Here’s Harrogate yesterday, enjoying the first true week of spring.
The building with the turreted clock is the famous Betty’s Tea Room. But we won’t go there today. Instead, we’ll have a picnic later, in the Valley Gardens. That white rectangular frame you can see is a favourite family-photo spot. If you haven’t got your family with you, best take a selfie …
Next stop, Valley Gardens. It’s all tricked out at the moment for a Fire and Light Experience. We’ve been to one of these festivals before, in 2016, and it was fabulous. But we’re still too post-covid flattened to feel like an evening out. So we’ll just enjoy the braziers and installations set in place …
… and focus on the blossoms and spring flowers instead.
Just a short walk. But it’s enough to change our mood and lift our spirits.
Over the years, I’ve taken you all on walks around Yorkshire. We’ve strolled along riversides. We’ve had woodland walks at wild garlic and bluebell time. We’ve gone into the Dales, both the gently rolling hillsides, and the bleaker heather-covered moorland, enjoying distant views of the Pennines. But one thing we haven’t done is have a Thoroughly British Winter Walk.
That’s what we did the other day. And by the time you get to the bottom of the page, you’ll be mighty glad you’ve only had a Virtual Walk. Our friend Chris had planned it: just a leisurely six miles or so morning’s walk, taking in three pretty villages between Harrogate and Ripon.
It didn’t begin well. Half a mile in, this was the path.
No, that’s not a stream, it’s the path. Heads bent over the map, we found an alternative, and that wasn’t so bad. Sodden fields, gloopy mud-slicked paths. But passable. Just.
In fact we got used to clambering over stiles that landed us immediately into another muddy hole, before sending us on our way across a field on a sodden path.
We were quite cheery. Until we arrived here. The map informed us there was a pathway across this field. The sheep knew better. They’d churned up the soil good and proper. There was no alternative but to squelch onwards.
Poor old Chris. Her name was Mud.
Arriving back at our cars parked in one of the villages, we were reminded that our day with friends, providing a rueful tale to tell back at home, was nevertheless a happy and carefree one. This Ukrainian flag on someone’s gate was a sober contrast, and provided details of ways to donate to one of the many charities trying to offer support and help to the beleaguered Ukrainians. There are suggestions here.
And I knew that my walk would be a dramatic one. I stopped scurrying as I watched the sun falling gently behind the clouds, behind the trees, as I changed my vantage point with every step. It wasn’t a spectacular sunset, but it was special, as every sunset invariably is. Come with me.
The sheep appeared to have wandered away: the fields were empty.
To the right of me, the river was more delicately tinted:
At every step, a different view: sometimes the vivid fiery tones of the setting sun: at others, the gentler, prettier powdered pinks and blues of the more distant clouds.
My walk was almost over: I crossed the bridge and arriving in the village. The river continued its journey towards the Ouse, then the Humber, without me, and the sun finally disappeared behind the trees.
It’s 7.45. Here’s the sunrise on our way to Studley Royal.
And having met the rangers and our fellow walkers – volunteers on the site, here’s who we’d come to see.
Red deer, but ancient trees too. Cherry trees aren’t meant to last 400 years, but somehow this one is clinging on. Whereas the oak nearby is thought to be more than 800 years old, and dating from the days when the monastic community was at its height in nearby Fountains Abbey.
Come with us as we walk past the entrance to the park, framing the view down towards Ripon Cathedral, before we climb uphill to less frequented parts of the parkland, where deer usually roam free and we could enjoy open views across to Ripon and the North York Moors beyond.
We seem to have been to Castle Bolton quite often recently. It reminded me that shortly after we came back from France, one of our early walks was here. Maybe it’s time to revisit my blog post about it, to remind myself, if nobody else, about its history.
A CASTLE FIT FOR A CAPTIVE QUEEN
We travelled the road in thick white mist, fearing a dank and gloomy day. But the higher we climbed, the more the mist fell away, and the brighter the sun shone.
As we began walking, Daphne shared some of the castle’s history with us. It has belonged to the Scrope family since the time it was built in the 14th century, and has always been admired for its high walls. It’s a proper castle, looking exactly like the ones you will have drawn when you were eight years old.
Tudor history is largely about the constant religious and temporal battles between the Catholic and the Protestant church, which Henry VIII had made the Established Church, with the king as its head: the Fidei Defensor – Defender of the Faith (unbelievably, Henry hung onto this title, awarded him in his pre-Protestant days by Pope Leo X, in recognition of his book Assertio Septem Sactramentorum which defends the supremacy of the pope). His son Edward briefly succeeded him, and then his daughter Elizabeth, and both were Protestants.
