................of bogles, bears, and cat troughs.
The North York Moors is a huge area in the north east of england and one of the least populated areas in the country. It stretches from just north of Scarborough on the Yorkshire coast, inland about 40 miles to sutton bank and north approx 35 miles to Cleveland. Altogether that's about 1300 square miles, believe it or not. On a very lonely part of the moors, between Ravenscar and Robin Hoods Bay, is an area called Brow Moor / Fylingdales Moor. It can seem a very desolate place when it's covered in fog or mist but it has a definate atmosphere of mystery and a wonderful sense of the otherworld.
"It was a country of rolling moors, lonely and dun coloured........in every direction upon these moors there were traces of some vanished race which had passed utterly away, and left as it's record strange monuments of stone".............'the adventure of the devils foot'.....(from 'Reminiscences of Sherlock Holmes', by Arthur ConanDoyle) .
The events in 'The adventure of the devils foot' takes place in Cornwall, but the description would apply equally well to the North York Moors. Antiquities from many periods of the distant past abound here if you know where to look and the myths and stories from times long ago are plentiful and fascinating.
In one of the small wooded valleys which runs down to the sea nearby there's a place called Bogle Hole. A bogle is a kind of goblin from Northern England. Mischievous but not usually malevolent.
Here's a story told by two people i know very well about the bogle.
A few years ago they (a young lady and a young man) had set out to walk along the old disused railway line which runs along the coast from Scarborough to Whitby, and which passes along the edge of the moors and through Bogle Hole. The two friends intended to camp along the way and in the early evening ended up near a disused and deserted old quarry, which was now full of trees and which looked like a nice place to camp. On entering the quarry they were both filled with a strong feeling of disquiet, which as they went further in amongst the trees became a feeling of definate unease, to say the least. They felt they were definately not wanted there, so they quickly left and set off to find somewhere else to sleep. a couple of miles further on, as it was getting dark, they came to another nice wooded spot just below the moors (and, as it turned out, just south of Bogle Hole). So they put up their tent under some trees and about midnight, after sitting under the stars for a couple of hours, they decided to go to sleep. In the tent it was obviously very dark, and about 20 minutes after settling down one of the friends (the lady) woke the other in an agitated state. She said she had sat up intending to go outside for a minute, as you do, and sat in the tent was a small man like creature about 18 inches high, with a bald head and pointy ears, staring at her with a grin on his face. This may sound quite funny now but in the darkness, in the dead of night, on a lonely moor, it is not humourous in any way. Anyway, the little man vanished and wasn't seen again that night. The young man accompanied the young woman outside while she did what she needed to do and eventually they both went to sleep. In the morning, when they both went back outside in the dawn light, they noticed that about 5 feet from the side of the tent was a hole about 2 feet square and of indeterminate depth, but obviously very deep, covered with an old rotten piece of wood, which they had not noticed on the previous evening but which could have proved very nasty had they fallen into it. The couple were not particularly familiar with the area at that time and had no idea they were anywhere near the area known as Bogle Hole.
Anyway, here's a picture of a bogle, (from 'Fairies'... by Alan Lee and Brian Froud).
Now, as it happens, another story was told to me by a man who worked in the area at the time doing archaeological work. It happened very close to the same spot, or within a half a mile or so at the most, a couple of years later. He was sitting in his van on the old disused railway line drinking a flask of tea, as a heavy fog had come down and a light drizzle was make life thoroughly miserable for him, when in the fog, about 20 yards ahead, he saw a moving shape, which appeared to be about 15 feet high and quite broad, slightly stooped, which the man described as looking somehing like a gigantic bear, or that was the nearest comparable shape that came to mind. He said it lumbered across his line of sight at a distance of about 20 yards, just a shape in the fog, from left to right down the hill in front of him. There was no sound, and the shape disappeared from sight and was not seen again. He left the place immediately, but again, he was at some point between the quarry and the woods of Bogle Hole. Neither he nor i offer any explanation, but if you visited the area mentioned, on a foggy day, you would understand something of the atmosphere the place can sometimes have.
Among the many ancient remains on these moors are many carved stones which are currently believed to be around 5000 to 6000 years old. They are known by various names, such as as cup and ring stones, rock art, but my favourite local name is 'cat troughs'. Many theories have been suggested over the years as to the meaning / use of the carvings, from star maps, symbols of religious or magical significance etc. As usual the officially accepted 'expert' opinons are the most unimaginative (and least likely, in my view) such as maps showing the easiest route across the moor, avoiding bogs etc. The various symbols carved repeatedly, here and in other areas across britain, have been shown by various researchers to be similar (identical ?) to symbols known as entoptic images, seen in visions and trance states or when under the influence of hallucinogens / hallucinogenic plants (which are not hard to find in these areas, even today). It must also be remembered that this area was thought to be covered in forest at the time these rocks were carved.
The moors are also scattered with ancient standing stones and stone circles dating from the neolithic era, around 5000 to 6000 years ago. Ancient ritual places of the people who lived here then.
Standing stones Rigg (my photos). standing stones rigg 'druids circle'
Ramsdale stone circle
Others are known to have been destroyed over the years, some relatively recently.
But things get found too.......
In the summer of 2003 a huge wildfire burned across the moors for days.
Terrible damage was caused to the animal and plantlife and a huge area was left with little but blackened ash. Many discoveries were made where the heather and peat, which had previously covered the moor, were burned away. One of the most inteesting was what is now called the 'Fylingdales stone' and it's companions, part of a circle including other carved decorative stones which is believed to be part of a ritual centre and obviously just one more part of the wider sacred ritual landscape of these moors...........
Finally, another topic of interest relating to this area is the number of sightings of big cats (A,B,C's....or 'alien big cats'). The following exaples are all people personally known to me. There are many more.
(It should be noted here for anyone reading this from outside the u.k that there are no native big cats in the uk. the Scottish wild cat is the only one and is just like a large tabby cat, not even the size of a fox).
A friend (the same one in the bogle incident above, only more recently) was walking at Ravenscar at about 8 a.m. one june morning in 1990 and saw a very large black cat, (about the size of an alsation dog) cross the path in front of him and disappear into the woods.
Two friends with their 14 year old son saw a large black cat (again about Alsation dog size) in a field about 1 mile south of Ravenscar in october 2003.
Two friends and their 11 year old were walking their dog in the forest about 3 miles west of Ravenscar in 2002. Their son went into the trees briefly to empty his bladder and came out very distressed because a large black cat had walked towards him through the undergrowth.
But the most interesting tale is told by two friends who were walking home late one night on the outskirts of Scarborough, coincidentally on the same road which reaches Ravenscar 11 miles to the north, when they saw 2 animals which they at first thought were dogs, wandering around in some trees, on the edge of the main road (the A 171 to whitby). When the 2 animals became aware of the couple they casually ambled across the main road and jumped up on to a garden wall, which was about 4 feet high. The animals were not dogs, or foxes (they were in any case much too big to be foxes), but looked tawny colured in the light of the street lamps. Being a main road this was very well lit. They walked like cats, their long tails hung curled like the typical big cat tail, and when they jumped onto the wall and sat looking across the road they moved just like cats. Without doubt they were very large cats ! casually playing together and totally unafraid.
A village on the same main road, Cloughton, about halfway between Scarborough and Ravenscar, was noted by researchers as being a national hot spot for big cat sightings, and as i said, these stories are just the ones told by people i know personally.