Our départ réel from Harewood House.

Wednesday, August 20th.  The morning air was chilly, just a little damp and drippy.  Flowers in the borders hung their heads, their petals shabby and tired.  Autumn has arrived.  It does seem a little previous.

'All is safely gathered in/ Ere the winter storms begin'
‘All is safely gathered in/
Ere the winter storms begin’

All the more reason to get out and about, before the days really close in.  Ripon Ramblers chose to go to Harewood.

You’ll perhaps have seen Harewood House  on TV recently, as that’s where the Tour de France really started from this year, after the Départ fictif  from Leeds.* Half way between Leeds and Harrogate, it’s a playground for both towns, with its fine Adam-designed stately home, and extensive grounds designed by Capability Brown. At the time, the 1750s,  investment in the slave trade brought immense wealth to the Lascelles family.  Their descendents, the Earl and Countess of Harewood live in these fine surroundings built two and a half centuries ago.  This stately home is regarded as being among the finest in Britain and is for the most part open to the public.

Our walk took us on a circular path that began outside the grounds, over farmland and with views across the Wharfe Valley.  The route across the cow pastures was a bit of a puzzle.  Weren’t those mango stones beneath our feet?  And melon seeds? And even squashed tomatoes?  The smell of rotting fruit wasn’t what we looked for on a country walk.  Finally a young woman from a nearby stables helped us out.  A local supermarket regularly dumps its surplus fruit at this farm for the cattle to enjoy.  Four tons of fruit seemed to us to be remarkably poor stock control on the shop’s part, and we couldn’t help wondering what the cows’ insides made of this exotic diet.

Cow on a mango-hunt.
Cow on a mango-hunt.

Far more enjoyable were the autumn fruits that lined our route for much of the day.  We gathered blackberries every time we felt hungry or thirsty.  We enjoyed the sight of haws turning red, elderberries turning black, and prickly chestnuts swelling and fattening on the trees.

We completed our upward yomp, and walked along the ridge which offered a fine panorama across to the Crimple Valley and Harrogate beyond, to Almscliffe Crag, and even Ilkley Moor.  Clouds in a dramatically cloudy sky were unloosing light rain into the nearby plain, and the breeze soon pushed the showers our way…..

Look carefully.  You'll see rain falling in the plain  below.  But not on us.
Look carefully. You’ll see rain falling in the plain below. But not on us.

….and then pushed them on again, so that we could enjoy a rain-free lunchtime picnic with all that view before us.

Lunchtime view over the Crimple Valley.
Lunchtime view over the Crimple Valley.

After lunch, we were in the grounds of Harewood.  Not the formal grounds near the house itself, but areas of woodland, pasture, lakes, deer park and farmland.  And  in the distance we spotted a fake Dales village, only built in 1998.  This is  Emmerdale, used in filming the long-running soap of the same name.  No filming that day, so we were soon on our way, hurrying now before the rain, promised for mid-afternoon, settled in to spoil our walk.  We made it – just.

Our best view of Harewood House came at the end of our walk.
Our best view of Harewood House came at the end of our walk.

* The ‘départ réel’ of the Tour de France from Harewood signified the true beginning of the race.  City centre Leeds was no place for cyclists to jockey for position, so riders just tootled out to Harewood on the ‘départ fictif’.  Then the action started.

8 thoughts on “Our départ réel from Harewood House.”

  1. I love that photo of the rain falling in the distance! I hope you get a chance to take, and share, many more walks, before the good weather ends and winter arrives!

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  2. Isn’t it a strange summer? we are feeling very autumnal here in the fens, in fact I’m just cooking a dish of squash, mushrooms & duck. On an August bank holiday? what happened to the Pimms & BBQ. I too am a little perplexed at mango eating cows and the thought of all of that waste food, surely there are more deserving case.

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