The Inglorious 12th minus one, to borrow from the title of Mark Avery’s book. Tomorrow will mark the beginning of the annual slaughter on the moors. On Farndale Moor signs have gone up advising of CCTV monitoring. No matter I don’t own a horse and have no intention of biking along the track, I find these signs very intimidating but that after all is the intention. And very suspicious, are there sights not for public viewing? But it is Open Access Land so people are free to walk or run, sightsee and birdwatch and I am already planning my route exploring such features as South Flat Howe, The Honey Poke, Old Ralph’s Cross, Esklets Cross, Cooper Hill and Stony Ridge, the 1400′ ring contour in the distance on the photograph. Not to mention the scores of old bell pits from the 18th-century coal workings.
Is it practical to monitor around ten square kilometres of moorland? I doubt it. There were no obvious poles mounting the cameras and communications equipment, but maybe it’s just one of those little wildlife surveillance cameras. Or maybe they’re using drones.
For a brief few weeks the moors are a sea of purple heather which is now at its best. Seen from Highcliff Gate, Sleddale Farm appears an island of lush green pasture. The name means a wide flat valley and was probably a meadow of summer pasture before being given to the priory to be developed as a monastic cote or grange. The valley is a favourite for bird watching which over the years Osprey, Marsh and Hen Harriers, Common and Rough-legged Buzzards, Goshawk, Sparrowhawk, Peregrine, Merlin, Kestrel and Red Kite have all been spotted.
The ling is coming into full bloom. A few more days yet. A view across the bracken covered northern branch of upper Lonsdale to Percy Cross Rigg.
Along the eastern edge of upper Bilsdale is a linear prehistoric dyke almost four and a half kilometres long. In the photo the can be made out on the left curving down to Bilsdale Beck as a bilberry topped embankment with a ditch on the down slope filled with bracken. From the beck the dyke rises then contours around the escarpment. The embankment is up to 3.5m wide in places and typically half a metre high. It is faced with stone in places. The ditch is a maximum 3m wide, half a metre deep and in places cut into the sandstone bedrock.
Similar dykes on the North York Moors are considered to be Middle Bronze Age which dates it to 1500–1200 BC. Other local names for the Urra Moor dyke are Billy’s Dyke, Cliff Dyke and Cromwell’s Lines. The former I guess a reference to the often repeated legend that William the Conqueror lost his way on the approaches to Bilsdale in his harrying of the North thus giving rise to the dale’s name although a more likely explanation is that Bilsdale derives from the old Norse name Bildr.
For what purpose the dyke was built for no one is sure. Defence? Stock enclosure? Prestige? Its construction must have taken a lot of resources so it would certainly have marked an important boundary. Perhaps a warning to those about to enter a tribe’s territory.
There’s an old adage that is said in all farming communities, from Scotland, to Wales and to Cumbria:
Where there’s bracken there’s gold;
where there’s gorse there’s silver;
where there’s heather there’s poverty
At first it’s hard to see the reasoning. Bracken is allelopathic, it produces toxins in the soil which prevents other plants from germinating. Hardly gold. But the saying actually refers to the underlying fertility of the soil, heather growing on the poorer acidic soils.
But for four weeks of the year the common heather, or ling, produces a blanket of purple. This is Great Ayton Moor with Capt.Cook’s Monument on the left and the Cleveland Hills in the distance.
Better known as the name of the village, on the ridge on the right of the photo, but this upper part of the River Esk is mapped as Westerdale. The ling or heather is in full bloom. From John Breckon Road.
A classic Lakeland view. Derwentwater from Walla Crag. Keswick on the right, Lake Bassenthwaite in the distance. And in the foreground, following on from last weeks’s posting, Ling is in flower alongside the darker Bell Heather.