Thesis for the Degree of Doctor of Dolefulness – David Gordon

Thesis presented at the Court of the Most Mournful


on the Occasion of the Thirty-fifth Anniversary Wake October 6, 1990.

Section   1:  ABSTRACT

In view of recent erroneous published statements, a demand may arise for commercial Coffin-carrying services along the Lyke Wake Walk. A feasibility study of various means of Coffin-transport is presented, together with suggestions for the instigation of an integrated leisure infrastructure facility as a means of funding the service.


“Corpse roads exist throughout the Dales… The most famous of all is the one that runs from Osmotherley to Raven Scar known as the Lyke Wake Walk, along which corpses were carried forty miles.”

Mike  Harding, Walking  the Dales  P57.

While “accurate” is hardly an adjective that could be applied to the above quotation, and it is perhaps no coincidence that Mike Harding claims to have been born in Lancashire, it must be admitted that he is a popular author and television personality, and that people will tend to believe what he writes. I feel that there is a real danger, in this age when city dwellers long to return to their traditional country roots and the Dalesman is avidly read throughout what used to count as the Empire, that a demand may arise for a Corpse-carrying facility along the Walk. Although a number of Crossings appear to have been made carrying Coffins, the carrying of a Corpse, particularly a corpulent city-dweller type Corpse, is an entirely different matter. It is therefore important for the Club (as Custodians of the Route) to possess a contingency plan for the time when these demands are made.

I propose to set out in Section 3 below a plan for the safe and efficient accomplishment of the appointed task, and in Section 4 to suggest means of funding the Works involved.


It is clear that without considerable modification of the terrain (eg. construction of a six-lane highway), one single mode of transportation will not be sufficient. Transshipment of Corpses will need to take place at various stations along the Way.

Assuming traditional transportation from West to East, as detailed in the Dirge itself, the first section of the “Classic   Route” presents challenges (for a more Southerly variant, see below). It is probably feasible to utilise Land-Rovers with demountable hearse-style bodies as far as Huthwaite, and the local Rescue Land-Rovers might well be utilised as dual-purpose chassis units, but the hill thereafter poses a problem. The obvious solution is a narrow-gauge rack railway to the top of Carlton Bank, where the Corpse could be transferred either to a military style “Death Slide” down a steel rope, or to a helter-skelter type of steel slide. The Coffin would need to be accompanied on the latter, and the local children might be prevailed upon to dress in black (probably in black Lycra cycling shorts, I suspect) and to accompany descending Coffins on a rota basis. A further alternative would be a “water slide” of the type now popular at swimming pools and “leisure centres”, but this would entail the waterproofing of Coffins. At the road the Coffin would be transferred to a horse-drawn sled for progress along the jet miners’ track and up onto Urra Moor and Botton Head.

As a cheaper alternative for this first section, a Corpse could be taken by Landrover up the Drove Road onto Osmotherley Moor, then by way of the shooting tracks to Cock Howe, transferring there to pony and sled for conveyance down into the valley and up to Botton Head.

At the firebreaks the Land Rover could take over again, but a far more imaginative idea would be to construct a railway line as far as the Lion Inn, This could convey tourist traffic, shooting parties etc but would have a special hearse carriage for coffins. There could be a separate miniature version, to carry the Corpses of Grouse, but see below.

At the Lion Inn a section of the building (probably the new extension would lend itself most conveniently) could be turned into a Chapel of Ease, where the Corpse would rest while the Mourners refreshed themselves. This is important, for the most troublesome section is to come. Conveyance across, or indeed through, the Rosedale Bogs poses formidable problems, but these could probably be solved by keeping a strong team of Club Members permanently stationed at the Lion on a rota basis. These could carry, drag or float the Corpse across the bogs as far as the Wheeldale Hilton, as it will become known. Here a specially adapted monorail, similar to the one at Alton Towers and sponsored by Coca-Cola, will collect the Corpse and whisk it and its Mourners, with of course a superb view of the entire Goathland Moor Pleasure Park Complex (or “Great Yorkshire Adventure” as it will be known), to the car and heli-park at Jugger Howes. More specially-adapted Land-Rovers could then complete the journey across Stony Marl Moor to Ravenscar, where such Corpses as remain intact could be quietly dumped into the sea.


It is clear that the income from undertaking fees alone, vast though it can be, will not be sufficient to finance the necessary works. I therefore envisage that an integrated leisure infrastructure plan will be drawn up in conjunction with the National Park Authority and the various Landowners. Such a plan will of course attract considerable investment in the form of grant aid, and this will in turn make it attractive to the private investor. This plan will be twofold, consisting firstly of improvements necessitated by the actual implementation of the Club’s transport plans, and secondly of further improvements to the tourism infrastructure network which are designed to result in the generation of the required income.

