A Christmas Walk: With Ghosts on Baysdale Moor

baysdale 1

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 . . .

Kildale is a village with a name to suit the mood and the weather – both of which are cold and glowering on this bleak December morning. I leave the van parked beneath bare trees in the station car park and march along the main street, conscious I’m being watched by unseen people from behind garden walls and hedges. Even the crows seem muted. Dogs refuse to bark. It’s the sort of moorland hamlet that should have a pub called The Murdered Man – but it hasn’t.

On the edge of the village I pass an old shepherd leaning against the trunk of a dead tree. He’s playing a sombre tune on a fiddle and a lamb’s head pokes from the pocket of his ragged coat.

“Pardon sir, but are you an outsider?” he says as I approach. I nod meekly. His fiddle complains and the lamb bleats.

“Then mark my words, sir. Don’t tek thissel on tat moors when the wind’s in the west – for thee shall perish.”

I’d like to say I made that bit up but I didn’t. I toss the man a silvery coin and head up a lane towards the moors. Unfortunately, the wind’s in the west, so I’m sure to perish. Perhaps I should have stayed at home and watched daytime television.

This is, after all, a place where hikers have perished in the past – and in mysterious circumstances. Who could ever forget that iconic film An American Werewolf in London, and the gory scenes that unfold among these moors? And yes – before any film buffs scroll down to the comment box – I am aware it was filmed in Wales, but the story takes place in these very hills. And there’s no smoke without fire. That’s a fact. (Click images for high-res versions)

baysdale 2In freezing wind I follow the route of the Cleveland Way long-distance footpath up Kildale Moor and onto Battersby Moor. These hills do bleak in a big way, to the point where they abuse the privilege. Nothing exists on Battersby Moor except heather, mud, grouse and the ghosts of highway robbers. Besides the grouse, I am the only living thing up here.

baysdale 3 baysdale 4 baysdale 5 baysdale 6 baysdale 7On the wind I hear the distant blasting of shotguns. It’s immediately obvious that the grouse-shooting fraternity has turned out in force to cheer us up in these times of enforced austerity. Chancellor George Osborne promised only this week that another five years of government cuts, hard decisions and unavoidable pain lie before us. So it’s heartening to learn that the grouse-shooters are carrying on as normal. Should the cuts bite and they run out of cartridges, we could always have a whip-round or close a couple more NHS walk-in centres.

Shooting butts make a very useful shelter in a strong wind

Shooting butts make a very useful shelter in a strong wind

If you detect a note of cynicism it’s because I’ve accepted we are officially living in a cynical world. Not only are the wealthy soldiering on as normal amid the austerity, but the royals are taking a break from pheasant-shooting and deer-stalking to champion the cause of the endangered species. And to cap it all, I’ve just listened to a guy on the telly arguing that torture is a good thing for Britain and we should have more of it. But I think it applies only to non-white, non-Christian people – so that’s all right.

baysdale 9a baysdale 10 baysdale 11 baysdale 12I’ve missed my path over to Baysdale and ended up on the top of Greenhow Bank. Wasn’t paying attention. Too much ranting. I shall perish up here if I’m not careful.

I take a track known as the Ingleby Coal Road. This leads across the bleakest of moors and passes a couple of large boulders pocked with interesting holes and hollows. I can’t find any reference to these boulders on the internet, but I’m going to stick my neck out and say they are associated with devil worship and bigamy. Anything goes in this country, especially in shooting circles. Even torture has its place in certain London postcodes.

baysdale 13 baysdale 14 baysdale 15At the very head of Baysdale, in a sheltered hollow called Armouth Wath – a pleasant place to picnic on a summer’s afternoon – I turn north across Stockdale Moor and head into yet more relentless miles of heather and mud. Grouse cluck and scuttle across the track, unruffled by the distant bursts of gunfire. I have no sympathy for them, because if the rich didn’t have birds to slaughter then they’d start shooting other things, and that might include European migrants, families on benefit and possibly the rest of us.

