Sunday, 4 April 2010

The High Places III: Hope Scar

After the helter-skelter drive through the snow and ice of early January I decided to wait until the snow had finally gone before returning to the Moor. Luckily my drive to work each day affords a wonderful panorama of the middle valley of the rivers Tees and Greta as they flow beneath the looming heights of Barningham and Scargill Moors and as the winter turned to spring I watched as the snow receded until only the tops stretching away southwards towards Swaledale were capped in white and when the last frosts were a week old memory I set out one bright morning to look for the rock art on Barningham Moor.
This time I got to the top of the Stang without any drama, parked just inside the county line and set off eastwards along the ridge. The OS map is now outdated, a wide slice of the top of the forest has been logged out and a grey tangle of stumps and brash has been left in its place. Spruce plantations are not the most picturesque habitats but when the trees have gone what is left is even worse. As I approached the outcrop of Hope Scar I saw that what glamour and mystery could have been lent to the scene by the addition of trees had obviously gone with loggers. The cliffs of pale limestone stood out like old bones against the grey sky, naked and crumbling. I scrambled down the western edge and worked my way along the base, climbing over the felled trees with their browning branches. Rabbits bolted into the forest as I processed along the scar, a pair of meadow pipits flew away piping an alarm but the place was bland and uninviting. There was no wildness here, no mystery and tiring of the dullness and the casually dropped tins of Stella that littered the bottom of the cliffs I started to look for a way back up to the top. I climbed up a grassy chimney between the rocks, looked into deep narrow channels that disappeared back into the hill and got back to the path, looking out to where in the far, far distance the wind turbines along the A68 and the tower blocks of Newcastle stood out on the horizon 50 miles to the north.

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