A Christmas Walk: With Ghosts on Baysdale Moor

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I AM wary of the North York Moors because they are more than a little bit sinister. They are wild and empty, peppered with the scratchings of forgotten people, laced with legends, and punctuated with the stumps of ancient crosses and boundary stones. There is a dark, Gothic atmosphere, which is intensified by the proximity of Whitby and its Bram Stoker connection. Wolves still inhabit the wilder corners and hags dwell in tumbled cottages, so some people say. It’s a marvellous place for a moor walk, but not necessarily a place in which to wander alone . . . Continue reading

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Posted in Archaeology, Captain James Cook, Cleveland Way, Death, Environment, Footpaths, Ghosts, Hiking, History, Hunting, Industrial archaeology, Legends, Mountains, Politics, Ranting, Ruins, Teesside, Walking, Weather | Tagged , , , , | 29 Comments

Almost Picture Perfect in the Coniston Fells

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THIS is such a promising start. The early-morning sky is dark and clear; frost cakes windscreens and grass verges; the Lakeland peaks stand pale and ghostly at the head of the Duddon estuary. It is the perfect day for climbing Wetherlam and traversing a frozen ridge to the summit cairn on Coniston Old Man. Nothing can go wrong . . . Continue reading

Posted in Climbing, Environment, Explosives, Footpaths, Hiking, Industrial archaeology, Mountains, Quarrying, Slate quarries, Walking, Weather | Tagged , , , , , | 29 Comments

Sweet Tees Flow Softly (Black Friday Aftermath)

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IN this land of eternal gloom, where fog hangs in grey air and moisture drips from autumn berries and bedraggled sheep, Romans once marched to distant outposts on a cold northern frontier. They crossed many rivers on their journey from York, and few were swifter and more majestic than the river the native Celts called Tees – a name which is thought to mean the boiling, surging water . . . Continue reading

Posted in Archaeology, Belfast sinks, Black Friday, English language, Environment, Ewan MacColl, Footpaths, Hiking, History, Iron Age, Jargon, Railway goods wagons, Ranting, Rivers, Ruins, Teesdale, Teesside, The Romans, Walking, Weather, York | Tagged , , , | 47 Comments

Not Everything is Black and White on Barningham Moor

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I DRIVE the rattly van to the top of Barningham Moor and it gets stuck in slithery grass while I’m trying to park. I stall the engine and can’t start it again because the starter motor jams. Mist rolls in and thin rain begins to fall. There is no reception on my mobile phone. Eventually, after lots of click-clicking from the solenoid, the engine coughs into life and the van snakes inelegantly onto the road. I park it in mud but on a downward slope just to be safe. I pull on my boots, but it’s a slow process because I strained a muscle in my back a fortnight ago and it’s still painful. Sheep painted in fluorescent colours watch me from behind a wall. The day has a very deep, dark and melancholy feel about it. I decide I’ve unwittingly strayed into a Leonard Cohen song or perhaps an upbeat episode of Emmerdale . . . Continue reading

Posted in Allotments, Archaeology, Bronze Age, Camping, Cup and ring carvings, Environment, Footpaths, Geology, Great North Road, Hiking, History, Industrial archaeology, Iron Age, Mountains, Shipping Forecast, Stone Circles, Teesdale, The Romans, Walking, Weather, York | Tagged , , , , | 47 Comments

Faggergill: Out of the Fryingpan into the Mire

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BETWEEN Reeth and Tan Hill lies a land of strange names. It’s a country where wild open moors and grassy dales are neatly partitioned by walls built seemingly randomly, and generations of people have drifted through in search of shelter or sustenance. Romans mined lead here; Vikings settled; industry came and went in an almost forgotten belch of furnace fumes. All left their scars and moulded this peaceful green valley known as Arkengarthdale . . . Continue reading

Posted in Archaeology, Belfast sinks, Bronze Age, Climbing, Cup and ring carvings, Environment, Explosives, Footpaths, Geology, Hiking, History, Industrial archaeology, Mountains, Railway goods wagons, Stone Circles, Tan Hill Inn, The Romans, Unemployment, Vikings, Walking | Tagged , , , , , | 27 Comments

Restless at North Gare

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I’VE been drawn to the sea because it’s the time of year when things migrate. The seasons change and life adapts. Birds fly south and animals hoard food for winter. People tune into their primeval instincts and gather stuff for Christmas or head towards the sun. Me, I watch ships sail down the Tees and something inside yearns to follow . . . Continue reading

Posted in Environment, History, Industrial archaeology, Life, Rivers, South Gare, Teesside | Tagged , , | 17 Comments

A Cook’s Tour of the Cleveland Hills

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Captain James Cook (1728-1779)  *oil on canvas  *127 x 101.6 cm  *1775-1776CAPTAIN James Cook is one of Britain’s most celebrated maritime heroes. Born to lowly farming folk in the Teesside village of Marton, his destiny lay not in farming – or shopkeeping, to which he was briefly apprenticed – but as a seaman and navigator who discovered new lands, charted unknown waters, and claimed the continent of Australia for George III before being slain by angry natives on Hawaii. So proud were the people of Teesside and North Yorkshire of their sailor son that they erected a monument to honour his achievements. It stands on a windy ridge of the Cleveland Hills and offers panoramic views across the farmlands of Cook’s childhood. The monument is the first port of call on today’s walk.

I feel slightly humble writing this. I’ve been delaying this walk all week because the weather has been wet and windy. Would Cook, a man whose reputation was founded on sailing into the unknown and in extreme conditions, and whose voyages took him into treacherous Arctic waters, have been deterred by a few autumn showers? Exactly . . . Continue reading

Posted in Camping, Captain James Cook, Cleveland Way, Climbing, Death, Footpaths, Hiking, History, Mountains, Railway goods wagons, Railways, Teesside, Vikings, Walking, Weather | Tagged , , , , | 32 Comments