Tuesday, 29 April 2014



Lovely Farndale is at the heart of the North York Moors National park. It is known as Daffodil Dale because of the profusion of miniature wild daffodils which grow on the banks of the little River Dove. Said to have been planted by monks from nearby Rievaulx Abbey, they are visited by some 40,000 visitors when they bloom in the springtime.

Ralph Cross stands on Blakey Ridge at the side of the moorland road high above Farndale. Built as a wayside marker, the cross has a groove on its top where coins could be left for poor travellers.
It is used as the symbol for the National Park.
The nearby village of  Lastingham has a very important part in history.
 The church is one of the earliest seats of religion in the north of England and as a village church is quite unique.  The earliest details come from the Venerable Bede who tells us that St Cedd, who was Bishop of East Anglia, came here in the 7th century to found a church where King Ethelwald of Northumbria might worship and find a last resting place.   The first church was built c659AD and is the shrine of St Cedd who bequeathed the abbacy of his church to his brother Chad.  Chad subsequently became Bishop of York and then Lichfield where he was buried and venerated as a Saint.
 Little is known of the later history of this church until 1078, when Abbot Stephen of Whitby Abbey began to rebuild Cedd’s church.  It was such a wild and lawless place that Stephen eventually abandoned the work and went to York where he founded St Mary’s Abbey instead, leaving the legacy which is the main part of Lastingham church as we see it today.   Stephen had first built a stone crypt which is a little church in itself, with a chancel, nave and side aisles and a unique apse, which has remained unchanged to the present time.   It is thought that St Cedd was buried on the right side of the altar and it is possible that the crypt was also the last resting place of King Ethelwald.     Although Stephen’s plans for a great Abbey church were not completed, the crypt and the east end of the church were eventually incorporated into the unique present day church which was completed in 1228 and restored in 1879.

A stained glass window in the church depicts St Cedd and St Chad

The present apse is built over the unique crypt


The Blacksmith’s Arms at Lastingham retains the fixtures and fittings of a former age with real fires and real ales.

In 1774 the Curate of Lastingham church, the Rev. Jeremiah Carter, was also the landlord of the inn situated alongside the church.   When interviewed by his superior about why he kept an inn, the Rev. Carter gave the following explanation :

‘ I have a wife and thirteen children and with a stipend of £20 per annum,
increased by a few trifling surplice fees, I will not impose on your understanding by attempting to advance an argument to show the impossibility of us all being supported from my church preferment!  
My wife keeps the public house and as my parish is so wide that some of my parishioners have to come 10 to 15 miles to church,you will readily allow that some refreshment be necessary!   I take down my violin and play them a few tunes, which gives me the opportunity of seeing that they get no more liquor than necessary for refreshment;  and if some of the young people propose to dance, I seldom answer in the negative.   Thus my parishioners enjoy the triple advantage of being instructed, fed and amused at the same time.’

He went on to maintain that more people were led into piety that way than  by the most exalted discourses.’    Apparently the Rev. gentleman was complemented on his work by the archdeacon.
Sinnington is another pretty village in this area with close connections to the local hunt as depicted in the weather vane at the top of the maypole.


One of the greatest treasures of St Gregory's Minster in Kirkdale near Kirkbymoorside is its Saxon sundial situated over the doorway
of this lovely old church. It is marked with 8 hours of
the Saxon day and bears the inscription :
'This is the sun marker at every tide'.

It is said to be the rarest sundial in England.



