Day Return to Bloworth Crossing . . . and Beyond

bloworth 1THE mineral line from Ingleby Greenhow to Rosedale didn’t feature in George Bradshaw’s railway guides – so that’s one reason why Michael Portillo hasn’t ventured along it with a film crew. Another reason is the track was lifted long before most of us were born. That doesn’t mean to say it’s not a great journey. It is. On foot . . .

pink winkMy wife once confronted Michael Portillo outside Barrow town hall. Sorry about veering off down a sideline at this early juncture, but it seems as good a time as any. He was, in those days, an extremely rightwing and unpopular member of the Thatcher government and my wife was a member of a group called Women Against the Poll Tax. Portillo was visiting the town hall and the women were outside shouting slogans and demanding an audience, assuming they wouldn’t get one. Quite unexpectedly, however, he emerged from the gloomy sandstone arches with a smiling face and said: “Good afternoon ladies – what can I do for you?”

My wife recounted later: “Oooh. We just stood there. ’Es really ’andsome when you see ’im in the flesh. Oooh. Oooh.” And so did the anti-poll tax movement sustain an early setback.

Personally, I think he’s an ugly bugger. And anyone who wears pink shirts and lavender jackets should not be trusted.

Moving on smartly, Ingleby Greenhow is a village firmly rooted in the farmland between Teesside and the North York Moors. This part of the moors is also referred to as the Cleveland Hills. There was a time, in recent history, when Teesside’s industrial tentacles stretched right over the moors and even beneath them, but those times are gone. All that remains are the scars left by quarrying, mining, and the mineral railways. (Click pictures for high-res versions)

Ingleby greenhow 1 Ingleby greenhow 2Ingleby greenhow 3From Ingleby Greenhow I march along lanes to Bank Foot Farm, where a winter wind moans eerily in overhead power lines and bare branches. From the farm, a railway trackbed runs south along the foot of an escarpment. Northwards, it crosses a couple of fields to arrive promptly at Battersby Junction, which is still connected to the national rail network. So this walk should really have been done by train, not car, to add some authenticity (this has just occurred to me while typing these words).

Two miles later along the southbound trackbed, clad in waterproofs and buffeted by gales and squalls of hail, I arrive at the foot on an inclined tramway that once lowered wagons of ironstone 730ft in vertical distance (222m) from the crown of the moor.

Ingleby greenhow 5 Ingleby greenhow 6Great continental railway journeys, eh? Michael Portillo travelling in luxury through European history, eh? Pink shirts and lavender jackets, eh? Cast all that nonsense aside. What would it have been like to stand in an empty ironstone wagon as it glides up the incline, watching the distant blast furnaces of Middlesbrough appear above the trees? Picture this: heathery moors sweeping down into a basin of perfectly flat farmland; a smudge of smog on the horizon; grey chimney stacks trailing webs of smoke into the atmosphere and out across the North Sea as the wagon gains altitude – the Pennines to the west, industrial mayhem to the north. Then a sudden jolt and a clatter of wheels as the wagon arrives at Incline Top. And there before you, a railway line snaking south along the moor’s purple crest for miles and miles towards the sun.

Ingleby greenhow 7 Ingleby greenhow 11Today there is a ferociously bitter wind and an occasional flurry of snow. The trackbed is easy to follow, but banks of slush linger in cuttings and make progress arduous.

At Bloworth Crossing the line intersects a drove road that has been incorporated into the Cleveland Way long-distance footpath. Bloworth must have been one of the highest level crossings in the country, but if anything existed in the way of signs or gates they have long since disappeared. A couple of barriers prevent off-road vehicles from damaging the delicate moorland plant-life, and an information board details the environmental features. Other than that, there is little to see except an abandoned railway, an intersecting path and lots of bog and heather.

Ingleby greenhow 8 Ingleby greenhow 10 Ingleby greenhow 13 Ingleby greenhow 14 Ingleby greenhow 16I head south along the trackbed for several miles around sweeping curves that exploit the contours to a bridleway that dives into Farndale. Rosedale and its iron mines are too distant for one day, so it’s my intention to descend to Esk House Farm, double back, and follow tracks to the head of Farndale, then climb back onto the moors to Bloworth Crossing.

