Out & About …

… on the North York Moors, or wherever I happen to be.

Whorl Hill

I am on Live Moor and looking across to the conical hump of Whorl Hill, the glacial outlier that is a distinctive landmark on the western fringe of the Cleveland Hills.

Behind me is the ditch and ramparts of the pre-historic promontory fort, so this is a view that our Iron Age ancestors would probably have viewed. Of course, the land would have been dominated by a semi-open tree covering of oak, alder, and hazel, and look quite forbidding, the domain of wolves, bears, and other, potentially unfriendly, tribes.

I say Iron Age, for promontory forts are usually associated with that age but the site has not been excavated so very little dating evidence exists.

There is a holloway running up the hill slope to a field system that is more confidently dated to the Bronze Age. These early field systems are unlikely to have persisted into the Iron Age due to a deterioration in the climate, suggesting that the fort may be an early example.

There is a legend that Whorl Hill was once inhabited by a dragon. J. Fairfax-Blakeborough recounts the tale in his 1912 book “Life in a Yorkshire Village” :

“Upon a round knoll at this place, a most pestilent dragon, or worm, took up its abode; whence it came, or what its origin, no one knew. So voracious was its appetite, that it took the milk of nine cows daily to satisfy its cravings; but we have not heard that it required any other kind of food. When not sufficiently fed, the hissing noise it made alarmed all the country round about it; and, worse than that, its breath was so strong as to be absolutely poisonous, and those who breathed it died. This state of things was unbearable, and the country was becoming rapidly depopulated. At length the monster’s day of doom dawned. A Knight, clad in complete armour, passed that way, whose name or country no one knew, and after a hard fight, he slew the monster, and left it dead upon the hill, and then passed on his way. The inhabitants of the hamlet of Sexhow took the skin of the monster worm and suspended it in the church, over the pew belonging to their hamlet, where it long remained a trophy of the Knight’s victory, and of their own deliverance from the terrible monster.”

A knight in shiny armour suggests an Arthurian timeline, but I wonder if the legend might actually be the relic of a much, much earlier story, passed by word of mouth in tales told around the communal fire at times of festivity.



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2 responses to “Whorl Hill”

  1. Bob howe avatar
    Bob howe

    The line about the 9 cows milk is almost word for word from the geordie folk song The Lambton Worm

  2. Fhithich avatar

    Yes, someone else mentioned that too on FaceBook. I guess many of these stories have a common thread.

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