Rosedale and the Seated Man

Today we learn that not all well planned days bear fruit and not all fruitful days are well planned.

“Fancy a walk on Friday”, the Pilgrim is asking as she’s on half term and wants to fill the days with meaningful activity.
“Certainly”, says I showing her a walk I’d been working on around Rosedale.
“That’ll do, we’ll recce it”, she responds and I’m happy ‘cos we have a plan.

Twenty minutes later and we’re doing the walk plus a visit to a close relative on the East Coast and an hour after that we’ve added a visit to friends also on the coast. It’s going to be a full day!



So we’re up at the crack of dawn(ish). Actually, it’s about ten and we’re running quite late to do the things we want so modifications are in order. I’ve already planned a bale out part of the walk that would reduce it by two thirds and it is, by now, a reality.

So…we’re up late…we receive a call from Pauline; “Could we come early?”, well, of course we can, nothing’s in stone, so the walk’s on hold whilst we go there first. Who needs a plan anyway?

The ‘run out’ is via Hole of Horcum a place etched in my memory as we spent many hours there with handmade hang gliders. The objective was to see how long we could remain aloft as we glided (if we were lucky) to the bottom. We’d then have to gather the machine up and carry it back to the top, it certainly kept us fit.

Modern hang gliders and paragliders can be bought for £1000 plus already working and so efficient they cover 250km (160 miles) or more on a good day. You need a license now but in those experimental days we’d build a kite out of aluminium alloy tubes, high-grade airframe wire and ripstop nylon.

You could buy one of course but they were more or less what you could build and building it was more fun and cheaper. The other advantage was that you knew the quality to which it had been lovingly built. There were times you’d be three or four hundred feet up and at that height with the wind singing in the wires your mind would occasionally wander and questions would conjure themselves out of thin air, “Did I tighten that bolt?”, and “Should I have tensioned the front wires a little more – or perhaps, less?”. Then there’d be a period of time when confidence wained followed by a tightening of grip on the ‘A’ frame and a minuscule shift of weight forward that would result in the kite descending gently to a height that would only cripple rather than kill.

Of course, most of our flights consisted of sitting on a board (the seat) that hung from the main frame allowing movement in any direction on a single plane and it was these movements and shifts of body weight that changed the centre of gravity of the machine and made it turn, fall and, if the circumstances were right, climb.

Take-off was as follows. Grab the ‘A’ frame and with the help of a couple of wingmen run down the ridge like a toboggan team then push gently on the ‘A’ frame and, at the same time sit on the plank that would be swinging around wildly behind your bum. If your coordination on this flight was good then you got to stay airborne; however, if you mistimed any element then you’d end up in a tangled heap halfway down the ridge!

In those days the inefficiency of the machine meant that getting up to more than fifty feet was a luxury and heights of two or three hundred feet were the result of taking off from a ridge that was two or three hundred feet up and very, very rarely, a particularly lively thermal! This take-off was rather more precarious and any error as you left the ridge resulted in a rather more dramatic descent followed by an abrupt stop; it was not for the faint-hearted.

So… with a visit to friends rescheduled and the visit to close relative a failure our plans are dynamic but still a wonerful day, we’re on our way back now and taking the Blakey Ridge route to break the monotony but still with Rosedale as an objective when I spot ‘The Seated Man’. It’s just a spec in the distance but I’m confident I’m right so call out, “It’s the man!”

The Pilgrim is driving and after a quick double take on the surrounding area near the car, followed by a glance up the road she asks, “Man, what man?”

I can see her point, if the quiet contemplative atmosphere of the car that I’d been driving had been shattered by a nonsensical outburst by one of the occupants I think I’d have had a view on it!
“It’s the statue, the sculpture thingy”, says I in a fit of descriptive eloquence.
Neither the Pilgrim nor Emma have a clue what I’m talking about so I try again.
“It’s the Dalesman, The Man in the Seat looking down the dale. He’s supposed to look like Jeremy Corbyn”, I try to explain.

None of this is making sense to the other two so I ask to stop at the side of the road and suggest we walk to it and get a mildly enthusiastic ascent.



It’s no more than 15 minutes from the road along a track that’s muddy but not too bad as to make walking difficult, just slow. It’s bitterly cold though and we meet a couple coming the other way. We’re wearing buffs or scarves around our faces in an effort to mitigate the biting wind so identifying others similarly clad is impossible; how terrorists and bank robbers manage is a mystery. I’m chatting away to the Pilgrim and turn to mention the up-coming swamp when I discover she’s not there and realise that for the last 20 yards I’ve been talking to myself. She’s identified an old colleague although how is anyone’s guess. It’s not the first time we’ve met someone from way back on the moors but it still seems surreal.

