A Travellerspoint blog

And did those feet …?

Glastonbury

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Glastonbury Tor

Long, long before it was home to one of the world’s most famous music festivals, Glastonbury was a place of pilgrimage not for music fans but for those seeking a more mystical experience. The ruined abbey is associated with Joseph of Arimathea, who is said to have arrived in Glastonbury and stuck his staff into the ground, when it flowered miraculously into the Glastonbury Thorn. There are also links to the Holy Grail and King Arthur. On the edge of the town Glastonbury Tor rises above the Somerset Levels, it too associated with Arthurian legend.

All of this has led to the town becoming a magnet not only for tourists but also for New Agers, hippies and followers of various Pagan cults. On its streets, everyday shops rub shoulders with those selling crystals and tarot cards, while tourists in practical anoraks and walking shoes mingle with local farmers in wellies and with more recently arrived and more colourfully dressed residents.

Glastonbury Abbey

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Glastonbury Abbey - the ruins of the Great Church

Glastonbury Abbey was founded in the 7th century on a site previously occupied by both Roman and Saxon settlements. It was enlarged in the 10th century and destroyed by a major fire in 1184, but subsequently rebuilt. By the 14th century it was one of the richest and most powerful monasteries in England, but like other such places in Britain it was dissolved by Henry VIII and fell into ruin.

Those are the basic facts, but many myths have grown up around the abbey. In medieval times a Christian legend claimed that it had been founded by Joseph of Arimathea in the 1st century. Joseph was a follower of Christ who undertook his burial after his crucifixion. The legends tell how Joseph travelled to Britain, bringing with him the Holy Grail – the cup from which Christ drank at the Last Supper. It is said that he pushed his staff into the ground while he lay down to sleep and it miraculously took root and became a leafy, flowering thorn tree.

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The Holy Thorn

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The Holy Thorn and St Patrick's Chapel

The thorn tree that can be seen in the abbey grounds is said to be a cutting from the direct descendent of this tree which grows on nearby Wearyall Hill. The abbey’s website tells the story in more detail:

‘By the 1530s, not long before the Dissolution of the Monasteries, three thorn trees grew on Wearyall Hill (sometimes known as Wirral Hill) about 1km south-west of Glastonbury. The trees were very unusual because they flowered twice - once in the spring around Easter, and a second time at Christmas. Not surprisingly, they were seen as holy thorns. In the Civil Wars of the 17th century Puritan soldiers cut down the only remaining thorn because they saw it as an object of superstition. However, local people had kept cuttings, and it is from these that the thorn now growing in the abbey grounds is believed to descend. It continues to flower around Easter and again at Christmas.

The holy thorn has become part of the legend of Joseph of Arimathea. According to this story, when Joseph arrived in Glastonbury with his twelve companions he climbed Wearyall Hill, whose name derives from his proclaiming 'we are weary all'. He planted his staff in the ground whilst he rested. The following morning the staff had taken root, and it grew into the miraculous thorn tree.’

Some versions of the legend say that the risen Christ accompanied Joseph on his journey to Britain. It is thought that this is what inspired the opening lines of William Blake’s ‘Jerusalem’:

‘And did those feet, in ancient times,
Walk upon England’s mountain green?
And was the holy Lamb of God
On England's pleasant pastures seen?’

I should add though that some scholars find this an unlikely source for Blake, arguing that the tradition that Jesus accompanied Joseph of Arimathea to Britain only arose in the early 20th century.

Visiting the abbey

Much of the abbey is in ruins although a couple of buildings are still intact. We visited on a cool but bright September morning, great for photographing what remains of the arches, windows and other features.

Near the entrance is St Patrick's Chapel which was founded by Abbot Richard Beere in 1500 and is still used for worship today. One of the many legends associated with Glastonbury is that St Patrick is buried here. This legend recounts that it was from Glastonbury that Patrick set out to convert the Irish and that he returned here at the end of his life to die. Hence the dedication of this chapel to the saint.

The chapel was restored in 2009/2010 and the wall paintings and stained glass, which I loved, date from then despite their traditional appearance. They include two depictions of St Patrick - one in the stained glass behind the altar which shows him standing above a snake (he is popularly held to have banished all snakes from Ireland) and the other a wall painting showing him with a wolfhound.

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Images of St Patrick

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In St Patrick's Chapel

From here we went to explore the ruins of the Great Church. In places these still stand quite tall and it is easy to imagine how impressive the building must once have been. In other places there are simply lines of stone in the grass, marking the foundations.

