Sacred Hill: OS Grid Reference – SE 081 636
Also known as:
- Nursa Knott
- Nursery Hill
Dead easy. Follow the Grassington-Pateley Bridge road (B6265) east and about 2 miles past Hebden village, the craggy hill rises to the left-hand side of the road, as you can see in the photo below. Simple!
Archaeology & History
When fellow rock-art freaks Graeme Chappell, Richard Stroud and I were exploring the cup-and-ring stones in the area just south of here a few years back, this hill kept calling out with some repeated awe. “There’s summat about that place,” were the remarks we kept saying – but we could never put our finger on it. (still haven’t if truth be had!). Between here and the awesome Simon’s Seat to the south, a whole panoply of neolithic and Bronze Age remains scatter the land — and if ritual landscape has any validity, this hill is undoubtedly enmeshed in the mythic framework of such a paradigm. But without any folklore I didn’t feel right to include it here…
At the northern or rear-end of this great outcrop (SE 082 640) is a scattering of many boulders, one of which in particular at Knot Head was explored by a Mr Gill in 1955 and found to have a number of Mesolithic worked flints all round it. Seems as if folk have been up to things round here for even longer than we first thought. Microlith or flint-hunters would probably do well on the moors up here!
It’s the old pen of our Yorkshire topographer Edmund Bogg which brings the lost folktale of this place back to life – and it’s typical of aboriginal creation myths from elsewhere in the world. In his Higher Wharfeland he had this to say of old ‘Nursa Knott’, as it was locally known:
“The old legend is that the devil, for some reason anxious to fill up Dibb Gill,* was carrying these ponderous crags in his apron when, stumbling over Nursa Knott, the strings broke and the crags fell. Legend also says, should the crags be removed they will be carried by some invisible power back to their original position.”
He then reminds us of links with old Wade, plus the settlement of old Grim, a short distance to the north.
Across the road down the track running south to Skyreholme, Jessica Lofthouse ( 1976) told the tale of a ghostly horseman, seen by her great-grandfather no less! Suggesting he may have been ‘market merry’ (i.e., pissed!), she told how he “struck out at a spectral white horse at the Skyreholme three-land ends near Appletreewick – and his stick passed through it!”
- Bogg, E., Higher Wharfeland: The Dale of Romance, James Miles: Leeds 1904.
- Lofthouse, Jessica, North Country Folklore, Hale: London 1976.
- Walker, D., ‘A Site at Stump Cross, near Grassington, Yorkshire, and the Age of the Pennine Microlithic Industry,’ in Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society, 1956.
* Dibb Gill is nearly a mile due west of here – and Dibble’s Bridge which crosses the beck was also known as the Devil’s Bridge, with a few typical creation myths of its own attached.
© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian