John, one of my regular readers, put me onto this. It’s a dressed sandstone stone at the corner of Sunny Bank Plantation at the foot of Clay Bank. The inscription says “NOV 1906 PENSHURST ACORN”. The wording occupied my thoughts on my cycle home. A boundary stone? But sandstone boundary stones are more usual on the high moors and a few generations earlier. I can not think of any 20th century boundary stones on the moors. Back home Google came up with some clues.
In Penshurst Place, in Kent there is, or was, a very famous oak tree called the Sidney Oak after Sir Philip Sidney, a prominent Elizabethan soldier, poet and courtier. I say was because it finally succumbed to old age only last year, reputed to be 1,000 years old. Does the stone mark the spot where an acorn from the Penshurst Sidney Oak was planted? There is no oak tree now growing underneath the shade of an overgrown spruce.
But is there a connection between this odd corner of Ingleby Greenhow and Penshurst Place. Well yes, in the mid 19th century, Lady Mary Foulis, only child and heiress of the last Foulis baronet, Lord of the Manor of Ingleby Greenhow, married the 2nd Lord de Lisle & Dudley of Penshurst Castle, who was a descendant of the said Sir Philip Sydney. So the two estates came to belong to the same family.
Apparently there are another 4 or 5 similar stones in the neighbourhood. I wonder if those acorns have had more success.
For those who like a scenic posting, there is a fine view of Roseberry from the stone looking almost due north, unfortunately that spruce tree prevented me from getting it as a backdrop, so a bonus today:
A local name for this ancient oak surviving in a split rock. The Woodland Trust records its girth as 6 metres. A trees girth is usually used as an estimate of a tree’s age. However when competing with other trees around a tree is likely to be taller with a narrower trunk. It is not know what the surrounding vegetation was like when the tree was in its prime but Medusa has been estimated to be at least 240 years old although I have read one report which gives a figure twice that. Nevertheless we can be sure that in 1777 this tree was at least a sapling, and George III was on the throne and Captain James Cook was on his third and final voyage.
An overcast Summer Solstice with heavy rain this morning but the sun finally dropped below the clouds on setting. View from Greenhow Avenue.
Seemingly three wizened and gnarled old oak trees growing close together. Actually these are the same tree, the trunk of which has hollowed and rotted away. This makes the girth of the trunk almost 11m indicating a very old tree, well over 600 years.
The British have a special fondness for the oak. The pedunculate variety is the national tree of the United Kingdom. It is generally thought that the oak was the dominant tree of the wildwood which covered the whole of lowland Britain before Neolithic man began the process of clearances. But nobody really knows, as there are no surviving examples of that original wildwood. However modern pollen analyses have shown that the dominant tree was the lime. Oak was present of course along with hazel and elm.
Oak has been known as the crooked wood or compass timber because it naturally formed the best shapes for the cruck framework of ships and buildings. An Elizabethan ship would require 2,000 oak trees, felled from a wood covering 50 acres and only maturing after 50 years. Oak was also coppiced with the poles being used for charcoal, pit props or the extraction of tannin from the bark.
But this tree has somehow managed to avoid being felled and The Woodland Trust say it is a “maiden” tree and so has not been coppiced. 600 years on it is still going strong. Regular readers will recognise that it has been featured in this blog before, two years ago.
I parked at Bank Foot, below Turkey Nab, said to derive from the local name for the grouse: wild turkeys. Or else it may come from Thurkilsti, the name of the ancient drovers’ road from Kildale to Kirbymoorside. From Bank Foot the track winds up Ingleby Bank, circling past the nab. The last time I actually climbed to the nab there was no cairn. Since them someone has gone to a lot of effort to re-build it. A rather precarious construction, on a sloping overhanging ledge.
I thought about William Parkinson, hung and gibbeted on this spot in 1729 for the murder of a Scottish drover at Great Broughton. He was tried at York assizes and brought back for the sentence to be carried out. All within fifteen days. Swift justice.
Later on my route I visited various sandstone outcrops and stones on Ingleby Moor and came across some verses on a piece of paper secreted away. These strangely resonated with my earlier thoughts of William Parkinson:
They hauled him to the crossroads
As day was at its close;
They hung him to the gallows
And left him for the crows.
His hands in life were bloody,
His ghost will not be still
He haunts the naked moorlands
About the gibbet hill.
And oft a lonely traveler
Is found upon the fen
Whose dead eyes hold a horror
Beyond the world of men.
The villagers then whisper,
With accents grim and dour:
“This man has met at midnight
The phantom of the moor.”
No title, no author. But back home Google came up trumps. They’re from The Moor Ghost by Robert E. Howard, an American poet who as far as I can tell never visited England yet alone the North York Moors. Still, a weird coincidence. I wonder if whoever left the paper knew about William Parkinson.
Most of the steep banks guarding the western edge of the North York Moors take their name from the community or parish at their foot so we have Ingleby Bank and Greenhow Bank. Jackson’s Bank, overlooking the flat valley of Greenhow Botton is an exception although I’ve no idea who Jackson was. Botton is old Scandanavian word for a flat bottomed valley.
Known locally as Midnight Corner supposedly because in winter the sun doesn’t reach the north facing valley. But this observation must have been around for sometime, a Midnight House is shown on the 1857 Ordnance Survey map below a Midnight Wood.
Across the valley the Ingleby Incline can be seen diagonally climbing Greenhow Bank, opened in 1861 to carry ironstone from Rosedale to the furnaces at Ferryhill. Below the incline, in the centre of the photo is Old Sheepfold Farm, to give it its modern name, and to its right the buildings of an outdoor centre can just be made out. This was built on the site of another farm called Siberia, at the foot of an earlier incline climbing up to the Ingleby Ironstone Mine, a short lived venture lasting just four years from 1856 to 1860. The navvies who built the original branch railway and incline lived in a temporary camp in the fields around the centre. This scheme must have been only just complete before the navvies went on to upgrade the railway and build the new incline to Rosedale.
On the steep slopes much of the forestry, planted after World War I to provide a strategic timber resource for the country, is being felled. Hopefully native trees, alder, rowan, willow, oak and birch, will be planted in their place creating varying habitats for wildlife and plants.