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The ruins of the Great Church

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Arthur's tomb

In the centre a rectangle is marked out and a sign identifies it as the site of King Arthur’s tomb. It reads:

‘In the year 1191 the bodies of King Arthur and his queen were said to have been found on the south side of the Lady Chapel. On 19th April 1278 their remains were removed in the presence of king Edward I and Queen Eleanor to a black marble tomb on this site. This tomb survived until the dissolution of the abbey in 1539.’

Today the authenticity of this find is disputed, with most historians suggesting that it was a publicity stunt undertaken to raise funds to repair the Abbey, which had been badly damaged by the fire of 1184. Nevertheless, the link with Arthur persists to this day and draws many to visit Glastonbury.

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The Great Church from the monastery ruins

We walked through the ruins of the monastery, none of the walls rising to a height of more than a foot or two, to reach the much more substantial Abbot’s Kitchen. This is the only surviving part of the Abbot’s house and is a sign of how different the abbot’s life would have been to that of the monks. While they lived a life of abstinence and poverty, he had a magnificent house, as befitted the abbot of the second richest abbey in the country (eclipsed only by Westminster). His kitchen needed to be able to cater to the many great visitors who came to the abbey, including Henry VII for whom a special apartment was added to the house.

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The Abbot's Kitchen

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Gargoyle on the Abbot's Kitchen

This is considered to be one of the best-preserved medieval kitchens in Europe. It has four great fireplaces, one in each corner, and a central chimney to draw out the smoke. Its high ceiling allowed the head chef to stand on a raised gallery to supervise the work of the rest of the cooks and servants as they prepared feasts worthy of their VIP guests.

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In the Abbot's Kitchen

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The ceiling of the Abbot's Kitchen

Between the kitchen and the entrance area lies the Lady Chapel. This is somewhat more intact than the Great Church (most of its walls still stand) and it’s easier to visualise the original structure.

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The Lady Chapel

The walls would once have been painted in ochre, red, blue, green and white, with gold leaf details. Some traces of paint still remain around the carved arches. The abbey website says that the paintwork ‘almost certainly dates to 1184-99 - probably to 1184-89’.

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Carvings on the Lady Chapel

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In the crypt below the chapel is a well known as St Joseph’s Well. This was in existence long before the chapel was built, and may date back to Roman times, but (perhaps because of its age) it became incorporated into the various legends linking Joseph of Arimathea to Glastonbury. It was consequently a place of pilgrimage right through to the 16th century, when many miracles and cures were said to have taken place following offerings made here.

Glastonbury, the town

After leaving the abbey we walked through the town, enjoying the atmosphere and taking a few photos of the more interesting characters on the streets.

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Seen in Glastonbury

In non-COVID times I might have been tempted to browse some of the shops, but as it was I just went into one to buy a pretty birthday card for my sister.

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Sign in a Glastonbury shop

Glastonbury Tor

Our destination was Glastonbury Tor which lies to the east of the abbey. To get there we followed a path past some houses and then up and across the fields, climbing steadily.

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In a garden on the way to Glastonbury Tor

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Seen on the way to Glastonbury Tor

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Seen on the path to Glastonbury Tor

This terraced conical hill has long been associated with tales of King Arthur. It is thought that the Ancient Britons called it Ynys yr Afalon, leading to a belief that this is the fabled Isle of Avalon of Arthurian myth. Certainly it was once an island, rising above the shallow sea that used to cover what are now the Somerset Levels. It was crowned by a church, St Michael’s, built from wood in the 11th or 12th centuries, and some other Saxon buildings, possibly cells for hermit monks. That church was destroyed in an earthquake in 1275 and replaced by a stone one, of which only the tower remains – the remainder of the church was demolished during the dissolution of the monasteries.

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Glastonbury Tor

As to the links with Arthur, some say that this is the likely hiding place of the Holy Grail, making the Tor a place of pilgrimage for centuries. Other stories grew up around the tor too, perhaps because there is something mystical in the way it rises above the plains, especially on a misty day. Some have said it holds the door to the land of the fairies, others the door to the land of the dead.

But for most visitors to Glastonbury the hill represents something much more simple – the challenge to climb it and the reward of great views when you do. I have made the climb several times in the past, when my legs were much younger, but on this occasion I decided it was enough to have climbed halfway and I left Chris, who had never been here before, to finish alone.

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Token hung in a tree, and carved stone near the point where I gave up the climb!

