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Country walk to Roseberry Topping
LEVELAND’S most prominent feature is Roseberry Topping on the eastern edge of the Cleveland Hills.
It is composed of a mass of sandstone, ironstone, jet and coal. On the summit, quantities of petrified shells of cockles, oysters and scallops have been found, evidence of this large hill having once been covered by the sea.
There is much speculation as to the origin of the name Roseberry, or Rosebury. Many think the name is derived from the Vikings, Odin’s Hill or Toppen. But let me introduce you to the Celtic Druids. They believed it was a sacred place of mystery, legend and of a lunar goddess.
This impressive hill protruding high above the Cleveland Plain was a place of worship for these Druids, they called it Rhos Bari. The name refers to a mountain in Armenia where a sacred lunar ship landed, they called the mountain Mount Saris or the Mount of the Ship, which is thought to refer to the biblical Ark.
The name Rhos Bari or Mount Baris was the Hill of the Holy Lunar Ship which carried the lunar ship-goddess of the moon who the Celtic Druids believed sailed on an endless expanse of water.
Nearby would have been a sacred river or lake, the River of the Moon, or Leben, which became Leven, which, in our case, would have been the River Leven which flows through Great Ayton today.
We know the Celts were on Roseberry as a bronze hoard connected with them was found there. The Celts would have had their Hill of the Lunar Ship, Rhos Bari (Roseberry) and their lunar river, the Leben (Leven).
There are other places whose names probably originated from Celtic Druids. Scotland has a Rhos Bari and Leben or Leven as their river of the moon and there are many more Roseberry’s across our land.
So did the Celtic Druids worship their goddess on our Rhos Bari and the river of the moon the Leben? Or is it just enthusiastic speculation to fit the situation of Roseberry and the River Leven?
There is a little evidence and a lot of guesswork in the story but I would like to believe that long ago it was a Celtic high and sacred place, so let us take a walk along the paths of Rhos Bari and climb to the top of this ancient hill which was trod many years ago by the Celtic Druids.
Leave the parking area at Gribdale Gate and take the steps opposite, climbing onto the moor signed to Cleveland Way and Roseberry Topping. Quite a hard walk to the top but it soon levels out. Keep straight ahead now onto a wide, gently ascending track.
Soon you see Roseberry Topping on your left. Continue walking along past the trees, gently climbing, before the path eventually veers left to a small gate in a wall and a junction of tracks.
Go through the gate and soon the view changes dramatically as you descend the stone path towards the base of Roseberry Topping.
From the base, keep straight ahead on the obvious path ascending to the rocky summit.
I hope you picked a clear day for the walk as the views are stupendous from the top, extending from the North Sea and the River Tees to the hills of Cleveland and Swaledale in the Yorkshire Dales.
To the north is a glimpse of County Durham and the high-rise buildings of Sunderland on the coast. Take a map with you and see what you can identify.
It was recorded many years ago that families would take their children to the top of Roseberry to avoid the smoke pallor hanging over Middlesbrough, and spend as much time as possible on the summit filling their lungs with clean air before descending back to the industrial grime below.
For your return route I can give you a choice – descend on the path you came on to the base of Roseberry, then turn right through a gate to follow the path to Aireyholme Farm. Turn left at the road, then slog uphill for some time to return to Gribdale Gate. I think a better choice is to go back the way you came. The walk is pleasant with different views across to Captain Cook’s Monument and the Cleveland Hills – much better than road walking.