the way back I cut across Great Ayton Moor to look at the Iron Age Enclosure. This is a rectilinear ditch and earth bank about 24m across that looks very impressive on Google Earth. It was excavated in the 1950s when the remains of a oval roundhouse, hearth and pottery fragments were discovered, dating to about 100 BC. For the photo I’ve only managed to capture the north western corner of the earthworks which are just about discernible without the summer’s lush growth of bracken. At the time of construction the moor was open grassland. Nearby was an arable field system. The climate was warmer and drier than today.
Appropriately for this day, in the far distance standing proud on Easby Moor is the 51 feet high monument to Capt. James Cook RN.
My one and only nod to the festive season. Every year since I can remember the tree on the far side of the path has been decorated at Christmas. When they first appeared it was a mere sapling with just a bauble or two but the decorations, like the tree, have grown. They have now spread to adjacent trees. If past years are anything to go by the decorations will still be there long after Twelfth Night and by Easter they are looking a little forlorn. But eventually they’ll be taken down. Assuming of course they survive the onslaught of Storm Conor.
Could I take this opportunity of wishing all of you a very Merry Christmas.