With low cloud shrouding the North York Moors I had to dig into my bank of “bad weather” ideas. Earlier this year I recalled seeing a large new sandstone “PRIVATE NO ACCESS” sign which I thought a bit over the top. So I headed for Kempswithen, the site of a 18th-century agricultural experiment but now under intensive management for grouse shooting. But the stone had disappeared, or had my navigation let me down. A hardcore base suggests it could have been here. Instead, there was a new small sign:
Now, no bikes I can understand, no dogs too but no footpath! Technically it’s probably correct but this is Open Access Land over which we have the freedom to roam. Clearly, it is intended to intimidate walkers into keeping away.
On the way back I took in Percy Rigg over Kildale Moor and came across the missing sandstone “PRIVATE NO ACCESS” sign. Or its twin. Maybe I’m not going doolally after all. I just had to take a photo in case it moves again. Way over the top. The siting of this stone is actually on the boundary of Open Access Land which is to the right in the photo below. To its left is a small area of heather moorland which somehow escaped Open Access designation. An anomaly. Either way, the intention is clearly to discourage walkers from enjoying their freedom to roam. They’re a red rag to a bull to me.
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.
Ernaldsti, the medieval track named after Ernald de Percy, Lord of Kildale, cuts across Hutton Moor on Percy Rigg. Hutton Moor is part of the SSSI which covers most of the North York Moors‘ heather moorland. I do find it hard to understand why a landscape managed by man to maximise the production of one species at the expense of others should be designated as a SSSI.
I remember running down this track in the 1990s. It was then a B.O.A.T., a Byway Open to All Traffic. You could take your car down it if you wanted, and many did. Landrovers anyway. On this day a convoy of Landrovers were trying to get up the hill. Ropes were tied to trees and the winches on the Landies, a de rigueur accessory, were in full use. One vehicle was on its side. All jolly good fun but not so good for this ancient route from Scugdale into Bilsdale. Recently, after much protest by the off road enthusiast community, the track has been downgraded to Public Bridleway status. All motorised vehicles are prohibited, although the Ordnance Survey map still shows it as a by way. I came up the track today and, in spite of signage showing the new status, saw plenty of evidence of recent motorcycle usage. It seems the prohibition is being ignored.
This must be a contender for the most ugliest access track on the North York Moors. An ugly yellow scar crossing the delightful valley of Tripsdale, an offshoot of Bilsdale. Tripsdale and the surrounding moors are part of the Nawton Towers Estate, sometimes referred to as the Bransdale Moor Estate. In the late 1970s the estate began to allow “public access” in return for various tax breaks, namely relief from inheritance tax. That agreement was signed by the owner of the estate, Lady Clarissa Collin.
Fast forward 12 years to 1990 when twelve major North York Moors land owners, including Lady Clarissa Collin, wrote to the National Park Authority saying that access to the heather moors must be restricted to an “improved footpath system”. I’m not sure what resulted from this, but notices began to appear instructing that walkers to keep to established footpaths. It must have been around this time that the track across was upgraded.
But of course this is all now history. The Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 designated all moorland as Open Access land. However Open Access land does have some restrictions, dogs are only allowed on Public Rights of Way and bikes and horses must stay on Public Bridleways for instance. It would be interesting to see if the “rights” established by the 1978 inheritance tax break agreement are still enforceable.
An ugly scar across the heather moor of Carlton Moor, the yellow sandstone of the track accentuated by the threatening skies. The track is typical of estate roads all over the North York Moors providing easy access for the shooting parties.
This track though was probably built by the glider station which used to operate on Carlton Moor and which explains why the moor still retains a large area that is not covered by the Open Access legislation, airfields being exempt. Maybe I shouldn’t be here!
The local name for the forest track up from Hutton Lowcross up onto Percy Cross Rigg. In the distance on the right is Highcliff Nab overlooking Guisborough. The track follows an ancient route from Guisborough to Baysdale. It was until fairly recently a Byway Open to All Traffic or BOAT. A sign at the bottom warned drivers that the track was unsuitable for vehicles; hence the name. I can remember the post office landrover trundling up it on the delivery round to Sleddale Farm. In those days Guisborough was a main sorting office. I think it’s Whitby now.
In the 90s or so the track was regraded. Rumour had it that the council were fearful of being sued by adventurous 4×4 drivers tackling the route and damaging their vehicles but it has now been downgraded to a Public Bridleway because of the erosion. On a bike though it’s still a bone shaking descent even with modern suspension.
The short climbs over the three bumps, Cringle Moor, Hasty Bank and Cold Moor, can be avoided by using the Jet Miners’ Track which vaguely contours around the hillside following the strata in which jet is found. It’s quite a muddy track, following the tree line and staying within the shade.
Jet is the fossilised remains of the monkey puzzle tree dating from the Jurassic period. It’s a hard black material easily carved into jewellery and made famous by Queen Victoria when she went into mourning following the death of her husband, Prince Albert. That fashion lasted a mere twenty years but jet has long been valued for its ornamental, superstitious and supposed medicinal qualities. Pieces have been found in archaeological digs and dated to 2,000 B.C. but these would probably have been found as pebbles on beaches. Yorkshire jet has been found on Roman sites in Europe. Jet mined from the Cleveland Hills would have found its way to Whitby which in the 19c became well known for its jet trade.
I’ve posted a photo of this phenomena before but it amazes me every time I see it. Early morning and a temperature inversion with fog spilling over from Bilsdale onto the Cleveland plain. It’s been a regular occurrence this week with high pressure and cloudless but cold nights. Today was the first time I actually got out early enough.
More rain overnight and a damp morning. Met up with a group of walkers struggling to negotiate the track down from Percy Cross Rigg into Lounsdale. The track is marked on the map with green dots which gives free reign for off road enthusiasts to practice their skills. The trouble is vehicular use on these “green lanes” is just not sustainable. Deep ruts and clogging mud make it almost impossible for the average walker or cyclist. On other similarly eroded tracks on the North York Moors the National Park Authority have prohibited off road vehicles. I’m not sure why this one has escaped.