LAY OF THE LAND

Fairy Bank – Fell Beck

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The main rock outcrop on Fairy Bank

  The Fairy Bank is a section of the Fell Beck stream valley, located two miles to east of Pateley Bridge in the Yorkshire Dales.

  Like the Fairy Table at Kilburn, the only record of this fairy site appears to be on the first edition OS map (1854). The name was noted down several years ago, but for some reason it remained on the ‘to do’ list, even after visiting the nearby sites at Brimham Rocks and Boggart Crag. The Fairy Bank came back into focus after visiting the Fairy Table outcrop at Kilburn (on the edge of North York Moors) which led to an interesting quote from a German website, translated as ……

“Where mighty masses of stone stare down,
there they have their ‘fairy houses’.
There they eat at the ‘fairy table’.”

  This quote seemed to encapsulate a folklore pattern which had been noted at several Faerie and Hob sites in this region. These usually feature prominent rock outcrops, crags, or cliffs, perhaps with a cave, and a nearby source of water. With this is mind it was decided to visit the Fairy Bank site as a sort of ‘test case’. Having never seen the location, and with no details available, it would be interesting to see if the Fairy Bank would fit the pattern.

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At small cave on the outcrop

  The site was approached along a footpath from the south, and on entering the Fairy Bank section of the stream valley, lo and behold, a series of prominent rock outcrops came into view along the wooded hill side. This prompted a little ‘aha’ moment as it seemed to tally with the same features found at other Fairy sites. Closer inspection also revealed a small cave in the largest outcrop, and below the cave entrance, a flat topped rock that could serve as a ‘Fairy Table’ ( See the Kilburn post) In addition to this, a spring flows from the base of the crag, emerging from a tunnel like opening below the outcrop. As a ‘test case’, the presence of these natural features would seem to confirm their association with Faerie locations.

  Although the folklore to explain the Fairy Bank name appears to have been lost (like the Boggart Crag across the valley) it does suggest a local belief that this stream valley was a dwelling place of the fairy folk. The presence of the rock outcrop, the small cave, and a possible ‘Fairy Table’, might also point to much older beliefs connected with spirits dwelling within certain rock features.

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A ‘Faerie Table’ below the cave?

After thoughts
 The Fairy Bank name appears on the first edition OS map, showing that the folklore pre dates the 1850’s. It also suggests that the site had enough local significance to be pointed out to the map surveyors. In such a relatively remote area, old traditions and beliefs are likely to have lingered up until that date.

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The Lay of the Land

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