Fat Betty

One the best known wayside crosses on the North York Moors. This squat stone stands at the head of Rosedale on Danby Moor and also marks the boundary of the parishes of Rosedale, Danby and Westerdale. It’s traditionally whitewashed hence it’s alternative name of White Cross. Legends abound how it has acquired its rather quaint but not politically correct name of Fat Betty. Some say Betty was the mother superior of the nuns at Rosedale Abbey who got lost lost on the moors whilst trying to meet up with her equivalent from Baysdale Abbey.

Chambered Cairn, Great Ayton Moor

In search of the chambered cairn on Great Ayton Moor. These stones, one adorned with  modern graffiti ‘Bela Vista’, looked a likely candidate but after studying the archaeological sketches from a 1950s excavation I am now not so sure. Chambered cairns are rare, unique on the North York Moors. Eight large flat stones leaning together with a headstone to form a chamber. No skeletal remains were found but given the acid conditions that is not surprising. Pottery shards and various flint and stone objects were found. Pollen analysis helped dating the site to the Neolithic.

Chambered Cairn map

The Badger Stone

Any resemblance to a badger is purely coincidental. According to a 12th century document the name is said to be derived from ‘bacheler‘ a Middle English word for a young man. Bachelor is an obvious modern word from the same root. By 1642 it was referred to as Bagerstone in the Duke of Buckingham’s lovely titled Perambulation of Helmsley Estate Boundaries. But whether George Villers, the Duke, actually perambulated himself or whether he sent one of his minions to do the job is unknown.

The Badger Stone can found found high on Bransdale Moor above Hodge Beck which flows through Bransdale to its confluence with the River Dove south of Kirbymoorside. It’s a solitary outcrop of sandstone rocks surrounded by miles and miles of heather moorland.

Badger Stone map


Ruther Cross

Not my usual habitat, an housing estate in Guisborough but cycling down Hutton Lane I remembered this medieval cross tucked behind a hedge having mentioned it in a post of last year. It comprises a sandstone shaft and base. No inscriptions but several square notches. It marks the spot where the medieval trackway south left or crossed the lane to Hutton. It is surmised that the ground the track crossed was marshy until it reached beginning of the ascent of Highcliff and that Ruther Stone marked the start of a stone causeway. Another suggestion is that the stone marked the boundary of the leper colony at Hutton so travellers would skirt the boundary to avoid contact with the lepers.

Ruther Cross map


The Nelson Stone

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.


Sandstone Outcrop, Ingleby Moor

I visited this rocky island on Ingleby Moor last night in the dark. In a navigation event. It looks so different in daylight. All around is the heather moorland in its drab winter colours. This is the biggest of a cluster of boulders set in a wobble in the 360m contour. The outcrop has no name I can find which does seem odd to me. They are quite significant so I’m sure the folk of Baysdale must have christened them at some time. But the rocks didn’t make an impression on the Ordnance Survey’s Victorian cartographers who didn’t map it.

Not so Tidy Brown Hill, the high point of the slope at 396m; that’s 1,299 ft. in old money. Not that is insignificant, hardly worthy of the name hill. It has a round bowl barrow fairly close to the flat otherwise featureless summit. But according to two late 19th century the Ordnance Survey have erred, an error which has been perpetuated every since. Apparently the correct name is Tarry Brown Hill (see also here). Perhaps it was the North Yorkshire pronunciation.

As to the rock I can see a face there. Is it a cat? Standing guard over the moor and laughing at me stumbling around in the dark last night.


The Buckingham Stone

The Bilsdale Fox Hunt purports to be the oldest in England, established in 1668 by the 2nd Duke of Buckingham, George Villiers. But Michael Heavisides, a frequent visitor to Bilsdale   at the turn of the 19th century recounts that when first established game no smaller than wild boar was hunted. No foxes. Heavisides was referring to an article in the North Star newspaper on the funeral of Bobbie Dawson who was a lifelong character of the Bilsdale Hunt.

Heavisides and others talk of a tradition in the dale when the Duke chased a particular fox for a gruelling three hours. Finally at a certain boulder in Tarn Hole, off Tripsdale, his horse collapsed and died. No one knows how the Duke felt about his poor horse. No doubt one of his lackeys brought him another one to ride home but the rock remained in the memories of Bilsdale folk, supposedly capping it with a smaller boulder. Some feat.

Armed with just an archived photo of the rock the objective today was to locate the rock. Mission accomplished.

The Duke was a bit of a rake, a hellraiser. Some say the nursery rhyme

Georgie Porgie, Pudding and pie,
Kissed the girls and made them cry,
When the boys came out to play,
Georgie Porgie ran away.

was based on the Duke but others attribute it to his father, the first Duke, also a George. George junior fought for King Charles I in the English Civil War forfeiting his estates but had these returned in the Restoration. Under Charles II his life became a series of scandals. The year 1668, the year the Bilsdale Hunt was founded, started off with a duel with the Earl of Shrewsbury over his affair with the Countess of Shrewsbury. The Earl was fatally wounded after which the Countess moved in with the Duke and his wife, Mary.

The Duke died in 1687, having caught a chill while hunting. One version is that this chill was caught while waiting for his replacement horse at the rock. He left no legitimate hiers and the Dukedom became extinct with his estate eventually being brought by Charles Duncombe in 1694, a mere commoner. In 1826 Charles Slingsby Duncombe was made the 1st Baron Feversham.