The Somerset Levels

After lunch in the town we drove a little to the east, to a nature reserve on the Levels, and had a rather windswept walk. The hides were closed because of the pandemic so we couldn’t get very close to the birds we saw out on the water. Nevertheless, I got a decent collection of photos, and the dragonflies were far more obliging than the birds!

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At Shapwick Heath National Nature Reserve

Later in our stay in Somerset we had a lovely short walk near Deerleap, on the southern edge of the Mendip Hills, and I took some shots of the wonderful views across the Levels towards Glastonbury Tor, so I will finish this entry with one of those images.

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View of the Somerset Levels and Glastonbury Tor from the Mendips

Posted by ToonSarah 03:35 Archived in England Tagged landscapes churches england history ruins views abbey legends glastonbury street_photography covid_19 Comments (11)

England’s smallest cathedral city

Wells

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Wells Cathedral and Cathedral Green

We recently spent a few days in the Somerset city of Wells, often described as England’s smallest city. In fact, the City of London is smaller, but doesn’t feel like it, surrounded as it is by all the rest of Greater London!

Wells gets its name from the three wells found here – two in the Bishop’s Palace gardens and one in the market place. Thanks to them the Romans settled here, and after them the Anglo-Saxons. King Ine of Wessex founded a minster church here in 704. Two hundred years later it became the seat of the diocesan bishop, until in 1090 the bishopric was moved to Bath. Arguments ensued between the canons of Wells and the monks of Bath until 1245 when Pope Innocent V resolved the dispute by creating the Diocese of Bath and Wells. The cathedral was built around the same time, cementing Wells’ role as the principal seat of the diocese.

The main sights in the city all centre on its role as the bishop’s seat – the cathedral itself, the cathedral green and nearby Vicars’ Close, and the Bishop’s Palace and Gardens. These all lie within a walled precinct known as the Liberty of St Andrew.

Wells Cathedral

The cathedral is dedicated to St Andrew, as are the city’s three wells. Parts date back to the 10th century but most of it was built during the 13th. As it was never a monastic cathedral it survived the Dissolution of Henry VIII and the Reformation intact. It has been called Europe's first truly Gothic structure.

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The West Front, Wells Cathedral

The west front is broad and is said to have one of the most impressive collections of medieval sculpture in the western world. Almost 300 of the original 400 statues remain. According to the cathedral website, ‘They appear quite differently today to how they looked in the Middle Ages, when much of the Cathedral was painted inside and out in bright colours’. I think I prefer them like this, in the soft yellow local limestone.

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Two of the many statues

Inside, the fan vaulted ceiling is attractively painted, and the central tower supported by striking ‘scissor’ arches. These were added in the mid 14th century to prevent the tower from collapsing. This 1313 addition to the cathedral had been too much for the foundations, causing large cracks to appear in the tower’s structure. This elegant solution to the problem has become one of the building’s most beautiful features.

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The interior, with the famous scissor arches

There is some wonderful stained glass, most famously in the so-called Jesse Window. This dates from 1340-45 and depicts the Tree of Jesse (the family and ancestors of Christ), with the Nativity at its centre. Again from the cathedral website: ‘Dating from about 1340, it is still remarkably intact – it narrowly escaped destruction during the English Civil War and was protected during the Blitz of World War Two – so what we see today is much as the medieval glaziers designed it and as our ancestors viewed it before us.’ Unfortunately, COVID restrictions on access to the smaller areas of the cathedral meant that we were only able to peer at this through a screen at the far end of the choir, but we got some idea from there of its artistry and level of detail.

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The Jesse Window

The Chapter House was also off-limits, but there was plenty to see in the main cathedral building, including the astronomical clock in the north transept - the second oldest surviving clock in England after the one in Salisbury Cathedral. It dates from about 1325 and still has its original medieval face, although the mechanism was replaced in the 19th century with the original being moved to the Science Museum in London, where it still operates. In addition to showing the time on a 24-hour dial, its innermost circle shows the days of the lunar month and the phases of the moon. The astronomical dial presents a pre-Copernican view, with the sun and moon revolving round a central fixed earth.

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Astronomical clock, and one of the Stations of the Cross

I also liked the Stations of the Cross with colours that reminded me of Orthodox icons.

We followed a set route around the building, marked out on the floor to ensure social distancing – a necessary evil at the time of our visit. This led us to explore the tranquil Camery garden, laid out to the east of the cloisters on the site of the 15th century Lady Chapel of which only the foundation stones remain. The rest was dismantled during the 16th century so that timber and lead could be sold to provide much-needed funds to the cathedral. There were some good views of the cathedral tower to be had from here and some pretty late summer flowers to photograph.

