The surrounding landscape on the high moors is one of seemingly never-ending heather moorland – dark and brooding during the Winter months, but a brilliant carpet of purple heather in the summer. People travel for miles to see this wonderful sight. Many other plants grow, both at 1,000 feet on moorland and in the dale itself. In past times, the plants and trees formed an important part in local life, from bracken and heather used for animal bedding and roofing, to bilberries, collected and sold in the local markets or used in pies. Several thousand years ago there would have been thick stands of woodland across the valley. These were gradually felled for building materials, fuel, farming implements and many everyday uses. Now, all that remain are ribbons of trees along the river banks which shade wild daffodils, bluebells and wood anemones. Large plantations of deciduous trees have been planted, particularly between Hartoft and Rosedale Abbey.
Two hamlets (Rosedale Abbey and Thorgill) are surrounded by fields, interspersed with farmhouses and barns. Fields reach up the high valley sides where ancient stone boundaries denote the existence of “intakes” – areas of occasional cutivation and grazing when more land was required.
The head of the dale splits into Updale leading to Dalehead, and Northdale, once supporting eight farms with now only two remaining. Updale is almost another valley with magnificent scenery, the site of massive stone kilns, unique to this place, and a reminder of the ironstone mining days. Several long rows of stone victorian miners’ cottages can also be seen, now the much-loved homes of local residents and incomers. Rosedale Abbey is the centre in as much as it still has a church with priory remains, two shops and tearooms, a glass studio, two pubs and two caravan parks. Thorgill, on the West side of the dale is a small cluster of houses and once boasted shops, a chapel and a reading room during the time of the West Mines ironstone boom. Hartoft is another dale or valley which leads from Rosedale itself and which once had a large farming population. This is a little-visited but beautiful place, which leads to nowhere!