Then I walked in without a hat

Up for my usual walk. Today I mounted Roxby Hill and checked out the manorial earthworks, wandering down to the dismantled railway – there is NO sight of it any more. Both were apparently once great structures, both are now invisible.

At 10, Bob & I left for our long trek. We parked in the car park of the Fengar Inn and set off across Saltergate towards the Malo Cross. This appears to be a Saxon cross at a junction of paths. It’s nicely weather beaten. It isn’t Saxon though! It was erected in 1619 in a direct violation of the laws governing the royal deer park! Sir Richard Egerton decided to enclose a load of land and erected the cross to indicate the corner. The initials carved into it are his. It sits on the edge of an old pannierman’s road that leads to Lilla Cross about three miles away.

Malo Cross

I don’t know what happened to Sir Richard but the cross vanished in the 19th century, turning up in a garden in Pickering in 1924 with some damage, which was repaired before it was once more set in its proper location just beneath Whinny Nab.

Having incorrectly dated Malo Cross, we followed Hazelhead Moor until we reached Newgate Farm where we climbed up to view the standing stones above Newgate Foot. As we walked we watched the ever growing peak of Blakey Topping grow more fantastic. I guessed it was man-made until we got close enough to realise I was talking absolute bollocks. It is in fact the eroded remains from a retreating glacier. But in the interests of true scientific research and to give a balanced account, I should put forward the local theory that when the devil was digging out the Hole of Hocum with his hands, one of the fists of dirt let fly, landed and became Blakey Topping.

The standing stones are a mystery. A lot of theories claim a lot of things but one thing seems somewhat agreed and that is that they have something to do with Blakey Topping.

Standing stone

And as you move among them, you are only too aware of the hill only a short climb away. But if they were a circle or an alignment and how many there were originally…all a mystery never to be solved I’m afraid…which leads me to…

From here we popped into the next field where the remains of some sort of building sit uncomfortably in the landscape. I tried to work out what it was with Bob’s prompting. I ended up being fittingly vague by declaring it was once a medieval farm house. I have not been able to find a single reference to it, which leads me to believe it was more likely a collection of farm outbuildings rather than an actual farm…though I still believe it was medieval!

We returned to our track, climbing the steep path up to the Old Wife’s Way where we walked into great gale force winds – Bob estimated them as around 40 knots. Apparently a witch lived in these here parts and annoyed the devil by not giving up her soul. He chased her across the moors and this was part of her flight. If she was heading into the wind, I’m surprised old Nick didn’t manage to catch her! Eventually we gained the calm of the Forestry Commission sliver of trees. It was then an easy walk down to the car.

Pub & our lonely car

The pub was still closed. We were still the only car parked there. We started the car and drove up to the Fox and Rabbit where we enjoyed a couple of pints of Black Sheep and lovely roast beef sandwiches. Ah, the rewards for a good tramp.

Back at the cottage we found Mirinda and Claire ready to hit the road, having already emptied the village of tea and scones, so we loaded up the car and headed out for Helmsley. We’d spotted this lovely looking town on the way to the closed priory on Tuesday so thought we might check it out.

Mirinda & I left Claire and Bob to find the best tea room while we visited the lovely All Saints church. A very rare sight; the walls were painted with a family tree of churches. It looked fantastic. Wandering back to the town square we found a CASTLE! And it was open!

Castle wall

Helmsley Castle is a fantastic ruin; one of those brilliant old castles you can run and climb all over. The kind that turns me into a ten year old. The first castle on the site was established by Walter Espec in the 1120s and his impressive earthworks are still there today. It gradually grew over the years until the Civil War when Royalist troops were garrisoned within it. They eventually had to surrender as their food had run out but the castle had withstood the full onslaught. So much so that when Sir Thomas Fairfax took over the castle in the name of the parliamentarian army, he partially dismantled the curtain walls and towers and blew up the east tower! Such a waste. If he hadn’t the castle may still be complete today.

Sir Thomas’s story is quite interesting. He managed to save the Bodleian Library in Oxford and was not a cruel or ruthless conqueror. After Cromwell died, he switched camps to help reinstate the crown, helping to put Charles II on the throne.

All in all, a wonderful castle.

Helmsley Castle, sunset

Mirinda was back at the visitor’s centre long before me and the following exchange occurred between her and the guy at the desk:
Have you seen the guy I came in with? He was wearing a hat,” she said.
Yes, we sold him to this other couple for sixty quid,” he replied.
Wow, you got a bargain,” she said.
Then I walked in without a hat.

We then wandered down to the market square to meet Bob & Claire in the tea room and discuss how Helmsley appears to still exist in a pre decimal age where the guinea still counts for something. Then we drove back to the cottage.

Had a lovely dinner in the New Inn, just a few doors down from the cottage. Where the table of northerners was sufficiently heavily accented and the beer delightfully strong…though we actually had wine tonight.

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