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In the Camery Garden

We finished our tour by following the marked route, the ‘Pilgrim’s Footsteps’, around the cloisters. These date mainly from the 15th century and have been quite recently restored. The walls display monuments to illustrious locals, and/or those wealthy enough to afford an ornate cathedral memorial. My eye was caught by one in particular, to a soldier who served under a ‘Great General’ (I assume Wellington) and died in the Battle of Waterloo. Also commemorated is a young boy of the same family who was only five when he died and yet ‘had strong religious impressions’ – not something I feel would be said of today’s five year olds!

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In the cloisters

Vicars’ Close

Just to the north of the cathedral, still within the precinct of the Liberty of St Andrew, is a short street known as Vicars’ Close. Its houses were built in the 14th and early 15th centuries as homes for the group of priests who served in the cathedral, the Vicars Choral. This is said to be the oldest purely residential street in Europe to have its original buildings surviving intact. Unusually it was built with a deliberate narrowing towards the end furthest from the cathedral, to make it look longer than it is (and of course viewed from that far end it looks shorter). There were originally 22 houses on the east side and 20 on the west, but after the Reformation, when clerics were permitted to marry and households consequently became larger, some of the houses were knocked together and there are now 27 in total.

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Vicars' Close

At the north end of the street is the Vicars’ Chapel and Library, while at the south end, as you enter from the cathedral side, is an arched gate cut into the Vicars’ Hall. On the cathedral wall opposite the latter is a second clock face of the cathedral’s famous astronomical clock, driven by the same mechanism.

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Clock on the exterior of the cathedral, and detail on one of the houses in Vicars' Close

The Bishop’s Palace and Gardens

The Bishop’s Palace lies on the south side of the cathedral. It has been the home of the Bishops of the Diocese of Bath and Wells for 800 years and is a Grade I listed building. It is surrounded by a wall and moat intended to provide a defence if needed, although in practice it was never called into use for that purpose. However, the moat also serves to channel the water from the two wells in the grounds (which give the city its name).

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Moat around the Bishop's Palace

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By/in the moat

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The defensive wall from one of the towers

The main part of the palace was built in the 13th century, with additions in the 14th and 15th. Today the great hall is in ruins, and part of the rest of the structure still in use as the bishop’s house, but you can visit some of the rooms in the palace, where displays cover the history of the building and the bishopric. There is also a chapel, but that was closed for restoration when we visited.

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The ruined Great Hall

In any case we were more interested in touring the beautiful gardens, especially as it was a lovely late September afternoon. The area around the great hall is laid out as lawns, including a croquet lawn. Elsewhere there are pretty flower beds surrounding one of the main features, the pools formed by the springs themselves. From here there are lovely views of the cathedral.

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Wells Cathedral from the Bishop's Garden

Nearby is a 15th century well house. A sign explains that in 1451 the then bishop, Bishop Beckynton, granted the town a supply of water from the wells within his garden. A cistern inside the well house collected water which was forced through pipes to the outlet in the marketplace. From here the water ran down gutters at the side of many of the streets, washing away blood and offal from the butchers’ shops. You can still see the water flowing in these gutters as you walk around the city, although I believe today’s butchers are no longer in the habit of using it to dispose of their waste! On the roof of the well house is a statue of the bishop’s favourite hunting dog.

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Dog statue on the well house

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Michaelmas daisies and butterfly

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Seed-head

Gates to the Liberty of St Andrew

There are three ancient entrances to the precinct – the Penniless Porch, The Bishop's Eye and Brown's Gatehouse, which were all built around 1450. The first of these leads to the cathedral green from the market place and is so-called because beggars used to wait there to ask for alms from those attending services.

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The Penniless Porch

The Bishop’s Eye also leads from the market place but towards the Bishop’s Palace. Brown’s Gatehouse lies to the north of these on Sadler Street and has been incorporated into a hotel, The Ancient Gatehouse. We ate dinner in their Italian restaurant one evening and afterwards I took some night shots of the cathedral from just inside the gatehouse.

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Wells Cathedral at night

Posted by ToonSarah 06:19 Archived in England Tagged buildings streets architecture england history houses garden cathedral Comments (13)

A day of waterfalls

Wensleydale

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Wensley Falls

The name of Wensleydale is almost synonymous with its cheese, but there is more to the place than that. It is a beautiful valley, like all the Yorkshire Dales, although perhaps surprisingly the river that runs through it is not called the Wensley, but the Ure (Wensley is the name of one of its smaller villages). It is more visited than Swaledale to the north, perhaps because of that famous cheese!

