Thursday 10th January 2002

Weather: Very misty and damp


Today's Walk: Lion Inn - Thorgill - Rosedale Railway & Mines ( 8 miles )



Today's walk starts and ends at the The Lion Inn car park on Blakey Ridge ( Grid Ref. 679 997 )

The views on the walk are normally some of the best to be enjoyed on the North York Moors, but,
unfortunately for us today, the weather was foul and 100 yards was about the furthest we could see

 

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After carefully crossing the Blakey Road we head off into the murk - just over a ridge we join the disused
trackbed of what was once the busy Rosedale Mines Railway and turn right to follow it in a south-easterly direction.

Today, the isolated valley of Rosedale and its village of Rosedale Abbey, depends on farming, forestry and tourism,
but for much of the late 19th and early 20th centuries it was the scene of a flourishing ironstone mining industry.
Such was the quality of the ironstone in these parts that nearly 20 miles of standard gauge railway were built to transport
the ore across some of the highest points of the North York Moors to the ironworks at Teesside and County Durham.

Roughly 8 miles of trackbed were laid around the dale following the natural contours wherever possible, but requiring many
wonderful works of engineering, involving inclines, deep cuttings and huge embankments to get all the way round.
As I said earlier, the views from the old track are second to none on a clear day...

 

About 2 miles along the track we arrive at the fenced-off mine-shaft of what was once Sherriff's Pit

"It was not until 1874, when the Rosedale and Ferryhill Ironstone Co. obtained the lease for ironstone working
on the west side of Rosedale, that exploitation of this mine really began. The 270 foot shaft still yawns openly
to the sky, with a 1500 foot horizontal tunnel connecting to the bottom of the shaft from the outcrop above
Medd's Farm, at Thorgill. The ironstone quarried from the daleside - which varied from 5ft to 8ft in thickness -
was transported by horse-drawn carriers to the bottom of the shaft, where it was hoisted to the surface and
transferred to railway wagons."

( The old black & white photographs and "text extracts" are reproduced with kind permission from the superb books
'Round and About The North Yorkshire Moors, Vols. I & II' by Tom Scott Burns & Martin Rigg )

 

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You can clearly hear water gushing somewhere deep down inside the gaping chasm when you approach the fencing.
It's fairly obvious that safety precautions have been taken to avoid anyone straying too near the edge of the shaft
- however, take great care with children and animals as there are now some gaps in the fencing

 

This is how Sherriff's Pit looked before its closure in 1911

The pit manager's house (Francis JH Lascelles) is on the left and workshops and shaft headgear in the centre.
A partner in one of the mining companies - Alexander Clunes Sherriff - gave the pit its name.

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Apart from the shaft, all that's left of the ruined buildings is part of the gable end of the manager's house (above left)
- it almost acts as a giant signpost for us today as it's at this stage where we leave the track and head east
where it's pointing across open moor for about a mile, aiming for the above stile and holly trees (Grid Ref. 704 964)

( If you wish to stay on it, the railway track continues to wind its way around this side of the dale
until it reaches Chimney Bank above Rosedale Abbey )

I strongly recommend you carry a compass on this part of the moor, especially in foggy weather like today's
- our path across the moor from Sherriff's Pit is poor then peters out to nothing, and it can get quite boggy...

 

...and you end up trudging through this type of terrain - it's much safer in fine weather though

 

After crossing the stile we pass a couple of delapidated barns before descending steeply to the farm ruins at Gill Bank

 

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In today's foggy conditions there was a very eerie feeling about the place...

 

Gill Bank was once the home of William and Anna Strickland

"In the photograph - taken about 1903 - we observe the black-costumed Anna in the flower-decked garden of Gill Bank.
Anna was born on 19th May, 1823, and was to marry William Strickland in the early 1850's. They had a family of 12 children,
two of which died very young. In Anna's twilight years, she was often seen riding about the dale in a pony and trap;
though she always managed to shuffle down the twisting track to the Wesleyan Chapel in Thorgill every Sunday -
though one of her family always carried a stool so that Anna could rest at intervals.

