Heron, River Leven

I’d planned a trot over to Brian’s Pond on Carlton Moor having thought raindrops on the water might make a good photo. I wish. Foiled by raindrops on the lens. But driving through Great Ayton the neighbourhood heron came to the rescue, patrolling the River Leven below Suggitt’s Bridge. This was the last photo I managed to get before it took flight and glided twenty metres up the river where it was promptly mobbed by a paddling of ducks. I suppose a small duckling would make a fine morsel for it.

River Leven below Suggitt's Bridge map

Low Green, Great Ayton

The prospect of a day indoors route planning with my Duke of Edinburgh students but managed to get up Roseberry before dawn. Otherwise incessant rain all day. Even the ducks were avoiding a swollen River Leven.

Hutton Bridge

The halcyon days continue. Dry enough for me to bike and a circuit through the villages of Cleveland. Hutton Bridge, spanning the River Leven, was built in 1755 in two segmented arches but widened in modern times. A weir and a fish ladder disturb the flow of the river. I am standing on the site of a paper mill demolished in 1937. It was built in 1757 and a century later converted into a flax mill to produce linen for sail making. The flax was grown locally. The mill closed in 1908 with the building then being used for public meetings.

The cleft of the River Leven separates the two ancient settlements of Hoton and Rodebi, now widely known together as Hutton Rudby. Hoton, from hoh tun, is Old English meaning high settlement. Rodebi or Rudi’s farm is Scandinavian. Two ethnically different communities living side by side and slowly over the years becoming one.

Bowston Weir

A seemingly over engineering weir on the River Kent which drops 50m between Staverley and Kendal. Little used footpaths although the National Trail The Dales Way goes along the riverbank.

Scugdale Beck

Scugdale takes its name from the Danish skygger meaning to overshadow, referring  to the sheltered nature of the dale.

And the waters of the beck that flows down the dale must have some mysterious properties, for it was in this secluded valley that Harry Cooper was brought up. At a height of 8 feet 6 inches in height and weighing 29 stone Harry was reputed to be the tallest man in the world. He toured America as a star of in Barnum’s circus. He died about 1900 and is buried in Calgary, Canada.

Heselton’s Mill Weir

Great Ayton had three mills. Two, Ayton Mill and Low Mill, were mediaeval corn mills and used the same weir and race to provide a head of water. A third mill, Heselton’s, was built with its own weir upstream in the late 18c originally as a linen mill for spinning. At first all was well but when Heselton’s Mill converted to milling linseed for oil in 1803 a dispute occurred. It seems that oil milling required a greater flow of water than spinning so water was dammed up at the weir released at intervals to provide the power. Of course the mills downstream suffered from this intermittent flow.

Kildale old weir

In the early hours of July 22, 1840, following extensive rain, a dam on the River Leven at Kildale burst its banks causing considerable damage downstream. This abandoned weir was the overflow to the dam and is now buried in woodland. It held back two fish ponds belonging to Kildale Hall. The Durham Advertiser was reported at the time that in the narrow gorge below the weir the water was between 30 and 40 feet above the usual level. An old corn mill lower down the narrow valley was swept away and a bleaching mill destroyed. In Great Ayton the weir in the village gave way. The replacement stills stands opposite Suggitts. Further downstream more damage was reported in Stokesley and the twin villages of Hutton and Rudby.