Parci Gill is a tributary of the River Rye nestling between Cow Ridge and Sour Milk Hills on the moors to the west of Bilsdale. The name, Parci, sometimes written Parsi, is unusual and its etymology is difficult to explain. It has been suggested that it may predate the more usual Old Norse and Anglo-Saxon roots. Certainly, the dale has been inhabited since pre-history. There is an ancient field system and 7,000 flints have been found, the most prolific site in the Snilesworth area. In more recent times 19th-century censuses record the inhabitants. Ann Chapman farmed there in 1871, a 29-year-old widow with 5 children and helped by an agricultural labourer. The trees on the left of the photo hide the ruins of her house. It was probably built in the 17th century and by all accounts of reasonable quality. By the 1891 census, no one was recorded as living there. The fields of the farm are apparently still in use, having escaped designation as Open Access Land, an island in a sea of heather.
Or is it? I was last here in 2005 when I took a photo of the Nelson Stone a 19th century boundary stone that I seem to remember being inscribed with “NELSON STONE”. But it’s gone, disappeared like a will-o’-the-wisp. Bill Cowley in his book ‘Snilesworth’ says the name derives from the medieval name Nelehou so the remaining standing stone is likely to be the real Nelson Stone. Comparing the two photos the notch at the base of the stone is clearly obvious and of course the shooting hut in the background, a landmark visible on the ridge for miles.
Snilesworth is a vast area of managed heather moorland which until the “Right to Roam” legislation came into effect in 2000 was out of bounds. The nearest public right of way over the plateau is 4 kilometres away which means I can not even run with my dog along the motorways that masquerade as access tracks. The name Snilesworth Moor has gained some notoriety. In 2008 the head game keeper and two of his keepers admitted to using illegal traps baited with pigeons to catch birds of prey. We saw no raptors there today.
Proddale Beck, a tributary of the River Rye, originates in a wooded gill with precipitous sides called Proddales, pronounced Proddles. It is in a very remote area of Snilesworth Moor east of Osmotherley.
Two streams, West Grain and Middle Sike, drain the heather moors above and combine before cascading over the scarp into a plunge pool. Shaded in the gill among the oak, rowan, holly and hawthorn it is truly a magical spot. A bit further along the scarp a third stream, Proddale Sike, makes a second waterfall. And downstream of Proddale Beck, there is yet a third waterfall.
Prod Dales was listed as a farm in a document dated 1637. Old dry stone wall enclosures surround the gill. The ‘farmhouse’ itself was sited above the falls on the boggy ground of Proddale Sike. Sike being a Northern name for a small stream. It is hard to imagine a farm here being productive.
The orange seepage midway up the scarp on the left and also on the right indicate the water contains mineral salts of iron. Such water is known as chalybeate and early in the 17th century, it was said to be good for your health. Among the many believers was the young Princess Victoria who was said to have drunk chalybeate waters every day.
Snilesworth is, or was, the name of a township in the upper reaches of Ryedale, one of the less frequented parts of the North York Moors. In 1890 it had a population of 104 inhabiting a few scattered houses and farms with a small school attended by 22 children, and a Methodist Chapel. The chapel overlooking Blow Gill is now in ruins but clearly shows signs that some thought and expense went into its construction. It’s built of dressed local freestone but the lintels, cills and corbels are of limestone which must have been imported some distance. The roof has long gone but a few broken slates remain inside, most likely Welsh slate I’m told. There is a semi circular step to the entrance and the inside shows signs of lime mortar.
Nowadays the name Snilesworth is more associated with the Lodge, the Moor and, in particular, the Estate for in 2008 the Snilesworth Estate had its reputation tarnished when three of its game keepers admitted charges of using of live pigeons to trap birds of prey.