To the first category belong the specific funeral parlour arrangements at Osmotherley, the Lion Inn and Ravenscar; the adaptation of. the Rescue Land Rovers to take a demountable Hearse-style body; the building of the rack railway and death slide (if required) at Near Moor and Carlton Bank; stabling for the ponies needed on the various horse-sled sections; accommodation for grooms, and for the teams of Pallbearers to be stationed at the Lion Inn; the rebuilding (to Light Railway standards) of the Rosedale Railway and of course the construction of the Monorail Link from Wheeldale to Jugger Howes, with a viaduct crossing of Jugger Howe Beck.

The above improvements will not be immediately self-financing, but need to be viewed in the context of my second category of proposals: the legitimate leisure developments which will help to cross-finance the core programme. Clearly there is a need for the development of the facilities currently available at Carlton Bank. It is ludicrous to expect the people of Helmsley and Chop Gate to travel all the way toTeesside Airport when they can have a perfectly viable STOL airport on their very doorstep. This will provide regular hourly links with the London Docklands, and indeed with the rest of Europe, and should attract much needed industrial and office development to the immediate area. The citizens of Huthwaite can expect particularly to benefit from their rack railway link to the airport, seeing the value of their land rise steeply as the need for housing for the airport workforce and security officers, and later for the jet-setting Yuppie migrants, becomes apparent. The facility for the flying in of expatriate Corpses will also provide a welcome boost to the Club’s marketing strategy.

A further entirely appropriate development will take place on the North­east slopes of Carlton Bank, which presents an ideal site for an international Motor Cycle Scrambling Centre, with star riders being flown in to the new Airport above in their executive jets.

In the centre of the planned route, the reopened Ironstone Railway will become a major tourist attraction, thanks to an imaginative hands-on interpretative exhibition at the Rosedale Mines and the modern interchange facility at Battersby Junction Parkway Station (including an enlarged booking hall with franchised convenience operatives such as Tie Rack, Knickerbox and MacDonalds). This attraction will complement the existing North York Moors Railway, while the use of steam haulage throughout is expected to eliminate the need for much of the present chore of heather-burning, sparks from the locomotives providing an alternative source of ignition. Towards the end of the Tourist Season, the line will come into its own for Grouse shooting, with special low-loader wagons to carry Range-Rovers and a miniature Hearse Wagon for Grouse Corpses.

Probably not much can be done at present to improve the Rosedale Bogs, but one might at a future stage of the development wish to consider their adaptation as a watersports centre, specialising in a new combination of windsurfing and hang-gliding. However any problems here will be more than compensated for by the spectacular “honeypot” development potential of the Fylingdales EWS area. Since the site is no longer of strategic importance, following the demise of the Soviet Empire, the existing pyramid and dome structures will be utilised as the basis of an Alton Towers style pleasure complex, to be marketed as “The Great Yorkshire Adventure”. This extensive improvement will include a vast state-of-the-art Corkscrew roller coaster at Jugger Howe Beck, an extended water-slide from Lilla Howe down to the main road, the replacement of Lilla Cross with a 300-metre high replica incorporating viewing platform restaurant and multiple high-speed lifts, a five mile mud flume, where clients will ride on logs of bog-oak along artificial waves of liquid bog, white water rapid thrills on the Murk Esk and much, much more. Central to this facility will be a giant Car Park/Helipad at Jugger Howes – a former military site which is at present an unreclaimed eyesore, but which will now be given tasteful landscaping and a proper minesweeping, with provision for a Superstore and a giant artificial ski-slope to be incorporated into the scheme at a later stage if demand warrants them. The Car Park will be linked by the Park Monorail (sponsored by Coca-Cola) to the five-thousand bed Wheeldale Lodge Hilton. So attractive to investors is this complex likely to prove, with a potential clientele prepared to travel huge distances, from Glasgow in the Far North to Milton Keynes in the Deep South, that no public money will need to be involved.

A further and very welcome consequence of these developments is likely to be the removal of troublesome Walkers from the over-used Moorland Paths, which will be able to return to their natural uneroded condition as picturesque firebreaks and Land-Rover tracks. The Walkers will be relocated in the “Trackless knee-high heather moor”, which is where the Lyke Wake Walk started. Following the assessment of the plan by our financial advisors, outline planning consent is actively being sought on the above basis, and a decision from the Authorities is expected in the near future.