It’s been raining solidly for two days, keeping us inside, so at the first break in the weather my dad and I head up to Easby Moor for some fresh air.
From the car park, it’s gently uphill along a wide forest track through trees, before we branch off right to the rim of the moor. As we leave the trees and walk above numerous small, sandstone quarries, the view West opens up; I was brought up here, and walked the Cleveland Hills and North York Moors a lot, but this view never fails to astonish me. It’s made all the more dramatic by the threatening clouds gusting overhead.
The huge flat plain of the Vale of York stretches ahead, reaching over to the Pennines; to the north is Middlesbrough, industry, and, standing alone, the unmistakeable summit of Roseberry Topping. To the south, the edge of the moors – Kildale Moor, Ingleby Moor, Urra Moor and beyond – all traversed by the Cleveland Way leading to where we are standing, before continuing north and then east to the sea.
We walk back up to Captain Cook’s monument on the hill-top; the famous explorer and navigator was born hereabouts, and went to school in Great Ayton, at the foot of this hill, before moving to the coast and beginning his long nautical career. This uncompromising sandstone monument to his achievements is 60 feet high and was erected by a Whitby banker early in the 19th centuy; there’s a somewhat hagiographic inscription carved on a plaque which reads:
In memory of the celebrated circumnavigator Captain James Cook F.R.S. A man of nautical knowledge inferior to none, in zeal prudence and energy, superior to most. Regardless of danger he opened an intercourse with the Friendly Isles and other parts of the Southern Hemisphere. He was born at Marton Oct. 27th 1728 and massacred at Owythee Feb. 14th 1779 to the inexpressible grief of his countrymen. While the art of navigation shall be cultivated among men, whilst the spirit of enterprise, commerce and philanthropy shall animate the sons of Britain, while it shall be deemed the honour of a Christian Nation to spread civilisation and the blessings of the Christian faith among pagan and savage tribes, so long will the name of Captain Cook stand out amongst the most celebrated and most admired benefactors of the human race.
We move on to the east, down well managed footpaths through dripping larch and silver birch, with water dyed a deep brown by the peat running diagonally across the path – all rather lovely. The rain holds off and we continue, joining and leaving the Cleveland way until, in a broad firebreak, we see a cluster of striking purple flowers in the grass on the left. I’m keen to know what they are – there are the same flowers growing on a bank at home. Dad suggests that they are orchids – I’m not so sure (it turns out later that he is right – after a little work mum identifies them clearly as green winged orchids).
We head on and shortly rejoin the track heading back down to Gribdale Gate, and the car.
The heavens open again as we start the engine – perfect timing.