Parci Gill

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.

Parci Gill map

Hutton Moor

This stand of larch has always intrigued me. It first appears on the 1952 edition of the Ordnance Survey map, is circular and isolated on the heather moor. It can not be self-seeded. Who planted it? And why?

Hutton Moor map

CCTV operating

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.

Stoney Ridge map

Tick magnets

There seems to be less sheep on the moors nowadays. Not sure if this is a deliberate policy.  Certainly, in other upland areas, there are concerns about over grazing. At one-time moorland farmers were actively encouraged to graze their sheep on the moors by gamekeepers. The sheep would act as magnets for ticks which also infected grouse chicks causing the transmission of a viral disease by the name of Louping Ill Virus. This could devastate the grouse population. Regular dipping would clear the sheep of ticks. Now with hardly any dipping being done, the tick population is once again soaring, however vaccination of sheep to control ticks has been shown to reduce the incidence of louping ill in red grouse.

The photo was taken on Newton Moor, a small area of heather moorland which is part of the National Trust’s  Roseberry Topping property.

Tick magnets map


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.

Sleddale map

Live Moor

Setting off from Mount Grace Priory this morning I overtook plenty of walkers doing the Cleveland Way, all fresh from their overnight accomodation in Osmotherley. In fact the only person going the other way was this solitary walker on Live Moor about to climb  the few contours to its summit. To the right, hard to make out though, lies a prehistoric field system. In spite of the inclement weather over the past week the ling or heather has come into full bloom contrasting nicely with the moorland grasses grazed by a few sheep although they do seem to prefer the heather. A nice patchwork of habitats, not brilliant biodiversity I know but much better than the monoculture of some other shooting moors.

In the foreground is a walkers’ cairn, the worry of the NYMNP‘s archaeologists, for in their determination to place a stone on every cairn walkers have gotten into the habit of robbing the Bronze Age burial mounds that abound. Plans are afoot to remove the said cairns.

Live Moor 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

Percy Cross Rigg

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.

Parrot on Hutton Moor

A flash of colour caught my attention today. I ran across the heather, not quite in full bloom yet, to check it out. I was sure it was a balloon, but one of those charity ones, let off in their hundreds, falling down to earth again in some far away place and ending up in the stomachs of animals and sea creatures. But it was a parrot, a helium filled one sold at fairs and at the seaside. I recalled the young scion, aged 5 or so, proudly clutching his turtle balloon after visiting the Scottish Sealife centre at North Queensferry below the Forth Rail Bridge. But before we had got back to the car there were tears and the turtle balloon was floating high amongst the girders of the bridge. Should of tied it to his wrist. He took some consoling. So if you know of a child who has lost a parrot you can tell him/her it has gone to the great jungle in the sky. Or at least my wheelie bin.

Urra Moor Dyke

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.

Urra Moor dyke map