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Wednesday Wander The Lady of Bilsdale.

Thanks to Phil, Kirsten, Daz, and Paul who came for a wander last night.

Starting from the car park at Clay Bank we initially followed the Cleveland Way up the steps towards Hasty Bank. Instead of following it all the way up to White Hill, we took a minor path. The path is not marked on OS mapping; however, it is well-defined and easily navigated. It generally follows the 350-metre line above Hasty Bank Farm. The bracken is starting to die off and is already turning brown, unfortunately, this gives it a rough straw-like quality which rakes down bare legs.

After around half a mile the path passes below the first of two quarries, which sit above it on the hillside. In the first one, there are several rocks that have carvings on them. One is of a Dragonfly, another one has what appears to be a Nordic design in a square. There is also the words Urra Vista carved into the side of one of the rocks. I cannot find any information about the carvings, though looking at them I would guess they are not very old.

The path continues for a couple of hundred metres before it reaches the second of the quarries. This one is much larger with the rock face standing rising out of the hillside to over 10 metres in height. If you leave the track and walk into the quarry and climb up to one of the rockfaces you will see a carving of a female head. Her given sobriquet is the "The Lady of Bilsdale".

She has long hair and eyes that are wide open, gazing down at Bilsdale which unravels itself field by field into the distance beneath her. It is possible that she was carved by one of the quarry workers during the 18th or 19th century.

A tableau is easily imagined, taking a break from his labours our quarryman sits with his back to the rocks looking down into the newly enclosed fields of Bilsdale. A horse-drawn hoe moves backwards and forwards tearing weeds from the earth. Further down the dale smoke from a cottage chimney twists into the cerulean blue of a clear afternoon sky. Perhaps it’s our quarryman’s home, his wife keeps one eye on baby Jacob asleep in his crib, whilst plucking a Pheasant or baking bread for the evening meal. He smiles and conjures her long dark hair and blue eyes onto a canvas of bare rock within his mind.

He knows she loves the dale and the rocky places that dominate it. Taking up his hammer and chisel he sets to work to ensure she will gaze at it eternally. Ok, as usual, I digress and have stretched my poetic licence well beyond the pale, but I’m sure you get the picture.

Of course, she might not be a lady of Bilsdale at all,...

Staying on the same path we continued to contour around Hasty Bank to the Wain Stones. A freshening breeze had picked up and was blowing into our faces from the South. The heavy clouds from earlier in the day had cleared, taking their rain with them. Which meant we were running under a black mural sky decorated with thousands of stars. As we approached Garfitt Gap and the edge of the Wainstones we could see a glow of light from inside a tent, pitched between a jumble of large rocks, the sentinels, guarding the approach to the main group of rocks which make up Wain Stones.

I think the camper was misheard as apparently, they were there to do some bodying, I think bouldering was their more likely reason for a night under canvas, but you never can be entirely sure up on t moors...

It was pretty blowy up there, each gust of wind channelled around us by the giant rocks, discombobulating speech and hearing. They are not called the Wain Stones or Wailing Stones for nothing.

Following the main path, we then dropped down onto Garfitt Gap before starting the climb up onto Cold Moor. The ascent to the summit of Cold Moor is a steady one which gains you just under 100 metres of elevation. From the top, we turned southwards and ran along the clearly defined path which leads to Three Howes which eventually splits to take you to either Chop gate or Raisdale. The ridge of Cold Moor sits on a North to-South line and gives views down into Bilsdale to the east and Raisdale to the west. Its prominent position is likely to have influenced the sighting of the Three Howes burial mounds. They are placed centrally on the ridge and would have been recognisable from either end of the ridge as well as from below in Raisdale and Bilsdale. It is believed that they date from the late Neolithic period to the late Bronze Age. Many of the extant examples found on the North Yorkshire Moors have construction dates between 2400 – 1500 BC. So, when we are out running on the trails a lot of the paths we use have been etched into the landscape by human feet since the time of the building of the Pyramids of Giza.

Just after Three Howes, we headed down a vehicle track for a short distance before taking a less defined path running North along the side of the ridge. Very quickly this path became decidedly indistinct, the next few hundred metres consisted of a lot of heather bashing. Eventually, the path widened and became a vehicle track which took us back up onto the top of Cold Moor. The climb back up goes from east of Beak Hills Farm up to the cross tracks at NZ 55170235. It is a well-defined track and is great for hill repeats, with around 90 metres of elevation in approximately 6 to 700 metres.

After a quick regroup we retraced our steps along the ridge before joining a minor path that

contours around Cold Moor into Garfitt Gap.

Garfit Gap was once used for the burying of rubbish with many disused tips marked on OS mapping. Having finished descending we clipped the Cleveland Way before taking the middle forest track which runs along the lower reaches of all Three Sisters. This is another track that is barely recognisable, now that the timbermen have visited the area. We followed this track back to our starting point at Clay Bank car park. After a brief natter and a quick change from trail kit into mufti, we headed off to the Bay Horse in Great Broughton for a well-earned snifter.

The tale of the tape for our Wander was 7ish miles with upwards of 1500ft of elevation, again not too shabby on the elevation stakes…

Thanks for wandering, until next week trot on…

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