On a sunny, frosty winters morning and with half a day free I decided to have a mooch around a part of Westerdale Moor known as Crown End. If you look at a map of the North York moors you'll see that Westerdale Moor covers a fair swath, running from Farndale to the Esk valley. Crown End is only a small spur of the moor bounded by Baysdale and the Hob Hole Beck to the north and Westerdale and the infant River Esk to the south. The spur runs roughly west to east and is about a kilometre and a half long by about eight hundred metres wide.
The prehistoric remains on this section of the moor have been known about for the past couple of hundred years and were written about at some length by Frank Elgee. Essentially what you have is a cross ridge dyke running across the narrowest section of the spur, beyond that is a cairnfield and a possible enclosed settlement. The cross ridge dyke and cairnfield have been interpreted as Bronze Age and the settlement as Iron Age.
I parked up at Hob Hole, a local beauty spot popular with picnickers in the summer and generally deserted in the winter. It is also possible to access the moor by walking a mile or so from Castleton making this area accessible by bus or train.
If you use the Hob Hole car park you will need to cross over the beck using the ford, on my last visit there was a foot of water running over the ford so this wasn't an option and I parked at the south side of the ford.
Once on the moor, the first monument you'll encounter is the cross ridge dyke. This is a line of standing stones built into an embankment running north to south across the narrowest section of the spur. The southern section only contains a couple of decent sized stones; the northern section is more complete with a dozen or more stones remaining. It's quite surprising that anything remains at all when you look at the grouse butts and other structures on the moor. It makes you wonder what this monument would have looked like prior to the introduction of grouse shooting.
The northern section of the dyke terminates just before the land begins to drop off into the valley of the Hob Hole Beck, the final large stone has a cross carved into it. This cross may well indicate that this stone, or possibly the whole monument, was used as a boundary marker beyond the prehistoric period. Marked stones such as this one are often mentioned in the perambulations of the moorland estates. There is a cross marked stone in another, nearby cross ridge dyke, the Bridestones.
When I arrived at the stones the low winter sun was shining and everything was frosty and beautiful, however within half an hour the sun had disappeared and a dense fog enveloped the moor, you could almost hear the vegetation 'crisping up' in the freezing fog. The whole atmosphere of the moor was almost instantly transformed. Later, following a circular walk around the moor I returned to the dyke, as I approached I could see the stones emerging out of the fog like sentinels, perhaps this is how they were meant to be seen. It also made me think of nearby Hob Hole and its legendary inhabitants, perhaps these stones and the nearby ruined settlement gave rise to the lore of the Hobs or perhaps the legends started in prehistory when the Iron Age farmers founded their settlement Iron Age beside the Bronze Age remains.
Once beyond the stones you'll notice a number of low cairns and once past these you'll encounter a number of low rubble walls running through the heather. These can be quite subtle features but once you 'get your eye in' you'll notice them everywhere.
There's not a great deal else to say about this part of the moors. Crown End is a good place to visit as it offers plenty to see in a small area, it is also very accessible if you are using public transport and don't mind a walk. Access on the moor itself may be difficult for anyone with restricted mobility as the paths are uneven, narrow and rocky in places, access from both Hob Hole and the Esk valley involves a short steep climb.