It may not have escaped your notice that I am rather fond of walking on the North York Moors. I only need half an excuse to head over there for a gallop in the heather. I recently gave a talk to the lovely people of Rosedale WI and someone there mentioned a walk that sounded absolutely fascinating.
Known as the Hanging Stones Walk, it is much more than just your average bimble. It is an art project sponsored by the Ross Foundation (an organisation that supports initiatives related to art, community, sport, music and education). The foundation commissioned renowned sculptor Andrew Goldsworthy who is famous for his spectacular pieces of land art located in both rural and urban settings.
The idea of the walk, which starts in Rosedale Abbey, is to create a living and experiential artwork using existing neglected or derelict farm buildings dotted around Northdale. The land belongs to the Rosedale Estate and a series of ancient pathways have been resurrected to link each building. Although the circular walk is not quite finished (there will ultimately be ten buildings to visit), the current series of nine buildings can be visited in four to six hours, depending on how fast you walk and how long you spend in each one. You have to be fairly fit, and able to read a map to locate the buildings. If you do find it a bit strenuous, you have the opportunity to take a breather at each stopping point.
These old structures have been given a new lease of life, with the original stones being reused as far as possible. They have been constructed in a way that is sympathetic to their original use, and to the land that surrounds them, as if they have always belonged there. They are padlocked shut, so you have to book in advance, and places are limited, but it is well worth the effort. You collect a key and a map, and are let loose to find your way.
Each installation has its own name, such as ‘Bog’s House’ and ‘Job’s Well’, and as you head towards each one, you begin to wonder what you might find when you arrive, to wonder about its past history and how it was used. What stories would the old building tell if it could speak? The anticipation grows as you put the little key in the lock, because from the outside there are very few visible clues as to what’s going on on the inside. I’m not going to say what is in each, because finding out is part of the enjoyment, but I can say that both of us who went declared ‘Wow’ several times. It was so impressive, and wonderful to just sit by ourselves inside these once neglected buildings to marvel at what they have now become. None of them had any electricity or mains services, and we were often sitting in near darkness with little sound except the calls of birds and the trickling of water. But it gave us some sense of what it must have been like back in the day, back in the times when the residents of these remote dales were not blessed with electric lights, or modern gadgets. It was incredibly peaceful, and a real tonic to be able to switch off from the constant sensual harassment inflicted upon us by everyday life.
The walk in between each building was a delight in itself too, with expansive views down the valley towards Rosedale, which just served to highlight why it is one of the most beautiful dales in the whole of North Yorkshire.
It was a privilege to be able to visit, and I marvel at how the creative mind of Andrew Goldsworthy has managed to conceive this amazing, breathtaking art, while at the same time pay homage to the nature and function of the old buildings and the land in which they sit.
The day we went was overcast, so I plan to go back again on a warm summer’s day and do it all over again. The thing is, if it hadn’t have been for that tip-off resulting from my visit to Rosedale WI I would never have found out about this walk.
What other wonders are hidden in North Yorkshire that I have yet to find?
Read more at countrymansdaughter.com. Follow me on Twitter @countrymansdaug
This column appeared in the Darlington and Stockton Times on 12th and Ryedale Gazette and Herald on 10th May 2023.