Ingleby greenhow 15

That's that sorted then

That’s that sorted then

At the roadside just north of the farm, I’m sitting in the shelter of a dry-stone wall eating my lunch like an old tramp, when along the road trots a rather rotund lady in smart tweed trousers, red thermal top, and wielding trekking poles enthusiastically. Aha. She spies me in the undergrowth and stops to chat.

She tells me she’s from Hull, a delightful place apparently, but one I’ve seen very little of except for an unflattering ferry terminal. Today she’s inspecting footbridges in Farndale in her capacity as a voluntary ranger, making sure they’re all in good working order ready for the daffodil season. If Farndale is famous for anything, it’s daffodils. I expect everyone knows that.

Last week she was inspecting the coastal cliffs between Scarborough and Filey. They are collapsing into the sea at an incredible rate and the footpaths are becoming quite scary. Soon Scarborough will have been washed away completely. That’ll make the borough council’s recent demand for the return of Richard III’s bones look pretty silly.

The ebullient lady from Hull (which sounds like the opening line of an interesting limerick) heads south in search of a railway sleeper that’s been washed from one of her bridges. I finish my cheese and pickle sandwich and head north.

farndale 1 farndale 2 farndale 3 farndale 4 farndale 5 farndale 6 farndale 7 farndale 8Farndale today, in the blustery wind and sudden showers, is a peaceful place. Pleasant tracks lead through farms and climb onto the open moor, where a slight navigational error places me further to the east of Bloworth Crossing than I had anticipated and marching in the wrong direction. Other than this hiccup, I have enjoyed my walk.

A hundred years ago, these moors were alive with activity. Now they are empty. The industry has gone and the landscape has subsided into a more natural state. But telltale signs of those former times remain: blocks of masonry; an iron bar sticking out of the heather; marks left by sleepers in cindery paths; overgrown spoil heaps; curved embankments.

The North York Moors. I’m beginning to feel quite attached to this place. Might get the train here next time. I’ve already ordered a pink shirt and lavender jacket off Amazon.

Ingleby greenhow 17

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About McEff

Alen McFadzean. Journalist (under notice of redundancy) on The Northern Echo, former shipyard electrician, former quarryman and tunneller. Climbs mountains and runs long distances to make life harder. Gravitates to the left in politics just to make life harder still.
This entry was posted in Archaeology, Climbing, Drove roads, Environment, Footpaths, Hiking, History, Industrial archaeology, Mountains, Railways, Walking and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

23 Responses to Day Return to Bloworth Crossing . . . and Beyond

  1. alan.sloman says:

    I can’t quite picture you in a lavender jacket… :-)
    Your second and last pictures are quite gorgeous, and your story-telling is magical.

    • McEff says:

      Hi Alan. The jacket’s just landed in the post but I’m sending it back because it’s too tight under the arms. When you say the second picture is quite gorgeous, do you mean the Michael Portillo picture or the tree? I’m quite pleased with the tree. I nearly put it at the top.
      All the best, Alen

  2. alan.sloman says:

    Sorry – I can’t count! THIS ONE

  3. qdant says:

    the step stile in photo #20 took my eye
    I wonder if there were any Roman, mediaeval and Victorian miner and quarrymen ghosts following you ? was it just the wind ? no doubt the pink shirt and lavender jacket kept them at bay
    to save you 7.5p :-
    The Geology of Eskdale and Rosedale, Memoirs of the Geological Survey 1885 price 1/6d
    http://www.yorksgeolsoc.org.uk/BGS-Memoirs/B01519.pdf.
    and this walk took my eye
    http://www.gazetteherald.co.uk/leisure/countrywalks/9505644.Two_Horseshoes_country_walk___Rosedale/
    thanks for the time in posting Danny

    • McEff says:

      Hi Danny. There were plenty of ghosts following me. They are growing in number. And yes, the stile was interesting, and all the walls in that area appear to be made from hand-shaped stones rather than just random quarry or beck stones. It’s an interesting place.
      Thanks for the notes – my geological knowledge of the area is rather fragmented to say the least. Rosedale’s high on my list for a visit because I’ve never been there and it looks like a fascinating location and full of history.
      Cheers, Alen

  4. David says:

    It’s hard to imagine these moors resounding to the thump of industry and the hiss of steam as people toiled in all weathers up there. The walking looks great. Looks like a good mountain biking area as well with all those bridleways and wide track beds.

