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Country diary: An evening walk is handsomely rewarded | Amy-Jane Beer
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Country diary: An evening walk is handsomely rewarded | Amy-Jane Beer

Trying to capture as much of May’s glory as possible, I take an evening walk in a place that I used to visit with my son when he was a baby in a sling. When he learned to toddle, it was here that he discovered he could walk backwards, delighting in the novelty, giggling over his shoulder as he inched towards me.

Today, I want to visit the Nab, an off-piste hillock topped with a motte and bailey during Norman efforts to subdue the north. It’s always beckoned, but I’ve never been to the top. This evening, cloaked in hawthorn blossom and with clear blue sky above, it’s irresistible. A woman I meet walking a pale, sweet‑faced labrador tells me that the fortifications were burned down by a family from Scarborough, in revenge for the seduction of their daughter. “There’s a very old path from here to there. You can still see signs of it in places.” She’s an artist; I sense a kindred spirit, and we chat about old times and thin places.

Wold’s Edge in Burythorpe, North YorkshireView image in fullscreen

It’s a short, steep climb up the wooded flanks of the Nab through knee-deep forget-me-nots, bluebells, buttercups and red campions to a broad, grassy summit. Natural fortifications don’t get much better. The motte mound needed almost no enhancement, and so the earthworks visible today are mainly those of three bailey enclosures. The view is so impressive that I can’t believe the Normans were the first to build here.

They certainly weren’t the last to try putting ordinary people in their place. Since those toddler walks, a short section of path that once made a delightful circuit around the Nab possible has been sealed off, and a spur of remaining public right of way obstructed with wired gates and a swathe of potato rows. Frustration threatens to ruin a beautiful evening, when I remember something else the artist said – that beyond the Nab, on Birdsall Brow, is a huge bronze age enclosure. Up there, I walk the northern edge and watch the sun set over the Cleveland Hills, 50km distant. And those old ones who knew this same skyline so well remind me what knowing our place really means.

Source: theguardian.com