‘Hello? North Yorkshire Police? I want to report something odd that I’ve just seen in Harrrogate town centre. I think you need to come and investigate – there might be a suspicious-looking corpse. Hang on … I’ll send you a photo …’
Just before winter kicks in and we all hunker down, let’s have a trip to the shops, and spot a few windows.
Are there enough windows here for you, in the featured photo, at the entrance to one of South Korea’s bigger shopping complexes? Once we’ve looked round, it’ll be time for a coffee: who knew that Starbucks had spread its reach so far? Not that we actually went inside here – independent coffee shops for us, every time.
Let’s come back to England now, and stay local, in Ripon. We’ll pop into our favourite bakery, then saunter along to the pie shop. In both cases, reflections will offer us views of the street too.
Let’s go to Kirkgate, and more independent shops: You’ll get a mood-improving slogan at Karma, and if you’re lucky, live music to cheer you along.
A few miles away is Pateley Bridge. I wonder if the shops there still have the displays they had when the Tour de Yorkshire was in town?
We’ll finish off by going to Harrogate. From behind other shop windows, we can get a snapshot of Starlings, the bar where we could finish our day with a drink and a very tasty pizza.
We love Bean and Bud. Without a visit to this coffee (and tea) shop, no visit to Harrogate is complete. It’s a compact and friendly place, on a busy little street filled only with small independent and charity shops.
Bean and Bud sets the gold standard by which all cups of coffee should be judged. Choose between one of their two weekly featured beans – or something else if you prefer – and your coffee will never be churned out, just because they’re busy. Your cup will be perfectly prepared, with attention to every detail – a glass of iced water with your espresso, for instance.
They got our loyalty the first time we went. For years, every coffee shop we’ve visited has lazily assumed that Malcolm, as the Real Man in the relationship, would need the espresso, whereas the Little Lady (me) would require a version with milk in. Actually it’s the other way about, and Bean and Bud made it their business to find out – and then remember – our preferences.
I don’t care for tea much (yes, I am English) but friends who do admire the speciality loose leaf teas, weighed and brewed for just the right amount of time. Perhaps I ought to give them a go.
At lunch time, there are just a few types of sandwich on offer, but they’re on decent bread, well-filled with proper ingredients – local cheese, good serrano ham, fresh zingy salads, home-made chutneys. But could you resist the home made cakes? They’re not airy calorie-fests filled with cream and topped with thick layers of icing, but densely flavoured with gingered treacle, poppy seeds, bitter chocolate, citrus zest.
Come with a friend, and you’ll find a cosy corner to sit and chat while your coffee or tea is made. If you’re alone, there’s a decent selection of newspapers to read. This is a Daily Mail free zone.
There, I’ve gone and made myself nostalgic for another of their fine espressos. Time to plan the next visit.
I came in the other day to find a message on the answer phone. The BBC. Clare Balding wanted to talk to me. Well, not Clare actually. She’s one of Britain’s favourite broadcasters and a bit busy I dare say. Her research assistant Lucy finally got hold of me, and asked me if I’d be able to lead Clare and team on a walk from Ripon to Ripley for ‘Ramblings’, a popular programme on BBC R4 about walking.
Why me? Because I’m Hon. Sec. of Ripon Ramblers, our local walking group, and our details are out there, if you care to look. Yes, but why ME? Lucy thought, after our chat, that I’d be OK on the radio.
OK then, why Ripon? Because, it turns out that in October 1936 the Jarrow Marchers walked from Jarrow, through Ripon to Ripley and beyond, all 280 miles to London. In October, ‘Ramblings’ plans to broadcast a programme to celebrate its 60th anniversary.
Perhaps you don’t know much about the Jarrow March. Neither did I. Not till I met Clare and Lucy, cultural historian Robert Colls, and Helen Antrobus, who’s a real Ellen Wilkinson enthusiast from the People’s Museum in Manchester. The five us walked and talked our way along our eight mile route from Ripon to Ripley, and we barely noticed the rain which threatened constantly, but only delivered occasional short sharp showers.
