This custom takes place on Ascension Eve* on the East side of the harbour at low tide, and is a penance of sorts that has been maintained for several hundred years. The Penny Hedge, or more properly The Horngarth, consists of a screen of thin wood stick uprights and supports woven together, and has to be strong enough to withstand the ebb and flow of three tides.
There is more than one explanation of the legend of The Penny Hedge, and by now its origins are buried so deeply in the past nobody will ever be certain of the reason for its annual erection. The probable explanation is that the King of Northumbria circa 600-700 AD used to hunt his hounds south of the Esk and those tenants that held farms in that area were bound by him to erect a horngarth along the bank of the river to prevent fleeing game escaping his hounds by jumping in to swim across. Today’s ceremony may be a miniaturised corruption of their obligations.
The more fanciful story is that the building of the Penny Hedge is a penance for mortally wounding a religious recluse that lived in a hermitage on Eskdale-side. The legend says that one day in the forest, Ralph de Percie (Lord of Sneaton ) and William de Bruce, then lord of