There is a family story which states how Anna planted some flower seeds in the garden, and amongst the flowers grew forth
a monkey puzzle tree, which we can see in the photograph. She later planted a conifer sapling close by, which she lovingly
tended to maturity. Her attachment to that stout-boled evergreen, prompted her in later years to have the mature tree felled,
and the timber sent to Gillamoor sawmill to be cut into planks. The wood was seasoned in the loft at Gill Bank, for Anna
desired that her coffin should be constructed from the very timber she had planted in her youth. Not long after the timber had
been stockpiled, Anna took ill. She made it known to her family which persons were to bear her coffin to the churchyard, and
accordingly left four half-crowns upon the mantlepiece for their trouble. However, she confounded those fearing for her health
by living another nine years. The whole dale mourned her passing in 1912, after she had attained the grand old age of 89.
Her select coffin was carried (as Anna had instructed) to the beautiful little church at Lastingham where she was interred.

We were informed by the last family who occupied Gill Bank in 1970/1 (the Drings of Hartoft) that on three successive
occasions while they inhabited that homely dwelling, a woman was sighted in an old rocking chair by the hearth, who
gradually faded away as the person approached...was this just imagination?

 

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Descending the track from Gill Bank we soon arrive at the picturesque hamlet of Thorgill (Grid Ref. 707 967)
- a small gathering of pretty cottages, many of which are now holiday homes...

 

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...even the letter and post boxes have a character of their own

 

"It is thought that our Saxon ancestors named the hamlet after Thor, the god of thunder, as other place-names
bear witness such as Thurso (Caithness), Torthorwald (Dumfries), and Thorsby (Cumberland)

Oliver Cromwell - according to local tradition - is supposed to have stayed at Thorgill House. More likely it was
some Parliamentary horse troops which had been garrisoned in the Vale of Pickering with Sir Thomas Fairfax,
seeking out Catholics, or iron and glass workers who had not paid their taxes to the Stuart revenue officers."

 

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From Thorgill, we walk a few hundred yards along Daleside Road before following the access track to Low Thorgill Farm
- walking through the farmyard, we continue down a field to a footbridge crossing the shallow waters of the River Seven

We continue straight on up the fields, partly along a stone trod, aiming for a row of cottages about of a mile distant

 

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On arriving at the row of houses (Hill Cottages) we cross straight over the quiet road, through a gate, and head up
a track towards a white farmhouse, passing a pond where there's always a noisy gathering of ducks, geese and hens.

Continue through the farmyard as the track curves left and behind the house, passing some old ruined stone buildings
- these are what remain of the Goods Station coal cells (Grid Ref. 708 978) of the Rosedale East Mines
Go through a wooden gate that forms part of the fenced-off area and follow the stony path to the left
until it curves right and rejoins the disused railway track, which you follow for the next 4 miles

 

A few hundred yards further along the track you arrive at the first set of old calcination kilns

From the nearby drift mines, ironstone was brought in rope-hauled wagons and tipped into the kilns from above
and then 'roasted' to drive off water and carbonic acid gas, a process known as calcination
- this greatly reduced the weight of the ore, so reducing carriage costs and royalty payments

The moors in these parts are 'dotted' with shallow coal pits where some of the coal was obtained to fuel the kilns

 

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Continuing along the track, you pass another set of kilns before reaching this old ruin - it was probably a railway
building of some sort. We noticed the 'lintel' above the little fireplace was made from a piece of railway line!

 

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From here on it's just a matter of walking along the old trackbed towards the northern end of the dale
greatly admiring the work that must have been undertaken to construct the huge embankments and deep cuttings

 

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For much of the year, the track is quite boggy towards this end, and a couple of detours need to be followed,
before the track curves back round to the west side and gently climbs up to the point we joined it near Blakey Ridge

It was a shame today's weather was so awful - as I mentioned at the start, the views across Rosedale are
superb on a clear day and this is a fairly easy walk that I can thoroughly recommend for all age groups


location map


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