A few reminiscences later and we’re on our way again and as we reach the top I hear appreciative exclamations from my chums, it really is impressive. If I’m honest I’m quite relieved that they find it as impressive having made such a jump into the unknown visiting something that I’d only read about and that they’d not even seen in an article.

As we approach the size becomes clear and a couple of ‘wows’ later we’re sitting on its feet with cameras working overtime.

Its proper title is ‘Seated Man’ and was commissioned by David Ross Foundation. David Ross was the founder of Carphonewarehouse and owns Castleton Rigg which is the land on which it stands. The artist is Sean Henry and it is commissioned to stand (or sit) on this ridge looking down Westerdale for five years. It has been reported that it is an exiled Jeremy Corbyn sent to the moors to reflect and I do think there is a remarkable resemblance. It’s seriously impressive standing 3 metres high and cast as a painted bronze.

We love it and I would urge you to walk the half mile off the road to see it ‘live’ and take your bairns, it’s safe and the walk will do them good.

We make our way towards Blakey and the Lion Inn turning left towards our initial objective of Rosedale Abbey. We pass Fat Betty which is a stone offering an element of confidence to travelers over many hundreds of years. There are references to these crosses from the 12th century.

Fat Betty is a stone about four feet high and has various legends that justify its existence i.e.

  • two nuns from Rosedale Abbey got lost in the fog and eventually died in the extreme cold on the moor and this commemorates their lives.
  • Another legend is that a farmer’s wife died and he found her body at this spot and he set up the cross in her memory
  • and the final one that I’ve found is that a nun called Margery or Margaret died at this point in her journey across the moor and the cross was set up in her name and was originally called Margery’s Cross.

We carry on towards and then down into Rosedale to Rosedale Abbey which is a tiny hamlet that’s grown up around the priory that was destroyed by the wonderfully benevolent King Henry VIII during the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1536. It’s a lively little community now with St Mary & St Laurence Church, a school, a shop, some public lavatories and a pub, what’s not to like?

We park the car and make our way to the public footpath and walk north towards Northdale. The weather over the last few days has been seriously wet and cold so the track is muddy and there are mini-streams of water running off the fields. There are flocks of sheep looking at us as if they think we’re nuts as we yomp through the field of clingy and energy-sapping mud that sucks at our boots and result in sounds like a honeymooning couple on their first night. We need to pick and chose our route as some parts of the field are clearly boggy and there is no way to gauge the depth; the sheep, in the meantime are scratching their heads at the stupidity of these humans tackling this terrain ‘for fun’.

The bonus, if there is one, is that the icy cold wind that stung our faces on the moor is not evident here. We can see that it hasn’t abated as the clouds are scurrying across the sky at a fantastic rate.

The river is meandering along the valley floor and on the banks, there are trees in winter livery but with signs of spring in the form of tiny buds shining green as their content matures and swells against the tightening skin.

The track is getting wetter and we decide on a re-route just short of the wonderfully named ‘Bell End Farm’ which will take us back along a farm track towards Haygate.

In fairness, the new track is no better than the boggy conditions at the bottom of the field but at least we’re heading back towards the car.

Just before Haygate Farm, we enter a field that is the domain of some very friendly ponies who make no secret of the fact that they’ve seen us. Within a few minutes, they’ve positioned themselves on the track so that we have to approach them and anyone with a large-animal phobia may well be intimidated. We’re not, so we talk to them as we push between, there’s lots of snorting and head tossing but they seem to appreciate the attention as we stroke their velvet noses.

At the gate, we hear a shout from a lady near the cow-byre. I first wonder if our presence is not appreciated but it’s anything but. She’s asking if we’re OK and if the ponies are worrying us. I call back in the negative and thank her for her concern. I’ve mentioned before the friendliness of the natives and they’re evidence personified here at this farm.

As we pass through the farm the owner engages in a lively conversation and tells us about the weather since Christmas and it’s easy to understand the reason for the bogs and mud.

We move on through the yard and exit onto the small backroad that takes us back to Rosedale Abbey and the car.

We got to all the places we intended but not how we intended and it meant we got to see the ‘Seated Man’ as an added bonus.

Thanks, Cecilia and Emma, a great day with wonderful company…G..x


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