A brilliant morning with cloudless blue skies, the moors no longer have their drab winter colours with fresh greens of bracken and bilberries. Around the moorland edges purple bell heather is in bloom. And in the damper hollows cottongrass, neither cotton nor grass, nod in the breeze, growing in profusion this year but the moors are not particularly wet.
Ernaldsti, the medieval track named after Ernald de Percy, Lord of Kildale, cuts across Hutton Moor on Percy Rigg. Hutton Moor is part of the SSSI which covers most of the North York Moors‘ heather moorland. I do find it hard to understand why a landscape managed by man to maximise the production of one species at the expense of others should be designated as a SSSI.
Boundary stones are a safe bet as a subject, so prolific, there must be scores of them on the moors, with many inscribed, providing a tantalising glimpse of their history. This stone is on the boundary of Hutton and Newton Moors and is inscribed ‘RY 1752’.
RY stands for Ralph Yoward. There are several other of his boundary stones on the moors all with this date of 1752 which is a bit of a mystery. The Yowards were a Stokesley family who were the lesses of Crown Land in Hutton and of the Lordship of Hutton Manor. Ralph succeeded on the death of his father, Richard, in 1751 and almost immediately surrendered the lease. So the mystery which is baffling local historians is why the inscription is a year after Ralph gave up the lease.
Hutton became Crown Land following the dissolution of the Hospital of the Savoy in 1702 although the Yowards are recorded as being in receipt of tithes in 1691 so it is likely the lessor at that time was the hospital. The hospital itself has an interesting history. It was founded in 1512 in London by Henry VII for “poor and needy people”. Edward VI dissolved it in 1553 only for it to be refounded three years later by Queen Mary. It seems that Hutton was one of many estates that the Hospital acquired. The Hospital was sited on what is now occupied by the Savoy Hotel and Savoy Theatre in London; close by the only part of the original buildings to survive is the chapel.
This path across Hutton Moor provides a pleasant alternative from the hard gravel of the parallel forestry track on the other side of the fence. In spite of the heather moorland being Open Access Land the path is frequently used by dog walkers and mountain bikers. It is also a SSSI. A week ago I was running along it when suddenly I did a complete face plant into the heather. My foot had been caught in a snare. Quite a shock but no damage. It has happened to me once before, in an orienteering race in the Valley of Desolation near Skipton. On that occasion my skin was broken and I had a nasty weal. Last week however there were wounds I could boast of. Maybe I wasn’t running fast enough.
Fuming, I extricated my foot and dismantled the snare. It didn’t look like an amateur job. Not the work of kids playing at Bear Grylls. Steel wire with crimped ends pegged into the ground with ½” steel angle. Ten metres further on I found another and removed that one too. And then another. But this time the snare had caught a grouse. At least I think it was a grouse. Must have been there at least a week.
So I made a return visit today. All clear.
This track, across Hutton Moor and along the ridge Percy Cross Rigg, was an ancient route from Guisborough to Westerdale. The rigg is named after a cross erected in the 13th century of which only the base remains, the cross having disappeared in the 1960s. The Percys were the lords of Kildale and the route became known as Ernaldsti after Ernaldus de Percy. But the route would have been well used much further into antiquity. It passes the site of an iron age settlement, the ridge being an obvious easy route away from the marshy and wooded valley bottoms. During that period of course there wouldn’t have been the large expanse of heather that we know today, pollen analysis has shown that the vegetation would have been more semi open pasture.
A damp morning although it did brighten up in the afternoon. But I did my exercise in the morning. The Hanging Stone is a sandstone outcrop on Ryston Nab overlooking Guisborough which has for the five decades or so has been partially hidden by forestry. Recent felling however has opened up the view. On a clear day ships can be seen on the North Sea queuing up to enter the Teesport.
Link to map.