This is a blog in two parts. The first is our country walk, the second about the Jarrow March. But Friday wasn’t in two parts. Every step we took, we remembered those marchers. Robert and Helen told us the story. Together, we drew comparisons between their march and our own hike.
I’d already dutifully planned and walked a route. The marchers went entirely on main roads, but if you’ve ever driven on the A61, you’ll know this is no longer a good idea. Country paths were the way to go.
As we set out together from Ripon, we got our instructions. Lucy had her furry-muff-on-a-stick. You’ll have seen those, as reporters rove round town centres talking to likely passers-by about some event that’s happened locally. When recording, Clare’s always on the right of the person she’s talking to, and Lucy’s there on the left with her recording gear. It was slightly odd to walk alongside Clare as she formally introduced to the programme, telling listeners where she was, why she was there, and who we all were. But soon we forgot about that muff. We all chatted together easily, about that March, about walking, about each other. Sometimes we had to repeat what we’d said, in a spontaneous ‘I’ve just thought of this’ kind of way, because some passing noise – RAF jets overhead for instance – had ruined the recording.
In many ways our walk was a scam. The A61 passes through rolling hillsides, productive farmland, cows in the pasture, and pretty villages. It’s all bucolic England at its best. Our route presented a more hidden countryside. Isolated farmhouses with dilapidated barn roofs, ancient pastures, secret dark, damp woodlands, and tiny rather remote hamlets.
At first though, we were on a road. Badly maintained, rather narrow and with tall hedges it’s a bridle path these days, but it is still tarmacced, and perhaps the kind of highway those marchers would have recognised. Later, on grass-trodden pathways, we passed Markenfield Hall, a 14th century moated country house.
Those marchers didn’t. We went through the village of Markington. Apparently the marchers were welcomed here too, though we couldn’t imagine why. It’s more than a mile or so from the main road and history doesn’t record why exactly they made a detour. We strode along the edges of barley fields, on woodland paths and across gorsey heath, all without meeting a soul. Not what the marchers experienced.
And we talked. That’s what I’ll remember most. The sheer pleasure of walking and talking with a group of people thrust together for the day who quickly found themselves to be friends – just for a day. Thanks you Clare, Lucy, Robert and Helen for a very special occasion. It was a real privilege.
And the Jarrow March? More about that in my next post.
Thursday night was brilliant. Brilliant in every way. Apart from anything else, it was an evening of simple joy at being part of an evening’s festivities shared with equal pleasure among both friends and strangers.
The next day we woke up to a Brexit-dominated world, and simple joy has become rather hard to find.
We arrived at Harrogate’s Valley Gardens as dusk fell . These gardens are among Harrogate’s treasures – 17 acres of lawns, of colourful flowers, of pinewoods, a small lake, of historic buildings such as the Sun Pavillion, all beautifully managed and greatly appreciated by locals and visitors alike.
Normally, by dusk, there’s only the odd dog-walker around. Thursday was different – Friday and Saturday too. We spotted lines of flaming plantpots strung on simple metal frames. There were smouldering lampshade-like creations. Then we found spherical braziers suspended from stands of mature trees.. There were eccentric bits of machinery, reminiscent of the work of Rowland Emmett, that played with the idea of juxtaposing showers and jets of water with flickering flames and occasional startling fireballs. There were quantities of men’s vests – yes, vests – re-purposed as lampshades suspended over the lake, which became, as darkness fell, an evermore magical and mysterious venue.
Cie Carabosse was in town. They’re a French street theatre company whose specialist subject is fire in all its forms. Its members are a playful band of people who aim to transform a space that may have long been familiar into … something else. Dressed formally in black, rather in the manner of croque-morts (pall-bearers or undertakers), they wandered round the park, illuminating braziers, attending to some of those hand-cranked machines. We ambled round too. Apart from a band of musicians playing atmospherically over in the back corner, there was no event, no ‘happening’. Everyone enjoyed simply exploring at their own pace, visiting and revisiting this installation, that glade of fires, those vests down at the lakeside, savouring the atmosphere as dusk became black night, as fires grew, damped down, and blazed forth once more.
