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Wednesday Wander Hunters Sty Bridge Westerdale.

Last week we wandered from Hob Hole just outside of the village of Westerdale.

The parking area is situated next to a ford which is often covered by water from the fledgling Baysdale Beck which eventually flows into the River Esk. Though called hob Hole this actually relates to a pool a short way further up the beck. Local legend on the Moors abounds with the tales of Hobs, magical little men who were forever causing mischief throughout the Dales if they were not shown due deference.

After meeting at 6:45 pm we set off uphill along the road towards Kildale Moor before turning off and following a footpath which loosely follows the line of Baysdale beck between Westerdale Moor and Great Hograh Moor. This is a good runnable path that leads to Baysdale Abbey. On this occasion we did not go that far so will forego writing about Baysdale Abbey so as not to digress just yet...

Climbing out of Baysdale we passed the Shepherds House on the ascent up through an evergreen plantation towards Holiday Hill. Although it is a fairly nondescript hill its name conjures up images of holidays or holy days of times past when religious festivals were observed by every man woman and child. Perhaps the small communities from around Baysdale would have joined together on Holiday Hill to celebrate whichever holy day or feast day was to be observed as set by the canonical calendar. During the Middle Ages, there were at least 60 of them, further back still, Neolithic men and women may have huddled together watching in reverent awe as the morning sun seemingly rose out of the earth to climb above the horizon heralding in another new day. Light overcoming darkness the sun eclipsing the the moon banishing it from the dawn sky, once more afirming lifes continuity...

Ok I do digress but I think it's worth a few lines and a ponder.

On the fringe of Great Hograh Moor there is a stone FB, with a keepstone dating from 1938 , spanning Great Hograh Beck, which on Wednesday was passively gurgling beneath its weathered arch, pass by after a strom however and the waters thrash and heave above the bridge making passage a damp bone numbing adventure. From there the trail climbs steadily up leaving the riverine landscape behind taking you onto a single file path which is strewn with sandstone rocks which at night seem to dance at your feet, appearing and dissapearing in the bobbing light of your headtorch like ships rising and falling in the waves of a storm.

As you near the top of the rise there is a stone memorial close to Skinner Howe to Alan Clegg who had spent many hours walking on the moors before he died in 1984.

The path across Great Hograh Moor meanders as it pleases showing a rakeish lack of care for those traversing it on foot. Falling is at the top of the list of possible outcomes if one allows ones thoughts to stray to the end of the run or walk and the joy of a pint of something freshly hand pulled, instead of where ones feet are landing. On this occasion we all made it to John Breckon Road without any bloodletting or bonebreaking, though I think I heard muttered curses from the darkness behind me.

Although now partly tarmaced John Breckon Road is part of an ancient highway that leads to Farndale and then onto Rudland Rigg, possibly ajoining Skinner Howe Cross road which was much used by travellers leaving Baysdale Abbey. It also forms part of the Esk valley Walk long distance path, and is 34.16 miles north of the centre of York apparently...

Another short hop across open moorland brought us onto the minor road above Westerdale which left us half a mile of road to run down to Hunters Sty Bridge.

Hunters Sty Bridge is a medieval ribbed packhorse bridge dating from the 14th century though it is likely that human traffic has used the crossing point above which the bridge now stands since the Bronze Age. It is of ribbed construction with 4 stone ribs supporting the underside of the arch. Although rennovated in the 19th Century by Octavius Duncombe 1817-1879, it still retains much of its original stonework and looks pretty much as it would have done when men and animals crossed it before climbing steeply up into Westerdale before journeying onwards to the the Royal hunting parks near Pickering. Sty from old English stigend, to go up as in steep hill, hence the name Hunters Sty Bridge.

Along with the many Hunters who would have used the bridge it is likely that mounted Templar Knights will have eased their chargers between its abutments on their way to their preceptory in Westerdale. The priory sadly no longer remains but gravestones believed to be of Templar origins were found in the present church which dates from the 19th century. The original church is likely to have been restored by the Templars who farmed at Westerdale from the 11th to 14th century until their order was suppressed and their lands taken over by the Hospitalliers.

Leaving the bridge behind we turned about and headed back up the road whence we had come. The climb away from Westerdale is every bit as steep as that heading towards it and makes for a good workout for lungs heart and legs going on for a little under a mile before topping out just above the John Breckon Road junction. From there it's a sinew stretching descent back down to river level and Hob Hole the steepness of both ascent and descent denoted by black arrows on OS mapping which identifies the gradient as being greater than 20% (1 in 5) or 14% (1 in 7).

Once back to Hob Hole we dusted ourselves off, changed into our dancing gear and shimmied off to the Clevleand Inn at Commondale for a cup of something fortefying and cockle warming, well autumn beckons afterall...

The run as usual had been of around 6 miles and consisted of plenty of things to see, runnable moorland, forest tracks and some of the black stuff more commonly known as road. Unlike the week before the weather Gods were benign and there was no requirement for sou'westers or galloshes.

Until next week Trot On 💪🦍

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