Armouth Wath is a pleasant place to stop on a warm day

Armouth Wath is a pleasant place to stop on a warm day

Ruin at Armouth Wath

Ruin at Armouth Wath

The view into Westerdale

The view into Westerdale

Shooters' bothy. Locked against vagabonds and robbers

Shooters’ bothy. Locked against vagabonds and robbers

Bothy water supply. Or perhaps it's where they wash their wellies.

Bothy water supply. Or perhaps it’s where they wash their wellies.

Christmas trees always brighten a place up

Christmas trees always brighten a place up

I descend into Baysdale but avoid its ruined abbey – which is bound to be haunted. Since leaving Kildale I have not met a single person. I don’t meet anyone in Baysdale either, despite passing a farm, crossing the valley bottom through pastureland and climbing the northern slopes. It’s an eerie place on a dull day in December. No wonder Bram Stoker’s most famous creation – Dracula – sought sanctuary in this strange but beautiful countryside. Which reminds me. I need to be back at the van before darkness falls.

baysdale 23 baysdale 24 baysdale 25 baysdale 26 baysdale 27 baysdale 28baysdale 33

In the neighbouring valley, Leven Vale, I pass the ruins of Warren Moor Ironstone Mine. The chimney stands in silence as the sun sinks behind bleak hawthorns. I pass another silent farm as the shadows lengthen.

Then, on the outskirts of Kildale, I pass a row of silent cottages. Kildale itself is steeped in silence. No lights flicker. No curtains twitch. No birds sing. Not even the wind murmurs in bare branches.

baysdale 29

This is the downcast shaft. That doesn’t mean it was sad all the time – it’s primary function was for ventilation purposes, to deliver fresh air into the mine. The bad air escaped through the upcast shaft. Click on picture below for more details.

This is the downcast shaft. That doesn’t mean it was sad all the time – it’s primary function was for ventilation purposes, to deliver fresh air into the mine. The bad air escaped through the upcast shaft. Click on picture below for more details.

baysdale 31

Back in the station car park, as darkness creeps from the woods to envelop the landscape, I spy the old shepherd with his fiddle and lamb. “Ha,” I say. “I didn’t perish on the moors after all.”

“No sir,” he replies, placing a cold hand on my shoulder. “And to celebrate the gentleman’s good fortune, I’ll tek thi for a pint in The Murdered Man.”

baysdale 32ADDENDUM:

KILDALE’S a nice place really. And the walk is pleasant and offers wide views across Teesside and the North York Moors. There are lots of ghosts in the area but they are not malevolent. As the saying goes: you have nothing to fear from the dead – it’s the living bastards you have to watch out for.

 

Advertisements

About McFadzean

Alen McFadzean, journalist, formerly of the Northern Echo, in Darlington, and the North-West Evening Mail, Barrow. 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. Now lives in Orgiva, Spain.
This entry was 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 and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

42 Responses to A Christmas Walk: With Ghosts on Baysdale Moor

  1. Hanna says:

    Lovely story, Alen and great pictures to go with it. I like your way around with ghosts. Sometimes they are very good company never boring at least. I once lived in a house which was built upon an demolished old cemetery. One day when we spring dug the garden we came up with a skull. There was a little restless at night after the event. Eventually I found a quiet spot in the garden where I put the skull into the ground and covered it again. After that time we were able to sleep again 🙂
    All the best,
    Hanna
    PS Some of it are true.

