Anyone that has learnt to drive will have that one place that instilled the type of fear into them that might make them tempted to pull into the side of the road abandon the car and resign yourself to a life of walking.
Mine was the Devil’s Elbow, a tight hairpin bend on a steep gradient in the middle of the North Yorkshire Moors on the A169 road to Whitby. I remember chugging along age 18 in my first car, a Sunbeam Talbot, that rattled and clanked along the road. I would brace myself approaching the bend, dropping gears to chug up the hill, willing my little car to get to the top, willing myself to negotiate the gears and steering, petrified of stalling and a having to do a terrifying hill start, trying hard to ignore any cars stuck behind me in my retro vehicle, terrified of the car in front of me stalling and making me stop.
The reason for navigating this awful bend – The Devil’s Punch Bowl – otherwise known as The Hole of Horcum a spectacular spring-sapping formed basin on the Levisham Moor, formed over thousands of years by the process of natural erosion from springs flowing across the moor and carving out the basin, the process is still in action today.
I chose this walk as part of a blind selection of walks – chosen at random for a bit of fun. Driving across from York I was filled with apprehension, the weather was grey and bleak, reminding me of childhood car journeys in thick fog across the moors, scared to death that we would break down, cheering when we saw the headlights of another car approaching. The foreboding is always heightened further by the legendary Saltersgate Inn (now demolished) which sits at the bottom of the Devil’s Elbow twist in the road. It was rumoured to be haunted following the sinister murder of a customs and excise officer who, after discovering smugglers, was hit over the head with a rock and buried under the fireplace which was then kept continuously lit for 200 years!
I was so glad we went ahead with our plans and didn’t back out. Once we dropped into the Devil’s Punch Bowl we were greeted with swathes of snow and sheltered from the wind. By the time we came back up onto Levisham moor the sun was out giving us spectacular views of the vast landscape.
Down in the valley the trees were dripping with melting snow and covered in beautiful lichen formations.
My favourite story about the Devil’s Punch Bowl is the legend that it was created by the Giant Wade after he became frustrated with his wife and threw a load of earth at her! Thankfully my marriage is on much better terms and the only thing thrown by us and the kids was a load of snowballs.