Village Focus: Hard earned views in the North York Moors

Remains of the ironworks at Rosedale Chimney. Picture by Gary Longbottom.
Remains of the ironworks at Rosedale Chimney. Picture by Gary Longbottom.
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If you have ever called in at this tiny village in the heart of the North York Moors and asked for directions to the abbey, you were certainly not the first to have made the mistake.

For all its charm, Rosedale Abbey does not contain what its name would reasonably suggest you might find within its leafy confines, and it never has. Instead, day-trippers can expect to find the remnants of a small Cistercian nunnery of which just a stone turret or belfry still stands in the village churchyard.

Despite its name, do not expect to find an abbey.

Despite its name, do not expect to find an abbey.

“We get people asking where the abbey is all the time,” remarked Darren McDonald, who opened one of the village’s tea rooms, Graze on The Green, with partner James Appleton 18 months ago after they moved to the area from Merseyside.

“We laugh but explain and tell them they are not the first and won’t be the last. We’ve even thought of getting t-shirts made!”

Regardless of what historical remains it does or does not have, the village is a proverbial magnet for walkers and campers who frequent the village’s tea rooms, as well as the The Coach House Inn which doubles up as both a restaurant and a bar.

The village is also home to internationally-acclaimed Gillies Jones Glass, a studio and workshop run by Stephen Gillies and Kate Jones.

On a sunny day, located as the village is amid rising farm and moorland on either side, pockets of woodland and equidistant between Pickering and Castleton - which are eight miles away in opposite directions - being here feels snugly remote; the sound of birds only interrupted by the coasting noise of bicycle chains and the occasional exhaust of a motorbike or a car.

While it all sounds so sedate, there has been and continues to be plenty of evidence of body-slogging toil in its immediate surroundings.

Rising up from the village is the dramatically steep Chimney Bank or Rosedale Chimney, as it is both known. The open country views from the top may justify the effort involved in reaching the top, but this infamous peak is not to be taken lightly. The road to its rewarding panoramic scenery is just under a mile long and at its steepest its gradient is a brutal 33 per cent.

“I’ve done it on foot,” says businessman, Darren. “It’s bad enough walking up but especially going down. Your feet want to run away from you.”

Considered to be one of the toughest hill climbs in England for any cyclist, it was used for the national hill climb championship, featuring a young Chris Boardman, in 1987.

Atop the Chimney are signs of Victorian era endeavours. Massive stone kilns remain on the line of a former mineral railway above the village, where once an ironstone industry flourished. The mines shut in the 1920s.

FACTS

According to rosedaleabbey.com, the nunnery’s residents were probably the first people to farm sheep commercially in the region.

Following its demise during the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1535, the nunnery was dismantled amid the iron mining boom of the 19th century.

Its stone was reclaimed for building, including for a new church on the very same site.