Purple haze marks the home of the 'moorjocks'

The North York Moors are at their best now with their regal coating of splendid purple lining. It is the largest area of open heather in England, truly wonderful even in the minds of the moorfolk who live and work there.

I was brought up in Glaisdale, described in Arthur Mee's King's England series as cut off from the rest of the world, and I feel it is not surprising that townspeople referred to moorfolk as moorjocks.

It's true – we seldom left those moors. Moorjocks is a nick-name for black-faced sheep and I suppose we were settled into our moorland life just as those sheep were hefted (or heeafed – pronounced hee-afted) on the same moors. Heeafed or hefted means they don't permanently leave their patch of moorland even if it has no fences. They might sample delights in your unprotected garden – but they will return to their heft.

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Leaving those moors to work elsewhere, or even to take a holiday, was something I never experienced as a child. I remember one fellow from our village who went off to Canada to seek a new life. Wondering whether he had gone by aircraft or ship, I asked a neighbour, "How did Stan go?" His answer was "Over that hill" as he pointed to the lofty moors. Maybe that's when I discovered there were other worlds over that hill.

Another hill-farmer whose wife had died was persuaded by his family to take a holiday in Switzerland. They made all the arrangements and off he went, his very first holiday apart from going to Stokesley Show and having a day at Northallerton cattle mart. After a couple of days, his daughter rang him at his hotel. "Are the meals all right, dad?"

"Aye," he grunted. "Except they don't give you a spoon to eat your gravy."

"So what are the views like from your room?"

"They'd be all right if it wasn't for all these mountains," he replied.

In another instance, a typical moorjock farmer who lived by himself and who had never slept away from home, was persuaded by his sister to spend a couple of weeks with her. The snag was she lived in the south of England. But he agreed and, as he lived some distance from the station, a friend offered to drive him to Grosmont where the trains then connected with York and beyond. When the pal arrived to collect him, our hero was waiting but he had no suitcase.

"Where's your suitcase?" asked the friend.

"I don't need one, I'm only going for couple of weeks," was his reply.

For outsiders this is a place of history, wild life, charming dales and boundless views due to a distinct lack of trees. Those views can be appreciated from umpteen vantage points. There's an almost 360-degrees panorama from Young Ralph's Cross above Castleton, with breathtaking scenes of Whitby and the North Sea from the top of Blue Bank near Sleights.

But our view of life within these moors was necessarily coloured by their remoteness, so it is

not surprising that outsiders regarded us as rustic or

even retarded.

When I was a young policeman in Whitby, I was chatting to the 16-year old daughter of a fishing boat owner. She asked where I came from, and I answered, "Glaisdale".

"That's where they jump on you from behind hedges," she shuddered.

I had great difficulty explaining that such tales were not true. But I did discover that none of her family, all fisher-folk from Whitby, had ever been out of that town, except by boat.