20170330_Post-4of4 – A Giants argument with his wife – The Hole of Horcum – Levisham Moor and some other interesting stuff.
[Some extra info to a walk on Levisham Moor & in the Hole of Horcum]
Who : Just Me
Where : North York Moors
Grid Ref. : Grid Ref. SE853,937
Map : 1:25,000 Outdoor Leisure Map No.27 … North York Moors Eastern Area.
I hope this post will be of interest as some extra, supplementary information to my previous three diary posts about a 10 mile walk I did across Levisham Moor and through the Hole of Horcum. You may even have come to this post via one of these earlier posts, however, if you’ve come straight to here without seeing my original posts, it doesn’t really matter as this one will hopefully stand on its own quite happily.
If you’re interested, my previous posts are :-
If you click on a pic’, it should launch as a larger image on my photostream on Flickr … a right click should give you the option of launching in a separate window/page.
The following post, is a bit of a mash-up of info gleaned from some information boards put up by The National Park Authority and some other stuff found in a couple of large format books I own; “Yorkshire Landscapes” and “English Landscapes” by “Rob Talbot and Robin Whiteman”, published by “Ted Smart”. They’re mainly coffee-table style photographic books with short sections of text, with just enough info’ to go with their super images. Of course, in the stuff below, I’ve chucked in a few words of my own along the way.
The Hole of Horcum – What is it ? and how did it get here ? :-
I don’t know if you are romantically inclined or more scientific in nature, but either way, there’s an explanation as to how the huge bowl of the Hole of Horcum came into being. Let’s start with the romantic explanation :-
- A Giants Argument with his wife or the Devil’s work.
Legend has it that the giant “Wade”, scooped up a clod of earth and threw it at his wife “Bell” making both the 300-feet deep depression that is the Hole of Horcum and at the same time the 876-feet high Blakey Topping where it landed some distance away across the moors (about a mile away to the east). The Hole of Horcum has also been known as the Devil’s Punchbowl, (in common with another geographical feature in Surrey and others worldwide) where it’s said it was the Devil that did the scooping and throwing. Whether it was the giant or the Devil, apparently, the marks left by his fingers can still be seen on the slopes of the hole.
- A Natural Formation.
If you don’t believe the above, then you may well prefer the explanation that The Hole, is a natural hollow excavated by Ice age meltwaters thousands of years ago, and then eroded away by rainwater seeping down through porous rock (lower calcerous grit), where, when it reaches an impenetrable layer of Oxford Clay, the water is forced to the surface as a line of springs. These springs have caused slippage and numerous landslides, which have eroded the back of each little valley, progressively widening The Hole.
Whichever option you like best, it really is worth stopping off at the side of the Pickering to Whitby main road for a look-see and a wander. A large car-park (charges apply, but not at excessive cost) sits on the top edge near Saltergate and is where I parked up for the day to do my 10-mile circular walk.
Levisham Estate and The North Yorkshire Moors :-
Levisham Estate lies right at the heart of the North York Moors National Park. Designated in 1952 for its stunning moorland landscape, it is cared for by farmers and landowners with help from the National Park Authority. The Authority has, by law, to:
- Conserve and enhance the natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage of the National Park.
- Promote opportunities for the public to enjoy and come to understand the special qualities of the park.
A moorland keeper’s role is to encourage grouse to thrive on the moorland. This is done by the controlled burning of patches of moorland in rotation to create a mosaic of heather at different heights. This process is locally known as “swiddening”. This takes place between November and March when the peat is damp, therefore preventing the heather’s roots from being destroyed. The young green shoots produced after the old woody plants have been burnt, provide food for both grazing sheep and grouse. The patches of taller vegetation are ideal for cover. The flowering heather is also used by bees to make honey for local bee-keepers who put hives out on the moors.
A Rare Habitat :-
Almost half of the 553-square-mile North York Moors National Park is open moorland. Britain is thought to have almost 75% of the worlds remaining moorland and the North York Moors has the largest continuous area of heather moorland in England. This is globally rare and important for vegetation and breeding bird populations. It receives protection at national and European levels, including designation as a Site of Special Scientific Interest [SSSI].
The moors sustain three types of heather,
- Ling [Calluna Vulgaris], the most dominant type, which blossoms in August and September
- Cross-leaved heather [Erica Tetralix], is found in boggy, damp and wet areas.
- Bell Heather [Erica Cinerea], if you can recognise it, is useful to walkers as an indicator of firmer ground, as it grows on the driest tussocks.
Open Access for Walkers :-
You can walk over open, unrestricted moorland, but NOT fields and woodland. However, it is a sensitive habitat so look out for local and seasonal restrictions. More info can be found at http://www.countrysideaccress.gov.uk
Dogs are welcome on the access land, but they should be kept on a short lead at all times. A loose dog running over the moors can be catastrophic for sheep, ground nesting birds and sometimes the dog itself. I believe farmers have the right to shoot a dog they think is worrying their sheep.
Moors Message :-
- Tread Gently:- despite surviving all sorts of weather, the moors, their plants and animals are fragile and sensitive.
- Fire:- Uncontrolled fires can devastate vast areas of moorland which may never fully recover. Don’t start campfires or use gas stoves or barbecues or drop cigarettes/matches.
- Litter:- Take it home.
- Fences and Walls:- These keep some animals in and some out. Use stiles or gates and leave property as you find it.
- Safety:- Weather conditions can change quickly. Are you fully equipped? On some access land there are hazards such as abandoned mines and quarries.
- When out in the countryside:- keep to paths and tracks wherever possible especially during the bird nesting and lambing season (1st March – 31st July).
Flora and Fauna :-
The heather moorlands give some of the best habitat for internationally important ground nesting birds such as curlew, lapwing, merlin and golden plover.
For the first time in centuries, woodland is expanding here. The small surviving oak woods around the edges are beginning to grow where a fence keeps the sheep out. Rowan and Birch come on their own in a few years, but the Oak is far slower. So far 6,000 oaks have been grown on from locally collected seed and planted here under a joint Forestry Commission/National Park project.
In summer, the Horcum fields are a blaze of colour. First, white with pignut, then yellow as meadow buttercup blooms, and then in late summer, a blue haze with betony, harebell and devil’s bit scabious. The National Park Ranger and a local farmer manage the fields by using sheep to graze at the right time of year to allow the flowers to bloom and seed.
Sheltering on a few north facing bracken covered slopes is the rare dwarf cornal. It is at the southern edge of its range here and would be much happier in the Cairngorms!
The path around the eastern side of the Hole of Horcum (where the car park is situated) is on top of an earthwork dyke which marked a prehistoric boundary. It’s not known whether it divided tribal territories or smaller estates but as long it’s cared for, one-day archaeologists may find out. Boundaries like these are quite common in the North York Moors but they are rare nationally so it’s important they are not damaged. Therefore, it’s asked that we all walk on the surface paths.
A circular walk starting near Saltergate with fine views over The Hole of Horcum, walking anti-clockwise over Levisham Moor, Views over The North Yorkshire Moors Railway, Short drop down to Levisham Station in Newton Dale, Climb back up to Levisham village (and The Horseshoe Inn) and return to Saltergate via Dundale Slack, Horcum Slack and through the bottom of The Hole of Horcum.
Well this would seem to be a good point to end this particular post, and therefore the end of the four posts associated with my Hole of Horcum walk, so I’ll end by saying I hope you enjoyed my scribblings, and …. if you’d like to comment on my diary or any of my pic’s please feel welcome. I’d love to hear from you.