OUR recent attendance at a major concert just outside the boundary of the North York Moors National Park caused some hilarity in the audience when the compere announced, “This is the first time I have visited the Yorkshire Dales.”
I think his comment was tongue-in-cheek because some members of the audience quickly responded by letting him know he was not then visiting the Yorkshire Dales; in fact, the Dales were some distance away. However, he was literally only yards from the southern boundary of the North York Moors National Park, the concert being part of the highly successful Ryedale Festival.
I think he was teasing the audience because he immediately amended his words so that “the Yorkshire Dales” became “the North York Moors” at which a cheer arose from the audience. I had a similar experience when I was chairman of the Crime Writers’ Association. The committee met monthly in London and I think I was the first northerner to become chairman but one of my tasks was to recommend the venue for the forthcoming annual conference.
I suggested Scarborough whereupon a lady from the Home Counties said: “Oh, no, we can’t. We’ve already been to East Anglia.”
I pointed out that Scarborough was many miles north along the coast from East Anglia and so the conference was held in Scarborough, fortunately the September weather was brilliant and Scarborough was at its handsome and attractive best.
From my own experiences, it does seem there is a lot of confusion about the geography of Yorkshire with the distinction between the Moors and the Dales often being misunderstood. The reason may have arisen because within the North York Moors there are many locations that bear the name dale.
For example the River Esk flows down Eskdale, one of the larger valleys in the Moors and in so doing passes through Westerdale, passing Danby Dale End and Fryup Dale before reaching Glaisdale whilst names of settlements on the moors include Kildale, Commondale, Rosedale, Farndale and others. And on those heathery heights, there are Rosedale Moors, Glaisdale Moor, Westerdale Moor, Wheeldale Moor and Farndale Moor. Thus dales and moors intermingle to puzzle non-Yorkshire folk.
The situation is very similar in the majesty of the Yorkshire Dales. Most of us know of Wensleydale, Swaledale, Wharfedale, Airedale and Littondale whilst being very careful to whom we ascribe Teesdale. But on the heights between those dales, there are many moors.
They include Arkengarthdale Moor and Redmire Moor, but a large number bear other suffixes such as common, forest, fell and sometimes simply hill.
It may be said that the word fell as applied to high ground is not found within the North York Moors but is more widely used in the Yorkshire Dales, Cumbria and County Durham.
The waterways of our dales and moors are also subjected to a variety of names including river, beck, stream, gill and also force or spout which suggest a waterfall although spout is often the name of a fast-running beck. Of these, beck is perhaps the most widely used because it appears in the name of villages and other locations in addition to several streams.
The name beck has Scandinavian origins in the Old Norse word bkkr meaning a stream rather than a river, and local names for both streams and villages include Littlebeck, Islebeck, Ellerbeck, Melbecks, Holbeck, Sleddle Beck, Codbeck and Lockwood Beck. Surely there are others for they are to be found in both the dales and the moors!
Beck also gave rise to other names associated with streams, for example beck-heck meaning a rail or rails across a beck, and beck-stang indicating a single rail. Beck-steeans (beck stones) usually referred to a set of stepping stones across a beck.
Arnold Kellett’s Dictionary of Yorkshire Dialect (Smith Settle Ltd) provides another name which I have never encountered. It is beck-ball.
That could be because it appears in what used to be the deep West Riding of Yorkshire at Maltby Crags near Rotherham, far from both the Yorkshire Dales and the North York Moors. Beck-ball is a type of football game where four teams of players compete for three balls in what amounts to a loose sort of rugby football spanning the beck at Maltby Crags. I have no record of it being played in modern times and sadly I cannot ask Arnold as he passed away some years ago.
When I was a keen cyclist, a colleague said he was bored with cycling alone on his local roads and asked my advice.
What could he do to brighten-up his outings? I suggested he visited all the becks in Yorkshire but also all the villages containing the word beck. I never saw or heard from him again, maybe he is still searching?
FOR my break for lunch whilst compiling these notes, my wife and I sat out-of-doors on our terrace to enjoy the mid-day sunshine. It was a breezy day with quite strong gusts coming from the west to bend the boughs of the trees – happily without a helping of rain.
Then a curious sight attracted my attention. A pair of cabbage white butterflies, more correctly known as large whites, were fluttering across the lawn without colliding with one another but the amazing thing was that they were flying into the wind. They were moving forward as if no wind was blowing.
But the wind was strong enough to blow petals off the garden roses and to cause fallen leaves to fly about the lawn. I drew my wife’s attention to this curious sight, each of us wondering how such light and fragile insects could fly against the prevailing strong breeze. And then I saw another, alone this time but also travelling against the wind.
He flew across the lawn and over the dividing wall despite the strong wind blowing the other way. I began to wonder whether butterflies have some secret flight mechanism that defies human logic or understanding. In some cases, butterflies will make good use of a breeze or wind which is moving in the same direction as they are, so as to travel massive distances with the greatest possible ease, but not in this case. None of the three I noticed seemed to be having difficulty with the wind, but here I referred to the single butterfly above as “he” because the female large white has two black spots on her wings. These distinguish her from the male and are readily visible when she is in flight or at rest.
If what I witnessed can be explained, it may be that some butterflies have a mechanism that enables them to cope with head-on windy conditions. I did some computer research in an attempt to answer this but it seems no-one really knows how butterflies achieve this feat. It is acknowledged that some species can fly into the wind but only if the wind speed is lower than their own flight speed.