Glaisdale, near Lealholm, is on the River Esk about nine miles south-west of Whitby. The river is crossed here by the Beggar’s Bridge erected in 1619 and related to a romantic story.
It’s one of the four dales running like fingers up to the North York Moors, with good farming in the region and superb views. Like several villages, it has a legend regarding a hob, or goblin, associated with it. South of Glaisdale is a hob at Hart Hall Farm, said to perform chores whilst the farmer sleeps.
Access to Glaisdale from Scarborough is sheer beauty, despite the winding lanes with steep hills. In the 12th century were early iron works, and sandstone cuttings on the hillside indicated quarrying in the 16th and 18th centuries. Waterloo Bridge was actually built of this sandstone.
With the discovery of iron, Victorian businessmen poured money into the project. A chimney 250ft tall was built, along with three furnaces, and houses built for workers. The population naturally rose from 600 to 2,000. A handsome Mechanics Institute was built too. Although, the village thrived initially and much ore was removed, the project sank quickly, and the land used was turned back to farming.
There used to be three pubs, but we found only one - The Arncliffe Arms. The old village store/post office remain, along with the butcher’s, two churches and school, and an institute you’ll see that replaced the earlier Mechanics Institute that vanished with the ironworks.
An attraction left until the end is Beggar’s Bridge over the River Esk. Built in the 17th century by Thomas Ferris, or ferres, a poor farm worker. He fell in love with Agnes, the daughter of a wealthy Glaisdale farmer, who did not consider ‘Tom’ a suitable suitor for his daughter. So - Tom went to seek his fortune elsewhere. Sadly, he was prevented from saying goodbye to dear Agnes. The River Esk was in full spate, and he couldn’t get across. He resolved that when he returned a rich man, he’d build a bridge over the river, and true to his word - he did!
Leaving Beggar’s Bridge behind you for now, pass the railway station to your right, and ascend the hill to explore Glaisdale village with both old and new houses dotted on the hillside, climbing to Glaisdale Moor.
Drive to the top of the village, and at the far end is a log-man to the left. He’s seated and advertising logs for sale! From here, return on foot to explore the village in detail. Wander down the lane with its stone-built properties, grass verges and walling. ‘Hillcrest’ is to your right, and beyond, ‘Ghyll Brow’ leads off left. More stone houses feature before Thorn Hill View is seen.
Pass the village green with pleasant seating, and ignore Hall Lane. The main lane leads downhill, passing Robinson Institute, “presented to the people of Glaisdale by the late Thomas Robinson Esq JP.” Beyond is the Wesleyan Chapel, overlooking a bank of daffodils in spring.
Continue your descent to Glaisdale Village Shop and Post Office - the Calor Village of the Year Northern England 2002 winner. Next door is RH Ford and Son, purveyors of fine quality meats. Next follows a row of terraced cottages. A private car park is near the right bend. Here leave High Terrace and turn right beside walling, and rise steeply to view the walled church and school signed beyond. What a charming area, with a hillside of bracken and scrub ascending to the school, and a green dale to the left.
From Broom Cottage, we returned to the church, but you’ll wish to wander further, no doubt. A path of paving stones beneath yew trees led through the churchyard to St Thomas’ Church. Before you enter, do see the little quern on walling to the left of the door.
Enter, and view the oddly-shaped font, like a square capstan set on four short pillars. It has a Jacobean cover. This church is plain and simple - lovely and peaceful, with the east window aglow with figures of a radiant Christ, the Madonna, and St Luke. Another amazing window is admired on the south wall.
Leaving the church, walk around the churchyard to be stunned by distant views, as Glaisdale’s church stands on a natural ledge and has been made new. Rest a while on the seat beside a yew tree.
Ponder the apt words before departing:
Rest a while amid the calm, for solitude is nature’s balm.
Next, leaving the church to your right, descend by the stone-built church rooms. A war memorial is to your right, as you continue by a row of cottages to the village green. You may wish to call at the shop, or butcher’s as you proceed to the foot of the hill. Don’t miss a sculpture of three owls on your right.
Passing Robert Harrison’s Builders and Joiners, you’ll reach The Arncliffe Arms to the right. Just the spot for refreshment! Beyond a garage are toilets beside Glaisdale Railway Station, with Beggar’s Bridge B&B just 100 yards ahead, under the bridge. You’ll see Beggar’s Bridge Cottage on the right. Go under the bridge and take time to read the information panel to the right of Beggar’s Bridge.
The River Esk winds through this lovely valley, and Arncliffe Woods close by. Here the river is crossed by three bridges, of which the oldest has a singe stone arch. It’s too narrow for today’s traffic, and has unusually low parapets. Cross this bridge and walk through woodland paths where bluebells bloom, and tiny white flowers of wood sorrel, with trefoil leaves.
Tom Ferris built the bridge in 1619 as a memorial to Agnes, who died a year before Tom. He died in 1620 aged 62 years.
The rover came back from a far distant land,
And he claimed of the maiden her long promised hand.
But he built ‘ere he won her, the bridge of his vow,
And the lovers of Egton pass over it now.
Distance: As long as you wish to make it.
Refreshment: The Arncliffe Arms, Glaisdale and shop.
Toilets: The Church Rooms, and railway station.