WHEN walking or cycling across the moors I am always thrilled at the number of old crosses, stones and boundary markers that have stood for hundreds of years among this wild and unforgiving environment.

We take them for granted as if they have been there for eternity, but they were all placed in their positions carefully and with a distinct purpose.

Some crosses were religious in their significance, some just simple route markers or a commemoration of some poor lost soul who lost their life in these inhospitable places.

Some stones were boundary, markers with the landowners initials or name chiselled into the stone still visible today.

Many ‘crosses’ are simple stones with or without a base, or in the case of Redman Cross on Spaunton Moor where a base remains without a cross or stone.

Crosses and stones usually have names. Postgate Cross is on the old post road from Pickering to Whitby, Lilla Cross is in memory of a Saxon nobleman and Mauley Cross, which is a large cross hewn from a solid piece of stone, is a boundary stone marking the lands of the De Mauley family of Mulgrave Castle.

Some crosses and stones intrigue me and fire my imagination. I would like to know who Jenny Bradley was that gave her name to a stone on the North York Moors and a plantation near Pickering? And was the Margery Bradley stone in memory of her sister?

There are many stories about them but let us see if we can find the answer and make some sense out of these two mysterious ladies. In the days when priories were in fashion around the North York Moors area they owned some of the surrounding land given them by the gentry.

The Cistercian nuns from Baysdale Priory, founded in 1162, eventually settled near to Westerdale where they lived and worked happily together.

Not far away at Rosedale Priory, a similar situation existed until a boundary dispute between the two priories occurred which gives us a clue to the Bradley girls.

It was agreed that Sister Elizabeth (Betty), from Rosedale, and Sister Margery, from Baysdale, should meet on the moors somewhere between the two priories. Sister Margery came from Baysdale alone across the wild moors, Sister Elizabeth was guided by odd job man Ralph.

At the meeting point, Elizabeth and Ralph rested to await Margery. Soon a fog enveloped the moors and Ralph left Elizabeth as he went in search of Margery. Ralph knew the sheep tracks well and shouted Margery’s name as he walked. The fog lifted and Ralph saw Margery in the distance near a large stone.

This stone is called the Margery Stone in memory of Sister Margery Bradley. Could this be the connection with the Jenny Bradley we are looking for?

The Jenny Bradley stone is situated not far away on Rudland Rigg, just a small stone on a base, but curiously enough it could be said that it is on the way to Baysdale Priory.

It is possible that Jenny could have been travelling across the moors from the Pickering area to see her sister Margery at Baysdale and perished at this point, the Jenny Bradley Stone being erected in her memory.

Jenny could have lived near Pickering hence the Jenny Bradley Plantation and Bradley Road near Cawthorne which was perhaps where the family lived. Or maybe she and her sister Margery were both nuns at Baysdale Priory and Jenny was taking a lonely walk across the moors in search of solitude when she met her end.

The answer is lost in the mists of history so we can only guess, but it was a simple life in those days and perhaps a simple tale could be the answer to unravelling the secret of the unfortunate Jenny Bradley.

Your route

Leave Pickering Castle downhill to the Newbridge road. At the bottom of the hill, go right and soon you arrive at Newbridge level crossing. Continue along to start to climb onto a plateau with good all-round views.

The road is long and straight and leads to the village of Newton-upon- Rawcliffe. Before you reach the village you arrive at a farm, just before a right hand bend. Go left here, there is a bungalow on the corner.

This is a very narrow, gritty road and you soon have a double bend to negotiate. Continue along but beware of potholes and bumps as you reach a junction. Turn right here, then watch out for speed bumps – huge ones which really do slow you down.

Past the farm the road deteriorates to a dirt road. Continue along for some tine to eventually reach a T-junction. Go left here onto a Tarmac road and cycle along with good views across to the Wolds.

Follow the road along to a sharp right hand bend. Follow it round to join Bradley Road and keep an eye out for the ghost of Jenny Bradley.

Keep straight ahead at the next junction signed to Cropton and Rosedale. The plantation on the left is the Jenny Bradley Plantation. Pass the Cawthorne Roman Camps, or pay them a visit, then continue along to a junction on your left signed to Cawthorne, turn along this narrow road with its double bends and rough surface to soon start a long downhill ride with grand views of the Wolds again if front of you.

Bear left at the junction in Wrelton village, then follow the road through the main street to the A170.

Go left into Aislaby, then take the first turning right along a narrow, gritty road. At the crossroads go left and continue along to the main road, go right here to return to Pickering Castle and your transport.

The facts

Distance – 14miles/22km
Terrain – Easy
Best map – OS Landranger 100
Start/grid ref – Pickering Castle, grid ref: 798842
Refreshments – Good choice in Pickering
Public toilets – Pickering

View a map of the Pickering Castle cycle ride>>