But Elizabeth’s rule was threatened by the Catholic Mary Queen of Scots, and she was held captive first at Carlisle Castle, then at Bolton. Here she was attended by 51 knights, servants and ladies-in-waiting, not all of whom could be accommodated in the castle itself. She also had cooks, grooms, a hairdresser, an embroiderer, an apothecary, a physician and a surgeon, while furnishings fit for a queen were borrowed from nearby Barnard Castle. She went hunting, learnt English – for she spoke only French, Scots and Latin – and spent time with local Catholics. She made an unsuccessful bid to escape from captivity. It’s said she climbed from an upstairs window in the castle, and fled on horseback past the nearby market town of Leyburn. It’s here she dropped her shawl and so was discovered and recaptured. And that is why, so they say, the long escarpment above the town, nowadays a playground for walkers and sightseers, is still called ‘The Shawl’.
As we enjoyed our history lesson, we passed a field of Wensleydale sheep. We very much admired their sultry fringes.
And onwards. Autumn colours.
A completely pointless stile in the middle of a meadow.
Then Aysgarth Falls. What a wonderful lunch spot. The crashing waters made conversation quite impossible, but we sat enjoying the surging waters, the coppery leaves above our heads, and the all-encompassing percussion of the tumbling River Ure.
And then it was time to turn round and head back by a different route. Another great day’s walking, with an added history lesson.
But wait! This post was all for Fandango’s Flashback Friday, when we’re invited to dig up a Post From the Past. But Becky’s Past Squares demands a look at the past too: here’s Bolton Castle, square style:
Since the Yorkshire Dales – or other popular destinations – are understandably still not keen on receiving hordes of visitors, we’ll have another Virtual Walk, and revisit a post written in May 2014, shortly after we returned to England.It’s for Fandango’s Flashback Friday, and for Jo’s Monday walk.
ANOTHER DAY IN THE DALES
Burnsall – Howgill – Middle Skyrehome – Gill’s Laithe – Troller’s Gill – Appletreewick (often pronounced Aptrick locally) – Kail Lane – and Burnsall again
What’s not to like in a walk that passes through places with such enticing names? It was Rosemary who led the Ripon Ramblers yesterday and she’d organised not only a splendid walk with varied Dales scenery, but a warm sunny day too. Here are my picture postcards from the day. Click on the images you’d like to see enlarged, or to have a slideshow.
On the last day of April, I took myself for a short walk, from country house to country house near me. They’re all called Sleningford-something-or-other – Old Hall, Hall, Grange – in memory of the village of the same name that was ravaged by marauding Scots in the Middle Ages, never to be seen again. Though they had older antecedents, all these buildings are from the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, and they all mark pleasant pauses in our walking routines. Here’s the gatehouse to the first, Sleningford Old Hall, its window enabling the gatehouse keeper to keep his eye on all the comings and goings into the estate. Well, the last actually. I’m showing my last photo first, and working back towards home.
Only the upstairs windows of the house itself were visible over the high wall which maintains the owners’ privacy.
A mile or so beforehand, I’d already passed Sleningford Park and Hall. You can see the house set in its parkland in the feature photo. The conservatory has glass enough, and the gatehouse too has windows pointing in every direction to help the gatekeeper do his job.
I’d started from home of course, less than a mile before that. Not that we live in the house you see here. But we’re lucky enough to live in its grounds, in a rather simpler dwelling, which has its own long history – that’s for another day.
Well, you were game for a bit of a bet yesterday, and both sunrise and sunset got pretty much equal scores. Shall we go for a walk and see who’s right? Click on any image to see it full size and to get rid of the caption.
I took my puzzle picture, now shown in a different format as my feature photo, shortly after I’d left the lake. But this wasn’t overlooking another lake. It was yet another flooded field. Time? One minute past four. Sunset: the first moments. So I was up to no good, offering you sun down instead of sun up on a challenge featuring All Things Up,
Weather forecast. Cold, but bright and sunny. That sounded perfect for a walk in Wharfedale. Starting and finishing at the forbiddingly-named Grimwith Reservoir, and taking a fine circular route to and from Burnsall would give us extensive panoramas over the hills of the Yorkshire Dales.
Except that on the way there, an impenetrable curtain of fog descended. To walk? Or not to walk? My friend and I had both made the effort to get there. So we’d walk.
And for nearly an hour, this was our landscape. No hills, no dales, but just the occasional gate, or tussocky grass, or – sometimes – sheep.
Then – suddenly it seemed – this.
The sky lightened and brightened, and the countryside we’d come to see developed before our eyes like those Polaroid photos that once seemed so exciting.
Soon we were at Burnsall, our half-way mark. A hearty yomp up hill brought us to a bench, where we saw in turn black skies, grey skies, blue skies: and views, always with the village below us.
After lunch, a further climb, and then level walking back to where we’d begun our day. But this time we had the views we’d come to see, and at the end, the quiet tints of the reservoir.