We recently spent a very pleasant day out exploring the dale and visiting some of its many waterfalls and other attractive spots. The weather could have been better, but could also have been worse – it was cloudy but mostly dry although we had rain towards the end of the day. Nevertheless we managed to see a lot and had some very pleasant walks.

Wensley Falls

This small waterfall is often overlooked, and we therefore had it to ourselves when we stopped for a quick look on our way up the valley. We parked in the car park of the White Rose Candle Workshop on the edge of the village and followed a short path which brought us out at a viewpoint below the falls. The rocks were wet and a little slippery, so I had to balance carefully while taking these shots!

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Wensley Falls

Aysgarth Falls

These falls are far better known than Wensley Falls, and are among the dale’s most popular attractions, so unsurprisingly we didn’t have these to ourselves! There are actually three separate falls here, named rather prosaically Upper, Middle and Lower Falls. From the car park you walk a short distance in one direction to reach the Upper Falls, then retrace your steps, cross the road, and follow a longer path, about a kilometre each way, which passes the Middle Falls and then carries on to the Lower Falls.

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First view of the Upper Falls

The Upper Falls were the busiest, being the easiest to reach, but you could hardly call them crowded and it was easy to get good angles for photography. Like all three sections of Aysgarth, the falls are not very deep, and the water was brown – rich with peat from the moors above thanks to recent heavy rains.

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The Upper Falls

I experimented with slow shutter speeds and was quite pleased with some of the results even though I had to handhold the camera.

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The Upper Falls

The Middle Falls were livelier, and we could get a bit closer to the water here.

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The Middle Falls

The longer walk to the Lower Falls was pretty, leading through a patch of woodland and alongside some meadows with wild flowers. We passed a beautifully carved wooden bench. I thought the lines on it might be a quotation from something written about this area, but they don’t appear to be.

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On the walk to the Lower Falls

The falls themselves were, I thought, the prettiest of the three sections, surrounded by trees and attractively lichen-covered slabs of limestone. It was possible to walk a short distance right down by the water across some of these slabs, adding to the number of photo opportunities – I took loads of pictures here!

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The Lower Falls from the path

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The Lower Falls

Aysgarth Falls have attracted artists over the centuries – Turner painted them, and Wordsworth waxed lyrical about them, as did John Ruskin. More recently they were the setting for some scenes in Kevin Costner's Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, including the famous fight scene between Robin Hood and his friend Little John – explaining perhaps the growing number of visitors.

Semer Water

After visiting Aysgarth we continued west up the dale, but took a detour down a narrow country road to see Semer Water – another location painted by JMW Turner. This the second largest natural lake in North Yorkshire and one of only two natural lakes to be found in the Yorkshire Dales. The River Bain flows out of the lake and into the Ure – at only two miles long it has the distinction of being the shortest river in England.

The beauty of the lake has attracted many artists, of whom the most famous is Turner who visited the lake on 26th July 1816 on one of his many tours. Across the road from the lake is a raised area with a bench which is supposedly sited at the spot where Turner sketched Semer Water.

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Semer Water - Turner's view

It may well have been beautiful when he visited but trees have grown up and partly obscured the view from his bench, and on this dull day I didn’t find myself especially inspired by the landscape.

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Semer Water - the view from the water's edge

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Fishermen at Semer Water

Hardraw Force

Back in Wensleydale we carried on westwards to the popular small town of Hawes, where the famous cheese is made. It was thronged with visitors (enjoying a covid-safe staycation, no doubt) and in any case we hadn’t planned a stop here, so we turned north to cross the river and followed it a short distance on the other side to Hardraw, the location of England`s largest single drop above-ground waterfall. The falls are on private land belonging to a pub, the Green Dragon, but open to the public on payment of a small fee. We’d intended to park in the pub car-park but it was full, so we drove just beyond the village where we found roadside parking on a grass verge, along with several other cars. We decided to eat the picnic lunch we’d brought in the car (a very English thing to do), enjoying the view of the dale in front of us. Then we walked back to the pub to visit the falls.

The owners have invested some at least of the money they make from having the falls on their property in developing the land around them. There is a network of paths through the ravine (Hardraw Scar or Scaur) on both sides of the river which you can follow to reach the waterfall, and good viewpoints once you get there. The weather had turned a bit worse by now, with drizzle in the air, but that’s the price you pay for the beautiful green shades of the landscapes around here!