    • McEff says:

      Hi David. I would say it’s almost purpose built for mountain biking. Those tracks seem to go on for ever, and that incline would set your brakes screeching – on the way down at least.
      I will be bleak up there today, though. There’s a blizzard blowing down here in Barton, so it will be a white hell up on the moors.
      Cheers, Alen

  5. Jo Woolf says:

    ‘Buffeted by gales and squalls of hail’ – I have to admire your determination! Superb pics yet again, of wonderful countryside. I love the old lanes and stone walls. The view in the last pic is lovely. Your Instagram-design pic of Michael Portillo is quite eye-catching, colour-wise! A pink shirt would ensure you were found by a search party, in times of crisis…

    • McEff says:

      Ha ha. I often find myself in times of crisis, Jo. Perhaps we should all wear pink, just on the off chance we might get lost on the fells. Not so sure it would go with my eyes, though.
      It’s a great place for walking. Didn’t see another soul all day on the tops.
      Cheers, Alen

  6. James Lomax says:

    The ebullient lady from Hull
    Found her life exceedingly dull
    Then one day…..

    Nice story. I’m not familiar with these areas but they look good for some exploration.

    • McEff says:

      I was on the edge of my seat there waiting for a dirty pay-off line. Ha ha.
      It’s a great area, James, and I’m not very familiar with it either. But it’s great for striding out on a cold and windy day.
      Cheers, Alen

  7. That would make a great start to a limerick – you should write the rest and put it out here! ;-) I’m a bit of a collector of limericks…

    Some of that trackbed looks to have some steep inclines on it. It looks quite a nice walk though. Your first few ‘wintry trees’ photos are really lovely – I like trees in winter – it’s about the only thing I do like in winter!

    And I don’t think Michael Portillo’s good-looking either – your tale proves what a smarm I already thought he was!

    • McEff says:

      Thanks for that Carol. I’m tempted to finish the limerick but it probably wouldn’t be printable. And thank you for restoring my faith in womankind in regard to the Michael Portillo thing.
      Cheers, Alen

  8. Hanna says:

    Your photos are outstanding, Alen. A lovely light, and a unique atmosphere. However, it sounds like an exhausting hike, perhaps it is your description of the weather. How many kilometers did you go before you discovered your navigation error?
    Obviously I can tell an awful report from Norway, for once it is not about myself starring:-) But more about this another time.
    Many greetings
    Hanna

    • McEff says:

      Hej Hanna. I quite often go astray and end up walking in the wrong direction, but I usually sort myself out before too long. I was about a kilometre out on this occasion, which isn’t far. I’ve done worse, such as dropping down into the wrong valley in Spain once, which was very disorientating.
      Cheers, Alen

  9. beatingthebounds says:

    How did Portillo wangle his meeja junkets? I don’t believe his new ‘reasonable’ pose and his Radio 4 series in which he re-examined some historical event from an extremely right-wing point of view was predictably objectionable.
    Best moment of Election Night 1997…………
    I’ll stop ranting now……looks like a great walk, I’ve only visited the North York Moors a couple of times, seems I’ve been missing out.

    • McEff says:

      Funny you should say that, because I sat down to watch his European railway journeys series with great expectations and found the whole thing sadly lacking in depth. I got the impression he’d read the script the night before he went and didn’t have much idea about the places he was visiting and the people he was supposed to be interviewing. Perhaps he should have stuck to being Defence Secretary. No, no. Forget I said that.
      1997. Oh, what sweet joy. What nectar. What sublime happiness – and so fleeting. If only it would come around again. Like, tomorrow.
      Cheers, Alen

  10. teigl says:

    I’ve been savouring your blog back pages, going through them a few a day…what a wonderful, beautifully written body of work. It contains most of the things I love….mines, old railway tracks, landscape, pies and comes with a refreshing sprinkling of left wing attitude. I can’t be trusted to speak coherently about that man with the lavender jacket…my missus thinks he’s nice too. Anyway, thanks for another great read!
    cheers,
    Iain

    • McEff says:

      Ha ha. Funnily enough, I’ve just had a conversation this very afternoon with my brother-in-law concerning the man with the lavender jacket and he’s also of the same opinion. Apparently, there’s a new series of Great Railway Journeys coming out so we were discussing the merits of the man. My wife, while defending Portillo and his fashion sense, reckons his legs are too thin.
      Thanks for the comment, it’s greatly appreciated.Positive feedback makes everything feel worthwhile.
      Cheers, Alen

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