The Road Across the Moor

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The Road Across the Moor.

Nowadays, crossing the moors of the Pennine fells  in a motor car, can be completed leisurely within a few hours. The Tan Hill Inn, Great Britain’s highest pub, in North Yorkshire, standing at 1732 feet above sea level is fairly easy to find and  relatively straightforward to  get to, following a variety  of different routes using  whatever mode of transport you wish!


But once upon a time, it was a much more difficult and arduous journey. More often than not, undertaken by foot, over rough terrain and uneven trails. It could take some days to cross from one side of the Pennines to the other. Routes had to be planned meticulously, for there was little shelter to be had among these high flat topped desolate lonely places. But this land was not completely forsaken, for there stood  hostelries such as the Tan Hill Inn, and busy establishments they were! Offering a place of refuge for those weary nomads upon the road, sheltered from the elements, s safe haven in a wild unforgiving land! 36070443035 fa463a14d5 o © james west creative commons

For there were many dangers that faced those journeying upon these lonely exposed roads, not least the weather! Sunshine and a gentle breeze could quickly transform into poor visibility and strong gales and blizzarding snow could be upon without warning. Very often it seemed that every other form of metrological permutation in between was served out in cloudbursting succession, leaving traveler’s lost, and disorientated far from a place of refuge and safety!


These  were lawless lands and robbing brigands made these remote exposed roads part of their hunting grounds, plundering the wares and possessions of poorly defended merchants and pedlars. Lonely travellers and drovers, herding their stock to the next great fair across the hill, were literally ‘fair’ game too, and a days pickings could be very worthwhile. However these moorland marauder’s knew when to leave these elevated highways,  lest the hunter became the hunted. For they were not the only ones that stalked, hunted, or lay waiting for the unwary  upon the trail!

By the time shadows were lengthening and the Sun had begun to sink behind the darkling fell, finding oneself still upon the moors was a perilous situation to be in.

Nightfall came swiftly!

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There are stories of old that spoke of terrifying encounters had by those who survived to tell the tale! Spine chilling accounts told by horror stricken travelling parties of the strange shadowy things of the Fell, that crossed their path as they navigated a way through the boggy terrain. One such account describes how becoming lost a small group of traders sought another route. They decided upon a trail, that seemed to take them in the direction they needed to go, but eventually  came to a halt in front of an ancient stone cairn, stood upon a raised mound of earth.  The mound was covered in dead brownish grass and thick with thistles, which added to the brooding feeling of dread  this place emanated. They did not linger and they quickly began to backtrack! But soon after they had left the lichen covered pile of rocks, a shrouded wraithlike figure  appeared some way back down the dead ended trail. Several more joined the first and they edged ever closer. The traders describe their features  as translucent, constantly blurring through rictus grins and gibbering leers to a nightmarish gaping black hole where their mouth should be! Their pale blue eyes were said to follow your every move, while their arms, grotesquely, outstretched to unnatural lengths tapered to spindly  grey fingers ever  grasping outwards, eager to feel the warmth of the living and clasp them close  in a grim icy embrace.

The fell lands were beset with freakish winds that came from out of nowhere. Circling above the pathways across the moor, and riding this howling onslaught, emitting unearthly shrieks of delight, flew what the dales folk believed, were the unseen fiends that dwelt  on the exposed barren fell tops!

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While upon the moor, on certain nights, pale ethereal lights flickered on and off amongst dank swirling patches of rapidly forming mist, leading befuddled weary  folk to unwittingly stray from the path and onto treacherous trails that invariably led to flooded mine shafts, bottomless bogs, or further into this Upland wilderness, never to be seen again! The folk of the Dales would say they were spirited away by mischievous sprites. Local folklore also mentions that deep within the labyrinth of  high sided mounds of black wet peat known as ‘hags, there were shaded hollows where the sun never shone. These pits of eternal darkness concealed openings into caverns where it was believed the more malevolent spirits of the fell, such as boggarts  and other dark, unspeakable things silently and patiently lay in wait for those who strayed, just a little bit too close  to their subterranean lair!

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Then there is another tale, a chilling tale which allude to  the existence of someo form of large beast, one that stalked a pair of travellers, who were a little behind schedule after they had obliviously walked off the path. Misshapen shadows cast from the looming tussocky peat hags, prevented the moons bright light from revealing the horror that lurked within the cloak of blackness that enveloped both sides of the path ! Only the barely perceptible soft tread of padded paws upon wet ground and a low rumbling growl, reveals its existence! But those two boys knew it was there!  This hellish creature was moments from making its strike, coiled and tensed, ready to leap. Whilst trying to maintain a nonchalant manner, they turned the next corner and the  peat hags abruptly give way to an open stretch of moor and  there was the path again, firmer, broader and  brightly illuminated by the very welcome lights of the highest pub in Britain. The sound of clinking glasses, laughter, music and merrymaking drifted from an open window, encouraging the fearful travellers, without daring to look behind, to sprint  the final short distance towards the safety this homely house promises! Whatever it was that lay in the darkness that night did not reveal itself but silently watched the busy pub before fading back into the rising mist from whence it came! Knocking back frothing pints of ale beside the hearth, a roaring fire helped dispel any last feelings of anxiety, the lads  may have had. And so with rising bravado, they eagerly related their tale of the unspeakable fate that nearly befell them, time and time again to all who would hear!
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A little later outside, the moon now fully risen, illuminates the road across the moor as it weaves its way back down to lower habitable, lands and civilisation. The lonely pub on the hill bolts its doors and shuts out all the terrors of the night as time is called and the drovers, peddlers, and travelling folk, make their way to bed.


The fire is burning low, and all is silent except for the soft  purring of the pubs cat hidden somewhere within the bar area. Then two glasses fly from the shelf and smash on the flagstone floor shattering into a thousand pieces. The black cat that had been sleeping contentedly in an alcove beside the fire, was now hissing, hackles raised at something unseen behind the bar!!


Perhaps not all terrors of the night are locked outside!!!


Good night.

Don’t have nightmares.

(to be continued?)


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The Road Across the Moors

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Established 1840.

The World Famous Tan Hill Inn is Britain’s highest public house at 1,732 feet (528m) above sea level.

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