Descending Aireyholme Lane to the farm was like being part of a time-honoured ritual, with the sheep gracefully separating like the biblical Moses parting the Red Sea. The scene held an air of timelessness, as if this track had been used since the dawn of time. But one couldn’t help but wonder, when exactly was that?
It appears likely that this track has existed for centuries, tracing its origins back to the days when Aireyholme served as shielings, providing summer grazing for Scandinavian settlers after arriving on these shores. A record from 1086 referred to it as Ergun, believed to be derived from the Old Norse word ǽrgum, meaning ‘at the shielings’.
One could speculate that Aireyholme’s permanent settlement took root not long after its use as seasonal grazing land, as the resourceful Scandinavians, wise in their ways, seemed to favour the sheltered, elevated areas over the flat, marshy plains. Aireyholme provided easy access to good farming land, while its proximity to land routes leading to the rivers system and well-protected location added to its charm. Perhaps also its closeness to Roseberry, Odin’s hill, also had a powerful resonance with the settlers.
As I ponder over the history of this lane, questions arise about its role as a potential trade route between the Ayton and Guisborough settler communities. Picture the challenges they would have faced while navigating a track following today’s A173, skirting the hills, and traversing a marshy, boggy terrain, the domain of bears and wolves. The difficulties could have been considerable.
Source: The Vikings in Cleveland. Edited by Heather O’Donoghue and Pragya Vohra. Centre for the Study of the Viking Age, University of Nottingham. 2014.