Hambleton Street

The ancient drovers’ route along the western edge of the North York Moors. A route that probably has been used since prehistory. The name “street” implies Roman usage and it’s mentioned by name in a document of 1577. Traffic peaked in the 17th and 18th centuries when herds of cattle were driven from Scotland to markets at Malton and York many eventually destined for London. Covering between 9 and 10 miles a day the herds of Galloway and West Highland cattle, up to 300 strong, needed a “stance” to graze for a day or so to recover for the next leg of their journey. One such stance was Limekiln House inn, the remains of which are barely discernible today in the dip opposite the wall junction, the oolite limestone providing good pasture around. The limestone was also of good enough quality for burning to produce lime and was extensively quarried along the street, providing another source of income and the name of the inn. By the 19th century, the railways had killed off the cattle droves and Limekiln House was deserted by 1897, the last licensee being Mary Kendall who “retired” to a farm in Ryedale. Today the route forms part of the Cleveland Way and is popular with cyclists and walkers.

Hambleton Street map

Oakdale Head​

On the left of the photo is a small wood on a spur of pasture fields. Hard to see I guess but its name has always intrigued me since I spotted it on the map. Middlesbrough, just like the town further north on the banks of the Tees. The 1857 map names it, as does the modern map, so it’s been in use for a while. But did it acquire its name from the town or in its own right? The fields of pasture have been improved over the centuries by the application of lime and adjoined the Slapestone Inn, now a private residence known as Chequers. In the 17th and 18th centuries, drovers generally covered 9-10 miles a day with the herds of up to 300 cattle. The pasture fields provide a stance for the cattle where they could graze for a day or two before continuing on their way south to the markets of Malton and York and beyond. The drovers’ road was called Hambleton Street and is now tarmacked as far as Square Corner, the car park on the right.

A modern trail, the Cleveland Way, climbs Jenny Brewster’s Moor, the nearer ridge with the scattered trees to Square Corner crossing Oakdale Head before continuing south on the Hambleton Street.

Oakdale Head map

Hither Moor

A bleak day with constant drizzle although not as bad as forecast. Most people know this area of moorland descending down to Cod Beck and the Swainby to Osmotherley road as Scarth Wood Moor. The 1857 Ordnance Survey map however names it as Hither Moor, with Scarth Wood Moor further north. I love these old forgotten names.

Centre of photo is the tourist honeypot of Sheepwash with its large car park. Another car park is to the right. Between them the 1857 map shows that Cod Beck was dammed as High Dam. This was almost 100 years before the much larger Cod Beck Reservoir was completed. There were two other dams, Low Dam and Middle Dam, both situated much lower down near to the mill, now YHA Osmotherley. The 1857 map also shows a farm with the delightful name of Wildgoose Nest which would have been inundated by Cod Beck Reservoir.

Sheepwash was where the old drovers’ road bringing cattle from Scotland to the markets at Malton and York forded Cod Beck. When hundreds of thirsty highland cattle were trying to drink it must of been a very noisy and busy place. A not too dissimilar atmosphere to Sheepwash this century on a hot summer’s day.


A former inn on the Hambleton Street, an ancient drove road linking Scotland with the south of England. Ancient man generally stuck to high ridges where he could. Low level routes would have been boggy, wooded and less safe. Cattle would be driven from Scotland to markets at Malton and York. A various locations they would be rested and fattened up before proceeding on the next leg or to market. The Chequers Inn was one such point.

The advent of the railways brought about the decline of the Drovers. Cattle could be killed locally and transported by train to the demanding cities of England.

The Chequers Inn continued in use as a farm; at one time selling teas and cakes. It now seems to be just residential but the old inn sign is still outside; a chequer board with the inscription:

Be not in haste; Step in and taste;

Good ale for nothing – tomorrow.