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Hardraw Force

The falls drop about 100 feet into a rocky pool. Like Aysgarth they were visited by Wordsworth and Turner, both of whom stayed at the Green Dragon. And also like Aysgarth, they were used as a location in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, for the scene where Maid Marian catches Robin Hood bathing under a waterfall.

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Hardraw Force

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At Hardraw Force

Hardraw

After visiting the falls we had a quick look around Hardraw itself. I took a photo of the late 19th century church, dedicated to St Mary and St John, but we didn’t try to go inside (it was almost certainly locked, as most churches have been during the coronavirus pandemic, although some are now opening up for worship). The church was used as Darrowby Church in the original TV series of All Creatures Great and Small (I don’t know if the new series also has scenes filmed here).

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Typical Yorkshire dry-stone wall

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Church of St Mary and St John

The clouds were low over the fells but the fields were still a lovely shade of green. The landscape here is just a little tamer than that of Swaledale to the north and the sheep slightly less hardy-looking, but it is nevertheless a bleak place in winter.

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Landscape near Hardraw

Askrigg and Mill Gill Force

We took the quieter and narrower road north of the river back down the dale, and made our last stop of the day in Askrigg. Here we followed a rather longer walk to Mill Gill Force. This started by St Oswald’s Church and followed a village street, Mill Lane, until this petered out into a stone path, which led us across a field with good views of the fells including the distinctively flat-topped Addlebrough.

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Addlebrough Fell from the path to Mill Gill Force

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Sheep sheltering from the rain

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Lichen on a wall

The path then entered the woods and crossed the stream, Paddock Beck. It was quite muddy underfoot as we followed the ravine. At one point the path forked and the signpost was somewhat obscured by trees but we had met another couple shortly before who had warned us about this and told us to take the right-hand fork to reach the falls, which we did. We arrived at a good viewpoint just as the rain, which had been threatening for some time, also arrived, so we stayed under the trees taking photos from a distance.

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Mill Gill Force

When it seemed clear that the rain was here to stay for a while, we decided not to risk exposing our cameras to more water by trying to get closer to the falls. So we turned back on the same path and returned to the village – at which point, of course, it stopped raining!

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In Askrigg

I took a few photos in the village before it could start again, then we headed back to the car and to the cosy apartment we were renting in Leyburn, happy with our waterfall-filled day out.

Posted by ToonSarah 08:34 Archived in England Tagged landscapes waterfalls lakes england views village weather yorkshire Comments (14)

A Yorkshire dale

Swaledale

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Landscape near Keld, Upper Swaledale

Swaledale is among the less visited of Yorkshire’s dales, much less busy than neighbouring Wensleydale, but I have often wondered why as it is beautiful. Above and around the valley are heather-topped hills, their lower slopes green and dotted with stone barns and crisscrossed with drystone walls. They slope down to the fast-flowing Swale, where a road along the bottom of the dale passes through a string of picturesque villages. Towards the eastern end of the dale is Grinton, which we visit often (see A Breath of Fresh Air). But recently we spent a few days staying in nearby Leyburn and had a wonderful day out exploring the dale and some of its other villages.

The landscape of the dale may look in places like nature at its wildest but in truth it was created by a combination of traditional farming practices and lead mining. While sheep farmers gradually enclosed the lower slopes to create the characteristic mosaic of dry-stone walled compartments and stone field barns, the spoil heaps and scars of the lead mining industry are responsible for much of the barren and bleaker parts of the dale especially on the moorland. You can also see the odd ruined mine building up on these moors.

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Typical Swaledale scenery, near Gunnerside

Grinton Moor

To reach Swaledale from our base in Leyburn we crossed Grinton Moor, on the ridge of hills that separates the dale from Wensleydale to the south. We stopped near Grinton Lodge (formerly a shooting lodge, now a youth hostel) to pay our respects to Chris’s father John, whose ashes we scattered here.

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On Grinton Moor

Gunnerside

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Parking sign

We didn’t stop in Grinton itself, as we visit so often, nor in neighbouring Reeth as we planned a stop there on our way back. So the first village we visited was Gunnerside, a few miles further up the valley. We parked in the small parking area in the centre, just by the stone bridge over Gunnerside Beck, a tributary of the Swale. Signs asked us to make a £1 donation for parking via a box by the bridge, which we did.

