Yesterday was the day when Malcolm was to have done his first ‘proper’ walk since his operation. But life got in the way, and at the last minute, he had to wait in for a workman. I went anyway, because I was ‘recce-ing’ the route ahead of leading the Ramblers on the same route in 10 days or so: and it’s a busy 10 days.
The route I was checking was a walk full of only charm and delight:
– because, unusually, I could get from door to door (not that walks have doors) courtesy of the bus that passes the end of the road. There are only 3 buses a day, mind you, so some planning is necessary.
– because it follows paths in the gentle sweeping valley of Wensleydale: a tranquil, lush and gently wooded area.
– because the walk begins and ends at one of Yorkshire’s ruined Cistercian abbeys – Jervaulx. It’s even more ruined than Fountains and Rievaulx, but it’s a peaceful place to meander through; to sit quietly; or to explore for flowers clinging to ancient architraves, or topping off columns which no longer have any roof to support.
– because the path I took leads through English parkland which at this time of year is home not only to sheep, but to their young lambs, busily feeding, playing ‘I’m the king of the castle’, and having lamb-races, before cuddling up with mum for another little sleep.
– because Thornton Steward, a quarter of the way through the walk, is a picture postcard of a village. There’s a green where you can rest for a while whilst looking beyond the cottages to Wensleydale beyond. Even better, there is a village hall. You won’t find anyone there, but the door is open. The villagers encourage you to come in, make yourself a drink, help yourself to a biscuit, and have a ‘comfort break’. Whilst relaxing, you could browse the books on display in two large bookcases. Swap one of your own if you have one, or if not, make a donation and take a book away.
– because just outside Thornton Steward is the charming, tiny, isolated church of Saint Oswald. Mainly Early English, it still has fragments – parts of the nave wall and the porch door – dating from before 1066.
– because at the edge of a field quite near the church, some lucky child’s dad, or granddad has made a very special tiny secret den from an ancient hollow tree. Just look at this:
– because I passed Danby Hall, as well, begun in the 15th century and finally finished in the 19th century. Danby Hall was once the home of the Scrope family, a Catholic family of some influence who hid priests, attended clandestine masses and somehow survived the turbulent times of Tudor-Elizabethan England.
– because most of the second half of the walk is along the River Ure. On one side, it’s all woods, wild garlic and wood anemones. On the other, open views across the river itself, and Wensleydale beyond.
– because the route was so well way-marked that I barely needed a map to find my way round.
– and because of honesty boxes. That’s how you know you’re not in the city. Park at Jervaulx Abbey and there’s an honesty box so you can pay the parking charge. Visit the Abbey itself, and there’s another one. And at Thornton Steward they encourage you to make a donation for your refreshments: but no-one checks up: it’s up to you to do the right thing.
On the walk, I thought of poor old Malcolm, stuck at home whilst I enjoyed one of the very first summer days, bright, fresh, and really rather hot. I thought of one of my fellow bloggers, Sharon, whom – very exciting, this – we’re going to meet in a fortnight or so when she comes to visit Yorkshire: she might like this walk. And I thought of another fellow blogger, Kerry, an American , who’d probably love to use the wool all those lambs and sheep are busily growing in one of her weaving projects, even though wool isn’t usually her chosen medium.