  A further inscription at the side of the sundial reads:
Orm the son of Gamel bought St Gregory’s church when it was all utterly
broke and fallen, and caused it to be made anew from the ground,
to Christ and St Gregory, in the days of King Edward and in the days of
Earl Tosti. Hawarth wrought me, and Brand the Prior.’
From this we can gather that this Grade 1 listed building dates to 1090
and was built on an earlier foundation


In 1821 quarry men, working in a quarry alongside Hodge Beck alongside St Gregory's, uncovered a cave in which they found a large amount of bones.   Dr Buckland, Professor of Geology at Oxford, explored the 100 yards long cave  and found the remains of no less than 200 hyenas, as well as the bones from a huge variety  of wild animals and tools and weapons of Stone Age man.   The animals included woolly and slender nosed rhinoceros, lion, mammoth, hippopotamus, European bison, reindeer, wolves, bears, straight tusked elephants, wild ox and deer.   This find rocked the scientific thinking world and put new ideas about what had in fact happened in the far distant past.   Dr Buckland concluded that the cave had been a hyena lair and that the other remains were of animals dragged there by the hyena’s for food.
It seems that Kirkdale Cave was originally a river cave which was left well above the river level after the retreat of the ice during the last phase of the ice-age.  There were times of warmth between the glaciated periods and it was during the last of these which spanned something like 50,000 years, that the hyena’s came to Kirkdale and left the remains, proving that Britain had once been the home of animals which up to that time had been thought to be far removed from these shores.   A truly remarkable discovery.
Thatched roof's which were once prevalent in this area have mostly disappeared but there is still a handful of thatched cottages at Harome.
Indeed the charming local pub, The Star Inn,  is still thatched.
The little market town of Helmsley on the edge of the Hambleton Hills at the foot of the moors is the focal point of the area. It still has a weekly market and the castle ruin is a favourite attraction.


The edge of the moors near Helmsley.
 The ruins of Rievaulx Abbey are in the delightful Rye Valley north of Helmsley.
This Cistercian abbey, founded in 1132, was one of the richest abbeys in England until it was dissolved by Henry V111 in 1538.

North of Rievaulx the road drops into lovely Bilsdale.

The locals will tell you that it is thought that Bilsdale was named after William the Conqueror, he who decided to deal with the northerner’s who were  resisting his rule and it was in 1069 that William was passing through Bilsdale, which now carries the B1257 road between Helmsley and Cleveland.   Chroniclers tell us that ‘During the harrowing of the north in 1069, William passed through this wild region and made his way amid cold and ice of winter.  He kep hissen warm wi sweering.’    King Billy as he was known was noted for bad language which gives rise to a local saying, ‘Swearing like Billy Norman , or swearing like Billyo.


Travellers in Bilsdale are quite pleased to see The Sun  Inn in this remote countryside, an ideal place to stop for refreshment.  This was a popular haunt at the turn of the 19th century of Bobbie Dawson and his friends from the local Bilsdale Hunt.  When Bobbie died in 1902, his gravestone ended up in front of the pub, although it was originally intended for the churchyard grave where Bobbie is buried, but the vicar objected due to the fact that the stone is carved with a fox’s face and brush and a hunting crop surmounted by an old fashioned hunting horn.   So Bobbie’s friends put it outside his local pub where it has remained to this day.  The inscription reads :

‘ In memory of Bobbie Dawson,

Died June 17th 1902.

Whip to Bilsdale Hunt for upwards of 60 years.

Also wicket keeper for Spout House Cricket Club for many years.


Spout House, a ‘cruck’ built building with a thatched roof, built in 1570 , still stands alongside. Now fully restored, it was the inn until the Sun was built in 1914 to replace it, and has a very fine ‘inglenook’

A telephone box which was at the centre of controversy in 1993 is situated not far from the Sun..   In 1935, local landowner, The Earl of Faversham, ordered that the red telephone box at Fangdale Beck in Bilsdale be painted  green  to fit in with the rural backdrop of this very picturesque area.    This particular box was designated a Grade 2 listed building in 1990, not to be touched without express planning, because of its historical and architectural interest.

In 1993 the box was severely vandalised and British Telecom replaced it with what was described by a local resident as ‘a shower cubicle’.   B.T claimed that they had had no alternative but to replace the old box with a modern kiosk to maintain its service.   Not so said Northallerton Magistrates’ when they fined B.T £3,000 with £750 costs, for flouting planning and conservation laws.

The original telephone box was replaced by an identical model – painted green.

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