"The waters of Gormire, once sparkling and bright, to the blackness of ink were changed in that night..."
This is an ancient landscape, ingrained with thousands of years worth of myths and folk tales. Here is the deep water of Gormire Lake, left behind by the Ice Age, on the edge of the vast Plain of York. It is over-shadowed by Whitestone Cliff...
...sometimes called White Mare's Crag, where one fateful night, so the story goes, the Devil disguised as the Abbott of Rievaulx (or was it the other way round ?) drove an ignoble nobleman who had stolen his beloved white stallion, over the precipice to his watery grave.
"To that terrible spot where Hambleton Heath
Breaks in a cliff to the valley beneath;
Eight hundred feet sheer by plummet-line sounded
And nought but some heather the precipice bounded.
'Tis a terrible cliff, e'en the stoutest grow pale,
As they stand on the brink and look down the vale."
Another story tells of a witch chased across Hambleton Moor into the woods...
...shh, she's still here.
When she reached Whitestone Cliff she leapt into Gormire. Legend tells us that the lake is bottomless and that a current swept her along the course of an underground stream until she emerged, unscathed, at a well 9 miles away.
If you turn and look to the left of Gormire you will see Hood Hill, scene of two tragic RAF crashes in the mid-20th century, in the second of which a plane flew into a 20 ton boulder, known to locals as The Altar and alleged to be an ancient druid sacrificial stone. Hood Hill is also the site of a late 11th/early 12th century motte and bailey castle, as yet unexplored.
It seems you can survey almost the whole of the county from this cliff - beyond Hood Hill are the towers of South Yorkshire power stations and a little further West are the faint outlines of the moors above Haworth. Look north and you'll see the angular fells of Wensleydale looming through the mist.
Turner drew only a quick pencil sketch of this scenery on a Yorkshire tour and John Sell Cotman made it look a bit too much like Wales for my liking in this watercolour.
William Wordsworth had a go at describing it, but even he didn't quite capture the magic.
"I turn and view thy awful heights
Stupendous HAMBLETON! Thy dreadful wilds,
Thy gilded cliffs and blue expanded sides
At once infusing horror and delight!"
He was recently married to a local girl when he wrote this, so I think we can forgive him for not being on top form. Perhaps he was visiting his in-laws.