There are several interesting and picturesque buildings in the village, including a working smithy (closed on our visit, presumably because of the coronavirus pandemic), and the Literary Institute. Many of the villages in the Dales have one of these institutions, built during the 19th century. They were important recreational spaces, often the only public building in the village. They were often provided or supported by local landowners and employers, who saw clear advantages in ensuring that their tenants and employees had somewhere to socialise other than the pub, where their minds would be improved by reading improving works of literature and attending lectures. For this reason the institutes were often also supported by temperance organisations. Today Gunnerside’s Literary Institute, which was built in the 1860s, serves as the village hall.

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Literary Institute, and Smithy

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Outside the smithy

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Smithy door detail

But our main purpose in stopping in Gunnerside was to take a walk along the beck, through the pretty little valley known as Gunnerside Ghyll or Gill. This word comes from the Norse ‘gil’, meaning ravine or gully, while beck comes from the Norse ‘bekkr’.

This was the site of a major lead mining industry in Swaledale until the late nineteenth century, and the scars can still be seen.

Unfortunately the water of the Ghyll was so high after recent rains that it had flooded out part of the path and I didn’t have suitable footwear to wade through it, so we only did the first part of the walk. This took us up and out of the village alongside the tumbling stream, with views back to the houses below.

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Looking down on Gunnerside

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Gunnerside Ghyll

We encountered a number of the distinctive horned Swaledale sheep grazing here, as they do all over the dale.

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Swaledale sheep

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Flowers by the ghyll

And we could see the ruins of what must have been buildings once linked to the lead mining industry. But we didn’t get far enough to see the main mining area with its spoil heaps, ore works and entrance to the mine itself. That will have to wait for another day.

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Landscape near Gunnerside Ghyll

Muker

Our next stop was in the bigger and much busier village of Muker, further up the dale. The car park on the edge of the village was full but we managed to find roadside parking at the far end and walked back to the centre. The tea shop was closed (I assumed because of the pandemic) but next door to it the local store was open and selling take-away drinks including barista coffees which could be enjoyed at the tables set out on the terrace in front of both premises. Chris waited outside while I went in to place our coffee order, and while I waited for the drinks to be made, I looked around the small shop. It was quite a diverse range of items, ranging from guide-books to tins of beans, children’s fishing nets to toilet paper, souvenir boxes of fudge to malt whiskies …

Once the coffees were ready we sat outside in the sun watching people strolling past, and afterwards had a quick look around the village. We had to smile at the life-size Swaledale sheep perched on a roof-top!

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On a house in Muker

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St Mary's Church

The village church is dedicated to St Mary. It was built around 1580 but heavily restored in the 19th century. Needless to say it was shut – even if normally open (which is sadly becoming less and less common these days), the pandemic would have ensured it stayed locked up for now, apart from occasional services.

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Landscape near Muker - barn and drystone walls

Tan Hill

Leaving Muker around midday we drove further up Swaledale, passing many more photo-worthy views. But we had a reservation for lunch so had to leave these until later. We turned north to climb up out of the dale and over the open moorland to Tan Hill, the location of what claims to be the highest inn in Britain at 1732 feet (it is not the only pub to make this claim but seems generally to be accepted as the most credible).

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At Tan Hill Inn

We had pre-booked a table for lunch – essential, we thought, as there are no other options for miles around! As it turned out, they had lost our reservation but luckily could accommodate us, even in these times of reduced capacity due to coronavirus. We had a tasty lunch and then headed outside to take some photos of the view. The Pennine Way, the first National Trail to be established in England (in 1965) passes right by the pub and we saw several hikers. The road across the moors is also understandably popular with bikers so there were quite a few of them around too.

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View from the Tan Hill Inn

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Walkers on the Pennine Way

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Walkers and sheep

Over the moor

We had planned to return to Reeth across the top of the moor, on the Long Causeway, a road that runs parallel to Swaledale. But the delights of the dale were tempting us back, especially as we’d had to drive past so many scenic viewpoints on our way here, so we changed our plans and returned instead by the way we had come.

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The road across the moor

As we drove back across the moor we stopped several times to take photos of this wild and wonderful landscape.

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Landscape above Swaledale

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Typical barns and drystone walls

The barns of Swaledale

Dropping down into the dale near the village of Keld we stopped to take more photos. By now I had become obsessed with capturing the patterns created by the drystone walls dissecting the fields above the valley and the stone barns scattered across the green landscape.

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Moors above Keld

Later I read up about the barns. Stone barns were built in this area from around the early 18th century. Unlike in other parts of the country, here they were sited away from the main farm buildings, in the hay meadows themselves. Traditionally they were used to store hay during the winter, and in a separate section, to shelter cows. Thus, the food and the animals that needed it were in the same place, and there was no need for the farmer to haul the feed to them. During the winter he would walk to his barns twice a day to feed the cows and let them out to drink. In the spring the manure they produced would be spread, by hand, on the land to fertilise the meadows for the next hay crop in the summer – again, no need for the farmer to haul the manure any distance.