    Like

    • McEff says:

      Hanna, I don’t know whether to believe you or not. If I dug up a skull in my garden then North Yorkshire Police would cordon it off, dig the whole thing up and probably break my greenhouse. And they’d probably interrogate me and possibly arrest me. But this is England, not Denmark.
      I’d be quite happy to live next to a cemetery. That wouldn’t bother me at all. But digging up a skull in the potato patch is another matter.
      Cheers, Alen

      Like

      • Hanna says:

        I tell you ‘IT’ was smiling at us. But some part was missing.
        We had been filled with a lot of stories about the cemetery from our neighbor an old farmer. He had been filled with stories about the cemetery too from his father and so on.
        I was the one who felt uneasy about the discover and therefore I had some troubled nights if I was going to the bathroom at night. I had to go down some dark stairs and through a dark room. It was an interesting experience for my imagination 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

        • McEff says:

          Okay, I’ll go along with that. I like the fact it was smiling. That offers hope for the future. If there’s something to smile about in the hereafter then it can’t be all that bad.
          Or perhaps he died laughing. That’s a good way to go.

          Liked by 1 person

  2. Dave B says:

    Nice story, great pictures and a bit of politics – what’s not to like. One side of my family is from North Yorkshire (Guisborough) and I’ve used that as an excuse for all sorts of behaviour over the years. Do you remember the big old golf ball type structures on Fylingdales Moor? As a kid I used to swim in a pool not far downstream from there; probably shortened my life expectancy.

    Like

    • McEff says:

      Hi Dave. I had a very good night out in Guisborough once. We stayed in a pub but I can’t remember the name of it. “Red Lion” sounds familiar but I can’t find it on the internet so it must have been something else. B&B cost £29 for the two of us, with full English breakfast.
      Actually, Fylingdales would be a good idea for a walk, though I’ll give the swim a miss at this time of year. I think they arrest people if they get too close. The US military have something to do with it, so walkers probably get whisked off to Guantanamo Bay, with unofficial British compliance, of course.
      I used to live near Windscale so I wouldn’t worry about it. We’re all bloody doomed.
      Happy Christmas, Alen

      Like

  3. If I’d known beforehand what this post was about I would have turned off the lights and put on my special ‘Thirty Different Howling Wind Noises’ CD. It reads like a cross between MR James and Robert Fisk. Excellent stuff.

    I was once caught up in the middle of a grouse shoot and after all the blunderbusses went off at once I was showered with empty cartridges. (South Lakeland, circa 2009.) And wouldn’t it be funny if the big golf balls at Fylingdales were . . . great big golf balls!

    Like

    • McEff says:

      Hi Chris. I laughed at the golf balls thing so much my wife came through from the other room and asked what I was laughing at. I should really get myself down there and have a walk around. It would be an excuse to wear the plus fours and the chequered tank top I’ve had since 1972. I could put a note at the top of the post saying: “Play a Bing Crosby CD while you read this.”
      Grouse-shooters inhabit a different world. If you get talking to them they are really quite charming. Apparently, when Willie Whitelaw shot that beater back in the 1990s he apologised profusely. According to the Telegraph (informative newspaper in broadsheet format), the Duke of Wellington was more dangerous on the grouse moor than the battlefield. So you were really quite lucky.
      Cheers, Alen

      Like

  4. That ruin at Armouth Wath looks interesting, possibly even a spooky, wild camp spot? I can see reading your blog will throw up lots of ideas for the Outdoor Bloggers’ Ghost Hunting Division!
    Love the North York Moors, too. Did I see somewhere you live in Darlington? I’m a Hartlepool lass, myself. Have been in the Peak District for many a year, but all my relatives are still in Hartlepool and Middlesborough. 🙂

    Like

    • McEff says:

      Hi Chrissie. Armouth Wath would be an absolutely perfect place to wild camp. Plus, there are standing stones and burial mounds only just up the moor.
      I live in Barton, which is between Darlington and Scotch Corner, though I’m from south Cumbria originally. I like the North-East. Great area.
      Cheers, Alen

      Like

  5. Ash says:

    Oh I do like a good yarn! Obviously I don’t get out enough. I’m hoping to travel over to Colne next year so if you’ve any good stories about that part of the world particularly over towards Haworth it would wet my appetite. Can I suggest another book for you to read? Another one for your Christmas list: The Moor by William Atkins (Lives, Lanscape, Literature) ISBN 978-0-571-29004-8.

