The Trolls Aws and Devils Elbow – Saltergate

  Saltergate is located to the north of the Hole of Horcum on the North York Moors, 7 miles to the north of Pickering.

  While recently sorting through some old photocopied articles, i came across a reference to a placename called the ‘Trolls Aws’, near Saltergate on the North York Moors. The article dated from 1937, and was written by Frank Dowson who lived in the village of Goathland, 4 miles to the north of Saltergate. Dowson wrote several articles about the Goathland Plough Stots for the Transactions of the Yorkshire Dialect Society, including one about the Scandinavian influence in North Yorkshire. In this he mentions several placenames in the Goathland area, which he suggested were evidence of these early settlers, and among this list he notes the ‘Trolls Aws’ ……

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Gormire Lake – Abigail’s Leap

Gormire Lake

  A previous post looked into some of the folklore and beliefs connected with Gormire Lake, located four miles to the east of Thirsk.

  One legend has it that a small town once stood where the lake is now, but on one fateful night an earthquake struck the town, and it sank into the earth. A great flood of water then covered the town and created Gormire lake. The folklore also says that under certain conditions, roof tops and chimneys can be seen below the surface of the lake, along with the glint of silver plates from the houses. Else where in the country these kind of stories have been shown to contain a grain of truth, with the discovery of submerged remains of Iron Age ‘Crannog’ type houses that were built out over the water. The reference to glinting metal work is also interesting in connection with votive deposits that were thrown into lakes during the Iron Age, and the proximity of the massive Iron Age hill fort on the hill top above the lake.

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The Needles Eye and Wishing Stone – Brimham Rocks

Brimham Rocks
Brimham Rocks

  The crags and strangely shaped rock formations known as Brimham Rocks are spread across a moorland hilltop 8 miles to the north-west of Harrogate.

  The rocks at Brimham have attracted tourists since at least the mid 1700’s, when the Romantic Movement inspired the ‘gentry’ to seek out natures wonders. Before this time the weird rock formations would have only really been known in the Nidderdale area, where they seem to have featured in local folklore and customs. An example of this was recorded by Hayman Rooke who visited Brimham Rocks around the year 1785, and noted that bonfires were lit on midsummer’s eve alongside a tall pillar of rock known as the Noon Stone. At midwinter this pillar also caused the sun to cast a long shadow onto a nearby cottage at midday. There is also a reference to a stone circle surviving in the same area, so this too probably featured in local beliefs.

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The Man and Maiden Wishing Stones – Filey Brigg


  Filey Brigg is a long and narrow headland extending out into the North Sea at Filey on the Yorkshire east coast.

  The headland is almost one mile in length, and forms the north side of Filey Bay. It is comprised of a ridge of high cliffs, which then drop down to a bed rock platform pushing further out into the sea. This rocky projection is the actual ‘Brigg’ (or Bridge), and a local legend records that it was built by the Devil using his large hammer to pave the way. Where the bridge was going is not recorded, but the Devil seems to have given up when he lost his hammer in the sea.

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Gormire lake – ‘A wild and bottomless tarn’

1802 Journal of Dorothy Wordsworth

  Gormire lake is located at the foot of Sutton Bank, 4 miles to the east of Thirsk.

  The lake sits in a secluded location in woodland below the high rocky cliffs along the edge of Sutton bank. The land at this point rises abruptly from the low lying vale of York in the west, to the higher ground of the Hambleton Hills and moorlands further east. This steep rise forms a west facing escarpment with sheer rock faces known as the Whitestone cliffs or White Mare Crags, from the top of which there are extensive views across the vale to the Yorkshire Dales.

  The half-moon shaped lake is about 1 mile in circumference, and sits in a hollow below the cliffs. This location effectively hides the lake, which can only really be seen from the cliff tops above. Gormire is one of only four naturally formed lakes in Yorkshire, and this, along with its hidden location, seems to have led to it featuring strongly in local folklore.

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The Lay of the Land


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