A pre-breakfast jog up to Red Tarn below Helvellyn. Any higher and I would have been in cloud. The view is Grisedale, with Grisedale Hause at its head. The 841m high St. Sunday Crag on the left is below the cloud ceiling but Fairfield at 873m is hidden, as is the Helvellyn range on the right.

There at least one other Grisedale in the Lake District, that overlooking Whinlatter Pass. There is also a Grizedale south of Hawkshead which probably has the same Old Norse root of griss and dalr, meaning ‘the valley of the young pigs’.

Grisedale map

Bilsdale from Cold Moor

There is a scene from the movie ‘Shrek’ that I think of every time I come across a boulder where Donkey says to Shrek “I like that boulder. That is a nice boulder.” And I do like this boulder, it adds a point of interest in the drab browns of the winter moorland.

I am on Cold Moor and looking east across Bilsdale to Urra Moor, the highest point on the North York Moors at 454m asl. Half way up the slope on the far above the green pasture fields lies the hamlet of Urra while down in the dale a tree lined River Seph flows towards Helmsley. Urra is said to be derived from the Old English word horh meaning filth. Perhaps  there is some true in the local legend that William the Conqueror did indeed utter profanities after getting navigationally challenged in the valley.

Bilsdale from Cold Moor map


From Trennet, above Chop Gate. A tranquil scene with glorious blue skies marred by the smoke of heather burning on Bilsdale West Moor. Heather burning is a practice carried out for the sole purpose of increasing the density of Red Grouse breeding on the peat moors. In its wake it carries the risk of complete incineration of whole ecosystems of invertebrates and small mammals, reduces peat formation and water and carbon storage and increases rain run off and dissolved organic carbon in streams and rivers. Of course there are regulations to control burning. The “season” is from 1 November to 31 March for one thing and the smoke should not be likely to damage health or cause a nuisance for another but the amount of burning of our moorlands has increased. The Committee on Climate Change found that:

“The area of burned moorland has increased significantly in recent decades across much of northern England. A comparison of aerial photography from the 1970s and 2000 of over 200 km2 of the English uplands found that the extent of new burns had doubled (from 15% to 30%) over this period. A recent study found that the annual number of burns between 2001 and 2011 increased by 11% per year, with an accelerating trend in more recent years.

And all so the maximum number of Red Grouse can be killed which we, as taxpayers, are probably subsidising to the tune of £56 per hectare per year as an agricultural subsidy.

Bilsdale map


I am quite opportunistic with my photography. I don’t usually have much of a plan, sometimes just a vague idea of a potential subject. Today overcast with very strong winds and rain threatening I wasn’t very hopeful.  But as I skirted around Great Ayton Moor a break in the clouds threw Lonsdale below me in bright winter sunshine. Ahead is Percy Rigg with its Iron Age Village and Ernaldsti, perhaps the oldest track over the moors. On the right if you look closely are the lumps and bumps of Lonsdale Quarry where I was just four days ago under completely different conditions.

Glenderaterra Beck

The wonderfully named Glenderaterra Beck in Wainwright’s Northern Fells, draining the precipitous eastern slopes of Lonscale Fell and gentler western Blencathra. The misty mountain far right is Great Calva.


Bilsdale, the most westerly of the steep sided North/South dales of the North York Moors. Seen here from The Wainstones in the early morning sunshine.

There is a local legend that the name Bilsdale comes from William the Conqueror, who is said to gotten himself lost in the dale during his harrying of the North. So fed up was he that once he escaped from the valley he left it unscarred and never bothered to return. But on the other hand the etymologists say that the name is derived from the old Norse personal name “Bildr”. So you take your pick.

In the distance on Bilsdale West Moor is the 314 metres high Bilsdale Mast constructed in 1969 by the BBC to transmit the latest technology, colour TV , to Teesside. With its red aircraft warning light it provides a well known landmark at night. Assuming of course there is no mist and it can be seen.

Where was I?

So where was I this morning? In a 13th century document “Cartularium Priory de Gyseburne” this shallow boggy valley was referred to as Rivelingdale which sounds to me a place of Middle Earth but nothing like the idyllic Elven paradise Tolkien of Rivendell. Somewhere in the marshes below is quite a stream, deep enough to get you very wet if you choose a bad place to cross. It rises from a spring mentioned in the same document as Rotandekelde or Rutandekelde meaning red spring. I guess this may be describing the orange mud associated the iron salts at chalybeate springs.

No spoilers. The photo is geolocated so the answer is there if you know how to extract the info.