Cie Carabosse travel all over the world. They’ll be in London in September as part of the commemoration of the Great Fire of London, 350 years ago. They’ll be in Seoul, South Korea in October – so maybe Emily could get to see them. And they’ll be in the Ariège, in Foix, in December. One way or another, I hope many of you will have the chance to have your evening set alight by Cie Carabosse before the year is out.
Everyone loves the 36 bus. It’s the one that takes us from out in the sticks of Ripon, via Harrogate to Leeds. It’s the one with plush leather seats, 4G wi-fi, USB points at every seat. It’s the one with a book-swap shelf where I always hope to find a new title to enjoy, while bringing in one of my own to swap. And best of all, we old fogeys travel for free on the 66 mile round trip.
Best get to the terminus early though. Everyone’s jockeying for the best seats, the ones at the front of the top deck, where you can watch as the bus drives through the gentle countryside separating Ripon from Harrogate, via Ripley, a village which the 19th century Ingleby family remodelled in the style of an Alsatian village, complete with hôtel de ville. After the elegance of Harrogate and its Stray, there’s Harewood House – shall we spot any deer today? Then shortly after, the suburbs of The Big City, which gradually give way to the mixture of Victorian and super-modern which characterises 21st century Leeds.
We had lots to do in Leeds today (more of that later, much later) and had a very good time being busy there. But much of our fun for the day came from sitting high up in that 36 bus, watching the world go by. For free.
Seats on the top deck secured.
Ripon to Harrogate.
You can’t see Ripley for the trees.
The message board keeps us in touch with waht’s going on.
Hurtling towards a roundabout in Harrogate.
‘Fashionable South side’ is what the estate agents call this part of Harrogate.
Arriving in Leeds city centre.
That’s the town hall in the distance.
On the way home, rows of Leeds suburban semis.
This pub’s still preserving memories of the Tour de France in 2014.
Here I am, still slaving away at Blogging 101, the University of Blogging. I’m beginning to get a bit on edge when I fire up the laptop in the morning, because I know Senior Lecturer and Course Director Michelle W will have sent out yet another assignment requiring us to tweak and tinker with our blogs, and generally bring them up to scratch. I even played hooky the day before yesterday, and the day before that. Doesn’t she know I have a LIFE to lead?
However, here I am again, back in the University Libary (aka our study). Today we have to write a post. And it’s to be inspired by a blog we found yesterday, a blog new to us, which we felt moved to comment on.
I discovered Katherine Price. She can write in a way that takes me to her world, her street, her little stretch of the Thames and help me to savour with her the local trees and the daily rhythms of the birds, whether a clamour of rooks, or a solitary kingfisher streaking past. The first post I read was a bit of a hymn to staying put and not moving on, a hymn to her home in suburbia.
And it got me thinking about where I live now, and where I used to live… and the time before that… and the time before that. It reminded me of a post I wrote almost 5 years ago, and I thought it was maybe time to revisit it and re-work it.
I spent my childhood in London: population 8.5 million.
Then I went to University in Manchester: population 2.5 million.
A few years later I was living in Leeds: population 751,000.
And then we moved to Harrogate: population 76,000.
Then we went to France and I started a blog. We lived in Laroque d’Olmes with about 2,500 other people.
And now we’ve come back to England, and we live in North Stainley. This is a village whose population is about 730.
Can you see a pattern here?
Everwhere I’ve lived has seemed special at the time. I used to relish all that a big city could offer, whether the museums, cinemas, or the huge choice of shops. As I moved onwards and downwards, I remembered instead and with some horror the crowds, the dirt, the general busy-ness of the place before. Good heavens, even Laroque, not big enough to support a range of shops, much less a cinema or a swimming pool seems rather exotic compared with the facilities in North Stainley (a village hall, a church, and a pub, to be re-opened in early spring). We’ve traded cinemas for a film on Saturdays once every 6 weeks in the village hall, and shops for the chance to buy eggs from the farm not far from here. And this blog is where I often report on what we discover as we explore our local countryside .
I’ll leave you with a quiz: can you identify each of the places I’ve lived in from these images?
Do you fancy coming out to lunch with me? I know a nice place we could go – it’s only been open for a few days. We tried it out on Monday, and we’ll be back.
