Grimy Gutter Hags

Grimy Gutter Hags; what a fascinating name. On the slope of Little Shunner Fell, an outlier of its bigger brother Great Shunner Fell in the Yorkshire Dales.

A hag is the northern name for an exposed, eroded face of peat, too steep for the heather to grow and which is further eroded by wind, sheltering sheep or water dripping from the overhanging heather.

Grimy Gutter Hags is part of the High Abbotside estate which boasts, on numerous notices, that it is the “largest moorland Regeneration Scheme and Black Grouse recovery scheme in the Pennines”. I didn’t see any Black Grouse (although I did see one yesterday on the moors beyond Keld) but there were plenty of Red Grouse.

Now I may be being a bit thick here but I don’t see how a shooter crouched behind the shooting butt can tell the difference between a Black Grouse or its red cousin flying overhead.

On the horizon, just left of centre, can be seen the distinctive flat top of Ingleborough, the second highest mountain in the Yorkshire Dales, at 723 metres (2,372 ft).


Waterfalls, Hoods Bottom Beck

Sunday: my Duke of Edinburgh group had planned to walk from Muker to Keld taking in some of the dales and moors north west of Keld. I was looking forward to it. It’s an area I don’t know. Perhaps because there are no Public Rights of Way through them, or perhaps because they are at the extreme north west corner of the Yorkshire Dales (Northern and Central) map. I half expected to read “here be dragons”.

It’s a smashing area. Very runnable. I didn’t see a sole all day (except the group of course). The waterfalls are un-named on the map, so I’ve taken the name given to the stream lower downstream. They looked dramatic but I didn’t have the time to explore more closely.

And good clear weather. A grand day out.


A lovely village in Swaledale, locating at the foot of Gunnerside Ghyll, a site of extensive lead mining activities in the 19c century. The village developed during this period to house the mining families.

Low cloud, showers with a touch of sleet. Otherwise a good day out following a Duke of Edinburgh group.

Apedale Beck

In Swaledale for a few days. Vodaphone has not managed to get here yet so postings may be delayed a bit.

This is Apedale on the wide open moors between Reeth and Leyburn.

Alum Clamp, Ayton Bank

The small knoll in the photo is an alum clamp, a relic of an 18c chemical industry to produce alum.

Alum had many uses: medicinal, in tanning to make leather supple and durable, as a mordant in dyeing cloth. It does occur naturally and is known to have been used by the Greeks but on Ayton Bank and in other parts of Cleveland and North Yorkshire it took a long and complex chemical process to produce alum from the Jurassic shales found here.

First a clamp is formed, alternating layers of shale and a fuel, wood or coal. This is set alight and left to burn for several months. The result is calculated shale which is then repeatedly steeped in tanks of water. When the solution is of a specific gravity it is then mixed with urine, I kid you not, and left to crystallise. It took 50 tons of shale to produce 1 ton of alum.

By the 1770s the price of alum had plummeted, the works at Ayton Banks closed virtually overnight and this clamp was left burning in situ. Perhaps there was some hope that it could be reopened later when the price recovered. It is believed to be the only intact clamp remaining.

Black Bank

Recent felling of the plantation on Black Bank on the escarpment of Newton Moor has opened up a completely new prospect of Roseberry Topping. Revealed by the felling were a few interesting looking crags, so I battled through the debris resembling the Tunguska event for a nose around. The crags are nothing to shout about.

The foresters have left self sown birch and rowan trees. All rather spindly specimens that are likely to last two minutes in a storm.

I have heard that it is the intention to replant the area with oak trees but lower down the slope so that their height at maturity will not be above the top of the escarpment.

Tidkinhow Slack

Late evening walk across Guisborough Moor. The view is NNE across the small stream known as Tidkinhow Slack to Boosbeck, Brotton and the North Sea beyond.

Tidkinhow Farm, located on the rise across the field, is almost at the same height above sea level as from where I was standing. It must be quite exposed yet I read that it was recorded in the Doomsday book.