Out & About …

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

Hrímfaxi, the goddess of the night’s horse, pulls her chariot through the dark sky

It was pretty bleak on Urra Moor this morning. I had half expected to see ‘The Hagmare of Orrer‘, a witch that was said to roam the moor in the guise of a horse1Hudson, Martyn. “on blackamoor”. 2020. ISBN 978-1-9164257-9-8..

I had met this beast earlier on Greenhow Moor. The great plow of Watership Down thundering out of the freezing mist. Hard to see but I think it was baling heather2Heather Cutting FACTSHEET. (n.d.). [online] Available at: https://www.moorsforthefuture.org.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0023/87431/Heather-cutting-Factsheet.pdf [Accessed 25 Jan. 2022].. Its mate had a giant lawnmower on the back.

So it can be done. It is not necessary to burn the heather to create patches of young heather shoots required to provide a food source for the grouse chicks.

Heather has traditionally been used in a variety of ways. Kindling, thatching, making besoms (brooms), bee skeps (hives), and scuttles (baskets). Besoms were still sold at Egton Fair in the early 1970s, when the going rate was 7s 6d3Ref026 => Hartley, Marie and Joan Ingilby. “Life and Tradition on The Moorlands of North-East Yorkshire”. Pages 82-5. J.M. Dent & Son. ISBN 1 870071 54 9 1972..

These heather bales are probably destined to be used to dam up grips — ditches intended to drain the moorland4Heather Bale Dams FACTSHEET. (n.d.). [online] Available at: https://www.moorsforthefuture.org.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0024/87432/Heather-dams-Factsheet.pdf [Accessed 25 Jan. 2022]..

But on the highest part of the North York Moors, the temperature was distinctly lower. A white hoar frost covered the heather, the goddess of the night had passed by.

In Norse mythology, Hrímfaxi, the goddess of the night’s horse, pulls her chariot through the dark sky. On damp, cold nights, the spittle falling from his bit freezes as it touches the ground, covering trees and plants with ice. Hrímfaxi means ‘rime mane’ or ‘frost mane’.


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