Who Threw the Sod – the Giant or the Devil?

Map Ref: SE873934  Landranger Map Number: 94

Easy to get to (grid ref and directions are for the stone circle)

From Pickering, take the A169 towards Whitby. When you get to the Car Park at the ‘Hole of Horcum’ – (you can’t miss it), park the car and walk North along the side of the road towards Whitby. After 60 yds, take the track East. Follow this for approximately a mile until the track splits. Take the concrete track left towards the farm house of ‘Newgate Foot’. Go through the yard past the house on the right, and you will come to a stream and a gate. Enter the field on the right and up the track. The stones are in front of you.

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There just seems to be so many Giants around! Exploring the gorgeous North Yorkshire Moors, I came across it’s local Giant, Wade – and his unfortunate wife Bell. Like a lot of Giants, they seemed to quarrel a lot, and local tales tell of these fights. One such tale tells us that the huge ‘Hole of Horcum’ was created when Wade scooped up a clod of earth to throw at Bell and it landed a couple of miles away, forming the hills of Blakey Topping, Roseberry Topping and Freebrough Hill.

The ‘Hole of Horcum’, on the North York Moors – a few miles from the market town of Pickering

Another tale tells of a witch who, after making a pact for her soul with the Devil, changed her mind and escaped over the moors on her broomstick. Enraged, the Devil grabbed a handful of earth and slung it at the witch, missing her, and where it landed created Blakey Topping. Like Wades tale, the hole left by the clod was the Hole of Horcum. It us surprising how many witches lived on the moors – it sort of reminded me of the one on Rombalds moor 70 miles away. She (like this one, was nameless), but that is another story I will tell later.

The sared hill of Blakey Topping – created by either a Giant, or the Devil – take your pick!

So, on a beautiful late Spring morning, I walked the ‘Old Wife’s Way’ down to the sacred hill. A slight detour took me through a field of buttercups and some curious horses grazing in a field, and in a mile or so was standing where the stones were. Yes, you can really see why this hill is regarded as sacred. There are 4 stones – 2 standing, one laid down in the earth, and one propped up as a gatepost.

The ‘Old Wife’s Way’ – the ancient track to the hill. Legend says that the witch fled along this track persued by the Devil, but another one says that Giantess Bell drove her cattle along it in times past

English Heritage says this is a ‘stone row’, whilst Aubrey Burl thought a stone circle. According to one Robert Knox, who wrote in 1855, some short distance NNE of Blakey Topping, on the moor tops there were 9 standing stones – some of them in triangles – one with a hole all the way through it – standing between 4-6ft tall. According to the official websites, they don’t exist!

A standing stone – possibly part of a Bronze Age stone circle. The sacred hill can be seen through the line of trees.

I saw some earthworks and what looked like some stones in a field in that direction, but unfortunately so were about 4 dozen very frisky heifers – so gave it a miss. I will try another day to see if they can be found. If they are still there, they are probably lying down in the bracken – or use as gateposts or in a wall or barn – often the case for old stones!

Horses grazing in a field of yellow buttercups – with Blakey Topping in the distance

It is east to see why Blakey Topping is regarded as sacred – it has a certain ‘feel’ about it, and apart from the ancient standing stones it also has two tales told about it. So, a good candidate indeed!

—- As I was returning back to the car, I spied an old man walking towards me. As I passed, he asked if I had I been up Blakey. I said that I didn’t get to the top as the field was full of heifers. He said it wasn’t the heifers I should be wary of – but the fairies! Curious, I asked him more. He said he hadn’t seen them himself – but his ‘old Dad’ swore that he had once…another reason for it being sacred!

With huge thanks to Paul Bennett for the info about the extra stones – and much more!

You can read much more about this hill and these stones here.

 

 

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9 thoughts on “Who Threw the Sod – the Giant or the Devil?

  1. Pingback: Blakey Topping, Allerston, North Yorkshire | The Northern Antiquarian

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