Corrina and Friends Community Café is no ordinary caff, though you might think it’s just another cheerful addition to the high street when you spot its bright blue facade and funky decor. Friendly staff will greet you as you walk in, and present you with a menu.
But what’s this? There are no prices mentioned. That’s because you’re invited to ‘pay as you feel’. You’ll slip the sum you decide to pay into an envelope, and nobody will be any the wiser about how much you think your meal was worth. Those staff who welcomed us were all volunteers, and so were the cooks in the kitchen. This is why, according to their website:
‘With no set prices, customers pay what they feel the meal is worth or what they can afford. At the end of each day the café will open its doors to Harrogate’s homeless and vulnerable – all produce left over at the end of the day will be given away to those in need. All profits will go back into helping Harrogate District’s homeless and vulnerable people.’
Corrina Young and her friends make a redoubtable team. They’ve persuaded businesses to give their surplus food, or food which is still fresh at the end of the day, but has reached its sell-by date, to the cafe. Individuals have donated dry goods, tinned goods, storage space, kitchen equipment and white goods. Local groups have organised whip-rounds and raffles. Others have donated paint and their skills as painters and decorators to make the place look clean, smart and inviting. Corrina herself raised money last month by getting people to sponsor her when she spent 72 hours in a skip outside her business premises (yes, she has a day-job as well)
Corrina seems to have endless energy and enthusiasm. Wanting to do something worthwhile, in December 2013, she and her family and friends provided a Christmas meal for the homeless and vulnerable. The idea developed and quickly became a weekly two-course meal. Yes, Harrogate, prosperous and successful spa town, contrary to appearances, knows all about poverty and homelessness.
By then, people were beginning to talk about The Real Junk Food Project in Leeds. Alarmed by increasing food waste, a chef, Adam Smith, developed a café in Armley that uses exclusively food destined for landfill: all that stuff that food retailers, especially supermarkets, are legally obliged to junk because it’s reached its sell by date, but not the end of its life. Corrina was inspired by his work. But her motivation is slightly different. She wants to help prevent food waste. But above all, she wants to help the homeless. Getting a good hot meal inside someone who hasn’t the means of cooking is only the first step. But a very important one.
So….. a café for the cash-poor homeless then, using where possible the food that’s had to be discarded by other shops. That’s not sustainable. But a café that attracts a wider paying public? That might just work. It brings the project to life. A paying public have a jolly good meal, see what the project’s achieving, pay what they feel for what they’ve just eaten, maybe make a donation. And at 5 o’clock, the café closes….and immediately re-opens its doors to the homeless and vulnerable.
These non-paying customers choose what to eat by looking at this board, covered in post-its.
People who’ve donated money write a ‘serving suggestion’ on their post-it, and the café users who come in at 5.00 chose a couple of these, and hand them over in lieu of payment. They’ll eat what’s listed on the post-it. Here’s what some people have written:
‘Soup and a toastie, Hannah x’
‘Coffee and a cake, George.’
‘Something hot and tasty. Love, Alison xx’
‘Eat what you fancy. Enjoy! Lee x’
We didn’t want a big meal, so Malcolm and I had home-made soup. Then we shared a cheese and ham toastie, and after that, we thought the cakes looked nice…… We’d had a great time, and Corrina made time to talk to us. She’s found 2 more supporters in us. She’s got 47 people begging to be considered as volunteer waiting staff. All the profits that the café makes will be ploughed back into helping the target community. The long-term aim is to resource, help and empower those people who are so vulnerable in today’s harsh economic and political climate.
Congratulations, Corrina and friends You’re an inspiration.
Up betimes, in order to be at Harrogate Hospital by 7.30 a.m. Yesterday was a day of white-coat-syndrome-induced high blood pressure, insensibility whilst under the knife, and not a little discomfort for Malcolm. He’s been waiting for months for some minor surgery, and now he’s had it, his life should get a lot more comfortable.
I, meanwhile, had to spend the day in Harrogate waiting for the call to go and collect him. I had quite a few errands to run in any case, and after that it wouldn’t have been worth traipsing back and forth from North Stainley.