    Like

    • McEff says:

      Hi Ash. Colne is a mystery to me. The nearest I can come to it is Clitheroe, and my only experience of that town is attending an auction about 25 years ago and buying six pigeons. But between the two stands Pendle Hill, which has a very dark history, it being associated with the most notorious witch trials in English history. In fact, it is every bit as sinister as the Cleveland Hills (damn, should really put it on my list). I’ve a notion my old friend Danny, who graces these pages with poems and videos, lives in that area. But I might be wrong.
      Thanks for the William Atkins information. I’ve just read some reviews on the internet and it sounds a fascinating book.
      All the best, Alen

      Like

  6. brandybutter says:

    Great post, I like the story and the photos. I live in Middlesbrough and enjoy the Moors, but I’m not so keen at this time of year mind! Nice to have discovered your blog and I look forward to reading more.

    Like

    • McEff says:

      Hi Norman. I discovered the Moors quite late in life so I’m just feeling my way around. I walked the Cleveland Way about 12 or 13 years ago, and that gave me a really good taste of the area. They are, though, much more welcoming during the warmer months.
      All the best, Alen

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Jo Woolf says:

    “Out on the winding, windy moor….” (Sorry Alen, but I’ll have it going round in my head all day so I thought I’d share it! 🙂 Great post and photos! Love your spooky imaginings, although I’m not convinced that you were all that spooked! Those carved rocks are AMAZING. Bigamy and devil worship – ideal for Christmas. And another lethal shaft in the ground, randomly sitting there waiting for victims!! I spied a little grouse tottering across the path in front of you – did you have a conversation? By the way, re. the bothy and the haunted-ness, I have just read a book by a Scottish mountaineer who has had some pretty hair-raising experiences, both in bothies and on the summits. Love your camels, which have suddenly hove into view on your header!

    Like

    • McEff says:

      Hiya Jo. I searched Google for hours trying to glean information on the boulders but could find nothing. There are certainly stones with Bronze Age carvings in the area, but the one in the picture, with the huge immaculate dish, doesn’t get a mention. It doesn’t look natural, but the possibility remains that it actually is.
      You’ll have to let me know the name of the mountaineer. Many years ago – decades, in fact – I read an article in The Great Outdoors about a bothy which is reputed to be haunted. It was written as fact, not a ghost story, and concerned poltergeist-type disturbances. I can’t remember the name of the bothy; consequently, whenever I spend a night in a remote bothy I always have a poor night’s sleep.
      Cheers, Alen

      Like

      • Jo Woolf says:

        I guess when you think about it, they can’t catalogue every single rock that’s up there on the moors. I love mysteries like that! The mountaineer is Alan Rowan and his book is called ‘Moonwalker’. The bothy in question is in Wester Ross, and is called Bendronaig, but he knows of many others where people have reported spooky stuff. Sorry if that doesn’t entirely put your mind at rest!

        Like

    • McEff says:

      PS. The shaft was quite unexpected. I had no idea the mine existed until I saw the chimney in the distance. Just watch where you’re putting your feet!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Just the kind of place I prefer to be alone to feel the atmosphere – I never find it scary, just atmospheric 🙂

    Can’t agree with you on the ‘torture’ thing though – to me sleep deprivation etc. while a little unpleasant, isn’t torture in the manner they would do to us, i.e. with electric drills etc. And I think to get the names of the kind of people who burn women teachers to death in front of 5 year olds, a bit of sleep deprivation does good rather than harm personally – sorry…

    Anyway, let’s not fall out about it – lovely photos of somewhere I haven’t been for way too long!
    Carol.

