I HAVE come across some curious terminology that is now becoming more widely used particularly where map-making is concerned.

The term is vernacular geography, which might be interpreted as names local people give to local places, but which might not appear on some maps.

Such very localised names might be unknown to people who do not live or work in the area and some larger localities might also have rather vague boundaries that are difficult to determine or identify.

A large example in this region is Cleveland. Where exactly is Cleveland? What precise area does it cover?

If you examine a map of the North York Moors, the Cleveland Hills are usually clearly identified even if their exact boundaries are not indicated. When the non-metropolitan county of Cleveland was created in 1974, the new county did not include the whole of the Cleveland Hills but merely made further use of this ancient name.

In fact, there was an area known as Cleveland long before it became the name of a new county. I have a copy of the first Ordnance Survey map no 13 whose research was undertaken in the early years of the 19th Century, and it shows both the Cleveland Hills and the North Yorkshire and Cleveland Railway.

Likewise, I have a map that was revised in 1940 as a war edition, and Cleveland is clearly shown, albeit without boundaries.

Cleveland county was abolished in 1996 but those hills remain and these anomalies must give rise to confusion.

So how widespread was the original Cleveland? The name remains very much in general use.

Today we know where to find the North York Moors because the area is now a national park with clearly defined boundaries. However, this area was known as the North York Moors with imprecise boundaries long before national parks came into being.

My war edition map also shows the Yorkshire Dales but does not name them as such. It seems that Wensleydale, Swaledale, Teesdale or Wharfedale were not generally given those names at that time even though their rivers and surrounding hills are identified on the map.

Those dales would have borne local names – Wensleydale might even have been Yoredale or Uredale.

However, the massive block of hills that we know as the Yorkshire Dales were, in 1940, known as the Pennine Chain with the Yorkshire Wolds then being shown merely as The Wolds with imprecise boundaries. Local folk knew where they were, even if their boundaries were rather indistinct.

In all cases, we know roughly where these places are but could the same lack of precision apply to smaller places?

The Ordnance Survey blog gives an example of a King George’s Park which is locally known as either The Park or The Rec, pointing out that knowing its formal name could save valuable time if directing a fire appliance or an ambulance.

Some years ago, I recall a burglary and severe attack on a farmer and his family whose remote home was in a Beck House Lane – but although this was known to neighbours who raised the alarm, the address did not appear on any map and so the police response was delayed.

The raiders escaped but the farmer and his family recovered – this was before the era of postcodes. That lane is now shown on modern maps.

As a child, we would often go for walks through a wood we knew as Millimires.

Everyone in the village called it Millimires but I have never seen that name on a map which would make it difficult for an emergency vehicle to find and I do not know whether that old name is still in use.

I’ve often wondered how it got that name.

In recent months, I have been conducting research about the 17th Century and I was trying to find a location then known as Kirkdale. It was not the Kirkdale that is near Kirkbymoorside; this one was near Egton. No modern maps showed that name and then it dawned on me that Kirkdale might be an old name for Church Dale.

I know of a modern Church Dale with its Church Dale Beck, Church Dale Farm and so forth, so could the name have been changed?

And so it proved. I found a map dated 1636 and sure enough the location’s old name was Kirkdale. So had it been changed by Ordnance Survey officials as they compiled their modern maps in the 19th Century?

Perhaps it was to distinguish this Kirkdale from its near neighbour at the other side of the North York Moors? I was even more pleased to learn that a farmer who lived until recently in Church Dale always referred to it as Kirkdale.

Similar research involved the name of Roulston Scar near Sutton Bank. I was told by an elderly gentleman that when Ordnance Survey officials arrived to survey the land, they asked for the name of that location on the cliff top. The gentleman said it was Roll Stone Scar, scar referring to a cliff face.

When asked why it had that name, he told them it was because local lads would roll stones down the cliff face.

With his Yorkshire pronunciation it would sound like Rowlston Scar, and so a name was born. And it is now on the map.

Cuckoo Day Last Sunday, April 14, is widely known as Cuckoo Day inBritain.In many areas, including Yorkshire and Durham, it was believed the first cuckoos of spring arrived on this day.

They announce their arrival with the famous cries from the male of “cuckoo, cuckoo”

and the female then settles down to her task of finding the nests of other birds in which she will lay one egg.

Her victims will be various small birds such as hedge accentors, meadow pipits or reed warblers, although others may be selected. She has the uncanny ability to match the colours ofthe eggs of those host birds and she mightlay as many as 25 in selected nests.

In laying each egg, she will remove one from the nest and either destroy it or eatit, and in time those unfortunate foster parents will become unwitting carers for her gigantic, greedy offspring.

Cuckoos are large birds which are aboutthe size of a collared dove and often mistaken for a hawk. As the cuckoo’s chick grows to a massive size, it hoists other nestlings or eggs out ofthe nest. Thus it has the undivided attention of its foster parents.

There are lots of superstitions surrounding the arrival ofthe cuckoo, many being associated with good fortune.

I’ve known country folk turn the money upon first hearing a cuckoo while one strange practice to ensure good fortune was to roll in the grass as the cuckoo was calling.In rural Yorkshire it was said: “When you hear the cuckoo shout, it’s time to plant your taties out.”

However,this summer visitor does not remain for long.It sings from St Tiburtius’ Day (April 14)to St John’s Day (June 24) although some old verses suggestit remains until July, or sometimes as late as August. There is even an old adage thattells us “If he stays until September, ‘tis as much as the oldest man can remember”.