The stereotype applied by other North Eastern tribes to people from Teesside is that they are “smog monsters” or “smoggies”, and when you look at the forests of pipes, chimneys, and cooling towers at the refineries and chemical works that lie to the north at Billingham and the south of the river at Wilton, and then add in the outputs of the Redcar steelworks blast furnaces, it’s not so hard to see why.
It’s not surprising then that so many should flee the vapour clouds for the more bucolic pleasures of the North Yorkshire Moors National Park that lies just to the south. Here there are over 500 square miles of heather moorland in which walkers and cyclists can happily lose themselves (The Cleveland Way, Wainwright’s Coast to Coast Walk and the Lyke Wake Walk all pass this way). The winding and undulating roads also attract a number of motor sport enthusiasts which has led to the loss of many lives over the years on blind bends and sudden dips.
Right in the heart of the park is Rosedale, a beautiful valley that is seven miles from the nearest town where grouse and curlew provide the soundtrack and golden plover bob to seek your attention. Beauty in its most natural form.
It’s hard to believe that this was also once a hive of industry, but there are clues to be found just beneath the surface. The strata reveal the blackened layers which could be no more than evidence of moorland fires, but the red and orange point to something more significant. The presence of iron.
This beautiful dale was home to ironstone workings, leading to not just to mining, but also to the construction of giant kilns which were used to roast the stone before it was transported, saving on transport cost through the removal of unproductive rock. Built in the 19th century the works brought a sort of prosperity to the valley for over 60 years but then fell into disuse when they ceased to be economically viable.
As if this wasn’t blight enough on the landscape, a rail line was built leading directly to the workings, cutting through spurs of moorland and bridging out over gullies, its effect being to create a terrace that follows a contour of the dale. Easy going for walkers and cyclists, though encountering a dog on two wheels did take me by surprise.
The dale will be the ultimate victor in this battle with man’s industry. Already the masonry is crumbling, victim to the harsh weather of the moors, and trees and grass take root in the cracks thus exposed. This might be an unforgiving landscape but the trees, grasses and heathers have the ability to bend with it and the livestock is well insulated.