    Like

    • McEff says:

      I’m of the opinion that if we’d used an electric cattle prod on former government chief whip Andrew Mitchell and that bolshie Downing Street copper we’d have got to the bottom of Plebgate before it escalated into an extremely expensive circus. But we didn’t because torture doesn’t work and we wouldn’t have used it on British chaps anyway.
      But I can see the attraction. It would be a good incentive for politicians to tell the truth. And the bankers and financiers. A pair of B&Q pliers applied to the foreskin would focus the mind and keep sticky fingers out of the public purse.
      Besides that, I knew you’d pick on that point, Carol.
      Cheers, Alen

      Like

    • McEff says:

      That takes me back to the Braddylls Arms, Ulverston, late 70s. Lads nights out. Now if I’d bumped into little Katy up on those moors, Danny, I wouldn’t have minded at all.
      Cheers, Alen

      Like

  9. Tynemouth.Peter. Released at last !!! Nuff. said. I have been following blog and the brilliant photos. But (due to the manacles) I was unable to use the keyboard. (see gunnery manual: section vol 7/42 for restraint for mutineers) The photos are HD on this contraption yet I have many TVs HD ready….when will arrive? Re the golf balls on t’moor DON’T STAND IN FRONT OF THEM…you will be micro-waved. I am at present,trying to get the staff on zero hours and zero pay ( for their livers sakes) Once I get the problem of WHY IS THERE ONLY ONE MONOPLIES COMMISSION .I phoned DC at No ten (Dave as he likes to be called) and an equary replied that (Dave) was far too busy setting up an inquiry into why there are so many inquiries ?!!! May the Lord help us., Pip pip !

    Like

    • McEff says:

      Peter, I don’t know what you’re on up there in Tynemouth but I’d certainly like some for Christmas. I shall take your advice regarding the golf balls. I think it’s good advice not to stand in front of them whether they’re small ones or big ones – either way it’s dangerous (I could do the old joke about Hitler dying in a bunker but I’m not). I must admit, the Monopolies Commission crack made me laugh, but there again I’ve been on the Christmas port.
      All the best, Alen

      Like

  10. May I wish you a Merry Christmas and all the family health,wealth and happiness in the coming New Year……..Peter.

    Like

  11. EchoohcE says:

    Thanks for the post Alen. Happy New Year and that. Just checking my wordpress login thing; it’s gone a bit queer since just before Christmas.

    Like

  12. liz Adams says:

    I just caught up with this wonderful post. Kildale! Battersby! names of my distant youth…those wonderful scenes, so beautiful, and so what southerners insist is bleak, what do they know…anyway, thank you so much for a long walk. I seem to recall the occasional hunt around Kildale, never saw it, too young, and family not into supporting it.

    Like

    • McEff says:

      Hiya Liz. Thanks for dropping in. This is an area I’ve only discovered in the past 15 years, so I’m pretty new to it! I’ll be back there soon. It’s a great time of year to plod over those lonely moors.
      All the best, Alen

      Like

  13. Hi Alen. I just wanted to say thank you for this most enjoyable report and route. I was staying down at my parents in Northallerton over Christmas and came across your post whilst looking for a walk I could do nearby. It was my first time exploring a new part of the Moor since I was much younger and I thought it was a great circuit. If you are interested my report is here: http://tms.nickbramhall.com/blog/2014/12/kildale/

    Like

    • McEff says:

      Hi Nick, thanks for that. Glad you had a great day out. It’s a fantastic area of the countryside. I shall take a look at your report right now!
      All the best, Alen

      Like

  14. Great set of images and nice write up, looks very beautiful.

    Like

  15. Hi Alen, just letting you know that I used this route for a short wild camp out this last Saturday night and I’ll put a link to this blog post when I get around to writing it up. Very enjoyable, if a tad on the windy side……….

    Like

    • McEff says:

      Hi Chrissie. By gum, you’re a hardy type. Last Saturday I had a cold half hour on the beach at Blyth and that was enough of the outdoors for me. I look forward to reading your report.
      Alen

      Like

  16. Pingback: Sleeping With The Black Hagg | Dixie

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s