So I did my jobs, and then had plenty of chance to loaf about. I’m not the world’s keenest shopper, but I do have a favourite charity shop in Cold Bath Road. Our friend Jonet volunteers there, sifting through and sorting donated books. I love the serendipity of looking along the shelves crowded with fiction old, new, English and foreign, next to an eclectic collection of non-fiction. As usual I left the shop with a satisfyingly large pile of reading, and this time, a new-to-me summer dress.
Then I headed for green space. What makes Harrogate a special town is its area of open parkland in the centre of the town – the Stray. It was created from common pastureland in 1778 to link most of Harrogate’s springs (it’s a spa town after all) and an Act of Parliament preserved its size at 200 acres. Even now, if part of its area is lost due to, for example, road widening, it must be replaced elsewhere. It’s pretty unique to be able to step directly from busy shopping streets straight onto a vast green area unbounded by railings or fences. Paths and roads will lead you through this green space to other parts of town. Like me, you could walk across the Stray to get to the hospital, or to reach the community round Cold Bath Road with its neighbourhood shops and Victorian housing. And yesterday, you could enjoy, as I did, the crocuses which have burst forth in their hundreds and thousands in glorious lakes of colour – purple, mauve, sunshine yellow and white. They’ll be followed in a week or so by an equal multitude of daffodils, and then avenues of cherries will blossom in all their pink finery. Here’s a few shots of Harrogate Stray on the warmest day of the year so far.
I know grey squirrels are no better than rats with tails, but they still cheer me up as they scurry up and down trees.
Easter eggs on display at Betty’s, Harrogate’s Top Caff.
‘I’ll bet’, ventured a friend the other week, ‘that the last few of those yellow bicycles don’t disappear from sight until round about Christmas’. I didn’t take her on. My own bet is that just a few of those yellow bikes, which so many people put outside their homes to celebrate the Tour de France in early July, will still be around many years from now . Most have gone of course.
Little by little, in the weeks after the Tour, the bunting came down, then those miles and miles of hand-knitted jerseys, then the yellow bikes. Now that Autumn winds are kicking in, all the bright yellow floral displays, often cascading from the panniers of those yellow bikes, are finally being grubbed up too.
As far as Harrogate was concerned, the Tour de France Swan Song took place last week, in the form of an exhibition mounted by the Harrogate Photographic Society, ‘Le Tour in Harrogate’. It took over the town. The ‘hub’ – a term borrowed from the Tour itself to indicate where the main action was to be found – was in the exhibition space of town centre Saint Peter’s Church. But there were satellite exhibits in a local café, an optician’s shop, and in the windows of a recently closed department store.
When we visited last Sunday, we found ourselves in company with dozens of others, poring over the images, sharing memories, exclaiming over forgotten moments of the preparations for the race in the days and weeks before, and its aftermath, as well as the days of the Race itself. There were pictures of old gnarled hands knitting away industriously to produce those yellow-jersey banners, of hi-viz-clothed teams of men road-mending late into the night beneath the glare of floodlights. Here were the gardeners making sure Harrogate’s famous floral displays were at their best, or French members of the huge Tour de France preparation team taking time out to link arms, laugh and pose for pictures. My favourite shot, taken on race-day itself was of two young men perched high on a chimney-stack looking down on the race far below them. And then there were the scenes of riders disappearing from view, only seconds after they’d first come into sight.
Tour street scene in Harrogate
A new use for a bus shelter on race day
As it happens, Harrogate’s official vehicles’ livery is yellow. Street cleaning lorries wait to go into action.
I’ve taken my own photos of the photos. Perhaps that’s a bit like the video which was said to have been offered for sale a few years ago by a dodgy salesman operating from a battered old suitcase at the corner of the market place. It was ‘Jurassic Park’, filmed in a darkened cinema on a hand-held camcorder. But these pictures shown here are just souvenirs. If you want to see these wonderful images in all their glory, you’ll have to contact the Photographic Society, who have produced a fully illustrated souvenir catalogue. We’ve ordered a copy.
I haven’t been able to credit individual images shown here as the photographers weren’t identified in this particular display. These aren’t however so much reproductions of their work as impressions. The photos themselves are well worth seeing in their original form.