Secret Yorkshire Dales by Mike Appleton (Amberley, £15.99)

RUMOURS abounded about George Hodgson even when he was alive. When he reached his 90s, it was said that the reason for his longevity was the glass of sheep’s blood that he drank every day.

He eventually succumbed to Old Father Time in June 1715 at the age of 94, and he was buried beneath a heavy slab near the porch of St Andrew’s Church in Dent, once of the West Riding but now in Cumbria.

Still the rumours persisted about how George daily drank blood.

Then one day, a farmer shot a black hare. He didn’t kill it, just wounded it. It hobbled off, leaving a trail of blood, which the farmer followed.

The trail led to George’s old house. It went in the gate and up to the door.

The farmer looked in through a window, and there saw George tending a shotgun wound.

Villagers in remote Dent were naturally concerned. They cracked open George’s tomb, and were alarmed to see his body incorrupted and that his nails and hair had grown since his demise.

Fearing that they had a vampire in their midst, they quickly slid the slab back and then drove a brass stake through it and straight through George’s heart.

Over the centuries, the top of the stake has snapped off, but you can still see it piercing the stone on its way into the vampire’s body.


The gravestone of the Dent Vampire, clearly showing the mark where the stake was driven through its heart

The gravestone of the Dent Vampire, clearly showing the mark where the stake was driven through its heart


This is one of the great secrets exposed in a new book, Secret Yorkshire Dales, by Mike Appleton. One of his facts says that the Yorkshire Dales covers 841 square miles, which means they are the size of a small country: a bit bigger than Mauritius, three times the size of Bahrain, four times the Seychelles and seven times the island of Malta.


Secret Yorkshire Dales by Mike Appleton

Secret Yorkshire Dales by Mike Appleton


Mike’s dales are predominantly yon side, in the west and the south, which he explores above and below ground in search of stories about the living, the landscape and, of course, the dead. But he follows the Corpse Road down Swaledale, he investigates the leadmines and he tells of the Courting Wall Corner at Coverdale.

A young lady of the dale found herself at the apex of a love triangle, and had to make a difficult decision about which of her lovers she would take as her husband. She made her choice and prepared to elope with the lucky fella.

However, the unlucky chap found and asked for one last meeting at a remote spot where they had once courted.

She felt she owed him that much and, dressed in a black cloak so no one would recognise her, hurried off. Tragically, he killed her at the spot and buried her on the moor at Courting Wall Corner.

“To add weight to the story, peat cutters found a skeleton nearby wearing black clothes,” says Mike, and now the ghostly figure of a young woman in a long black cloak is said to haunt the dale.

Mike also names the Green Dragon Inn, beside Hardraw Force – “the highest single drop waterfall in England at 30 metres”, he says – as one of his five favourite pubs.


The Green Dragon at Hardraw, which is Old English for shepherds dwelling

The Green Dragon at Hardraw, which is Old English for "shepherd's dwelling"


“The early northern kings would rally their troops at known locations, such as ‘at the banner of the Green Dragon’ near the waterfall,” he says. “It is possible this is the origin of the inn’s name, and the pub’s sign shows a green dragon and a white rose.


Hardraw Force, which is Englands highest single drop waterfall

Hardraw Force, which is England's highest single drop waterfall


“Inside, the pub is a cracker with flagged floors, open fires, beamed ceilings and stone walls. A priest’s hiding hole was reportedly found in the 1970s above the former bar and kitchen area. Apparently, it led to the graveyard next door but it is now filled in.”

Everything, it seems, leads back to the graveyard, although not everything is as it seems. Take the story of the Dent Vampire.

“If you don’t want it spoiled, look away now,” says Mike. “The remains of the stake are nothing more than what’s left of a brass plaque which had been attached to the stone."

Other sources suggest that the headstone is a reused gatepost and the “stake” is the remains of a catch that had been welded in.

Alternatively, as there are no reports of Dent currently being troubled by vampires, it could be that the stake through the heart was just the job and has enabled all dalesfolk and their sheep to live in safety ever since.