The Heads

The whaleback hill separating the twin dales of Great Fryup and Little Fryup. This bridleway, up on to Danby Rigg will be almost impassable by the bracken by the height of the summer.

The two dales are drained by becks of the same names and both are tributaries of the River Esk which flows into the North Sea at Whitby. On the cliffs looking down on the river are the ruins of Whitby Abbey. In the seventh century, the abbey was known as Streonæshalch and had been founded in 657 AD with Hilda as the Abbess. It was a double monastery, that is it contained both nuns and monks but living in separate buildings and only coming together for prayers. Monasteries were self-contained communities needing an army of workers to look after the needs of the nuns and monks. One such herdsman at Streonæshalch was Cædmon who discovered late in life that he could dream of poems “of much sweetness and humility”. When the Abbess heard about Cædmon’s gift she encouraged him to become a lay monk. He became a renowned poet although only nine lines of his works survive, Cædmon’s Hymn.

Later Cædmon received a premonition of his death. He asked to be moved to the abbey’s hospice where he received the Holy Eucharist and shortly thereafter he did indeed die. It is said Cædmon died like a saint and although there is no account of his canonization he is often referred to as St. Cædmon by the Catholic Church and celebrated with a feast day, today, 11th February.
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3 Replies to “The Heads”

  1. Hello Mike, another excellent photo and description as usual. In the middle distance can be seen the recent tree plantings. This is the subject of the chairman’s forward in the winter issue of ”voice of the moors”. The planting covers a landscape known as Fairy Cross Plain, previously used as grazing land and separates Little and Great Fryup dales. It’s a good read and in Tom Chadwick’s last sentence he writes ”it is arguable that the scale is too large, the landform is adversely affected and the spirit of the place is lost”. Best wishes, John

  2. Unusually I’d agree with Tom Chadwick, this area is a little gem and a few more tress could enhance it – but the effect of this blanket planting will be to hide the glacial land form and take away much of the majesty.

  3. I quite agree with you both. In twenty years time, it’ll look completely different. But with a shifting baseline syndrome, it will only be us that are lamenting it.

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