We’ve been back in England exactly a fortnight. In many ways it’s been so easy to slip back into English life. We’re quite fluent in the language and cultural mores, after all. In other ways, it’s been a honeymoon, despite our difficulties in re-registering , re-taxing and insuring the car, which continues to be a frustrating, irksome, time-consuming and frankly ridiculous task.
We’re rediscovering sights and experiences with the eyes of a lover, both blind to faults and delighted by characteristics which may one day exasperate rather than charm.
For the time being, we’re discarding the pleasures of French food in favour of a cheeseboard that includes a sharp, crumbly tasty Lancashire or a creamy blue Cropwell Bishop. When buying vegetables, we have to include handsful of purple sprouting broccoli, still unknown in southern France. We’ve gone native.
We’re going back to old haunts. For instance, having gone to Harrogate (to try to sort out car insurance, grrr), we found ourselves with an hour or so to spare to visit the Valley Gardens. This park has always charmed us, and yesterday we fell in love with it all over again.
It was developed for visitors to the spa town as an attractive place to walk as part of their exercise regime after taking some of the many waters on offer. 36 of Harrogate’s 88 mineral wells are found within the park, and no two have exactly the same mineral composition. Back in the later 19th and early 20th centuries, visitors arrived in their thousands, attracted by the apparently curative powers of these waters. A boating lake, bandstand and tea room were built and still exist, but the Parks Department has chosen to focus on developing spectacular floral displays, formal in character towards the town centre, and becoming increasingly natural as the visitor walks upwards towards the pinewoods.These days, there’s a children’s playground, a skateboard park and visitors can play tennis and crazy golf too. Somehow, though, these attractions don’t dominate. The gardens are a place to visit to be at peace with nature, to spend quiet moments with a few friends or your dog, to enjoy the trees and flowers, both formal or less organised displays. Come and share our walk with us.