The day dawns grey, and a cold wind whips across the moors. Its not exactly ‘wuthering’, but its not exactly July either.
We set off up the road, on the look out for Old Ralph, and Young Ralph crosses. The old feller proves elusive, Then we turn left towards ‘Fat Betty’
Fat Betty ( sometimes referred to as White Cross ) stands just north of, and is easily accessible from the road that leads
from Blakey Rigg to Rosedale Abbey, at the junction of the Danby, Westerdale and Rosedale parishes
The head of the cross is an ancient wheelhead painted white, set into a large stone base, also half of which is painted.
It could possibly be Norman and is only one of two known wheelheads on the North York Moors
It perhaps takes its name from a Cistercian nun, Sister Elizabeth from the Priory at Rosedale
These nuns wore gowns of undyed wool and were referred to as ‘ White Ladies’
Another tale is that a local farmer’s wife, Fat Betty, fell from their horse and cart on a dark, foggy night.
When he arrived home and noticed she was missing from the back of the cart he retraced his route across the moor
and all he could find was the large, squat stone
Ooo… Its all a bit weird up here. As far as the Coast to Coast goes, it is customary to leave an item of food and take one that has already been left by someone else. But when we pass by, the cupboard is bare. (Later John and Trish report that when they passed a short time earlier, there were several sweets and some money there! Its one for Poirot evidently.) Whatevs. We leave a cereal bar.
Continuing on, we cross more moors… Glasidale High Moor (views to Great Fryupdale). More Moors. More grice.
We descend down a long tongue of moorland, eventually passing into the Glaisdale Valley.
Just at the point where the farmland starts, there are 2 birds of prey noisily circling and diving around each other. They are making too much noise to be hunting. The book says to look out for Merlins. Maybe that’s what they are.
Glaisdale Village is a rather eccentrically strung out place, separating into 2 roads. It’s a case of ‘you take the high road and I’ll take the low road.’ All roads join back at the Arncliffe Arms. Amazingly there is a café under the pub. We have been in so many pubs it makes a change to have a choice. We are already installed when John and Trish make the same decision.
Unfortunately the place is being run by one rather feckless individual who is making ‘slow’ into an art form. He hasn’t much of a clue about making food, and is sooo painstaking, doing one thing very slowly at once. Lucky we only ordered fruitcake and cheese, but even this modest request takes half an hour.
The conclusion is that he is the son of the pub owner, told to get downstairs and make good. Meanwhile the unwashed dishes mount up, and he has to keep going upstairs for things he has run out of… Like tea bags.
After lunch we walk along the river for a while, via Beggars Bridge, then up through a muddy wood, next dropping down a lane into Egton Bridge. We pass The Horse Shoes. It looks pretty enough with its flower filled window boxes. But it is quiet. Too quiet!!
We have plenty of time, so we make a stop at St Hedda’s church (Catholic), to see some wall friezes in the Catholic style. Then we continue along a toll road belonging to the Egton Estate.
Coming into Grosmont we again bump into John and Trish, who are looking rather forlorn at the prospect of continuing much further. They are last seen heading off towards Littlebeck.
In the village the level crossing gates are shut, so we stand and watch the train steam out on its way back to Pickering. Large, noisy and nostalgic. We came here some years back, on a rainy day, whilst staying in Kirkbymoorside. We spent some time going round the engine shed. In those days the line stopped here, but now it goes on to Whitby, which enjoys an integrated steam and diesel service.
Which brings us to Grosmont House, our stand-in B&B.
Something strange happened to me there. Inexplicable.
From the outside it looked like a rather run down Gothic pile. Inside we were welcomed by the owner, who took us on a tour around long dark corridors, and an amazing dark galleried dining room hung with flags. A dark visitor’s lounge packed with books stored higgledy piggledy on old wooden shelves… so reminiscent of, and even smelling like, Penlan before we moved in. A huge staircase with a similarly huge gothic stained glass window. Somewhere, the smell of lilies. Another long corridor, and our room. An odd combination of posh and dirty. There were crumbs on the slightly greasy Chinese rug, as though someone had been eating biscuits there. There was a new metal four-poster bed, on which the curtains looked dingy. In the (dark) bathroom there was a 1970’s mouldy plastic shower unit which had seen better days. Everywhere dark cold slightly damp.
I freaked out big-time. Seriously. Just wanted to get out ASAP. Couldn’t wait to get out for tea. Didn’t want to go back. Slept poorly and fitfully. Couldn’t eat breakfast the next day. Was never so glad as when we left.
I cannot explain how I felt in any adequate way. It reminded me of the house in ‘A Handful of Dust’, Hetton. The house that Tony Last tries so hard to save from decay. It reminded me of our own house, and the struggles to keep it up. And the Jones’s. Clearly the owners here were being overwhelmed by the decay around them. The smell of lilies reminded me of the undertakers’ lounge so recently visited.
But it doesn’t cover how I felt in that house. I felt trapped. Endangered. Like being in ‘The Shining’, a film I’ve never really seen but know by repute.
Even stranger THE BOOK gives it high praise. “A delightful place”. “The fresh lobster salad is said to be divine”. Trip Advisor also seems to have this schizophrenic dichotomy in its reviews. Half of them think its great, 5 stars. The others seem to have had my experience. I can only conclude that there are 2 wings. One where everything is fine, and the other which is never cleaned. Either that or there is some weird evil mansion which slips in and out of time a la Brigadoon.
I know which one I was in.
One for the XFiles.