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Barns near Keld

Some of the barns have two storeys and were used to shelter not cows but sheep. Swaledale sheep are very hardy, but in the first year of their lives they are more vulnerable during hard winters which are not uncommon in this, one of the highest of the dales. These young sheep are known as hoggs and the barns used to house them as hogg houses. They had room for sheep on both floors and hayracks around the walls.

The barns have a distinctive appearance because of the traditional building technique used in this area. This involved two walls, inner and outer, with rubble used to fill the gap between them. To ensure the walls didn’t fall away from each other, long stones known as ‘throughs’ were inserted from outside to inside. In the case of houses, the throughs were cut off to make it look neater (although once you know to look for them they are easy to spot), but with barns there was no need to waste time doing that, which is why these Swaledale barns are so unique.

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Stone barns near Keld

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Today, with modern farming techniques, the field barns have become largely redundant (although some are still used to store hay), but their significance is recognised, and farmers can get grants to restore their barns to protect this iconic landscape.

Keld

Leaving our car on the main road we walked down into Keld. The name derives from the Viking word kelda meaning a spring.

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Old phone box and lone tree near Keld

Unlike the other villages around here it sits a short distance away from the road through the dale, and has a more tranquil atmosphere, although there were quite a few other people around. We wandered through the churchyard from where there were lovely views of the valley, but the church itself was closed.

The nearby United Reform Church has a worn sundial dated 1840.

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Sundial on the United Reformed Church

And we spent some time watching and photographing the many birds who had come to feed on the wall of one of the village houses, clearly home to a bird lover. The garden had lots of feeders, and seeds were strategically placed in several places, including this wall.

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Chaffinches feeding in Keld

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Greenfinch feeding in Keld

Angram

This little hamlet had caught our attention when we drove through earlier in the day, so on our way back down the dale we stopped for a quick look around. It was a good place to hunt for opportunities to photograph building details – one of my photography enthusiasms. Oh, and a few more barns!

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Angram door details

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Welsh poppy, and small garden statue

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Fields near Angram

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Ruined barn

Reeth

Our final stop of the day was in Reeth, a somewhat larger village only a mile from Grinton. Its buildings are gathered around a large green and while some may deprecate the fact that this is nowadays used in part for car parking, it does make it easy to park there even on a busy day such as this was turning out to be (warm sunny days aren’t too common in these parts, even in August!)

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Evangelical Church in Reeth

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In a garden near the church

Many gardens and buildings in the area have bicycle-related objects on display, a legacy of when the 2014 Tour de France started in Yorkshire, and this one has clearly had a 2020 addition in the shape of a face mask for the sheep!

We had ice creams at the always-excellent ice cream parlour at the bottom of the green and then had a stroll around. But it was, as I said, rather busy and time was getting on, so we didn’t stay long and instead drove back over Grinton Moor to the cosy apartment we were renting in Leyburn – the end of a lovely day out.

Posted by ToonSarah 01:24 Archived in England Tagged landscapes views village pubs farm yorkshire barns moor Comments (12)

Yes, I remember ...

Adlestrop

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The only real street in Adlestrop

Adlestrop is for me one of the loveliest of Cotswold villages, made all the lovelier because very few people seem to know it or come here, despite the fact that it features in a well-known English poem. There is perhaps not much of note here, but that is part of its charm. A sleepy village street, lined with chocolate-box-pretty cottages; a thatched village shop still surviving when many in the country have sadly closed; a small green and a cricket pitch.

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A cottage in Adlestrop

This is the England that someone who has never been here might conjure up from old movies, thinking that most of us live in just such a place (although in fact only 80 people inhabit this tiny village). If you have an image of a perfect English village in your head and want to bring it to life, Adlestrop could be the place for you.

A famous poem

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Bus shelter

Adlestrop was immortalised by Edward Thomas, one of my favourite poets, in a poem first published in 1917. The poem describes an uneventful journey Thomas took on 23 June 1914 on an Oxford to Worcester express. Like several other poets, he is closely associated with the First World War period, but unlike them he wrote mostly, not of the war, but of the England for which he believed the soldiers were fighting. This is possibly a rather idealised picture of a pastoral idyll that was already being changed by industrialisation, but even today pockets of his England remain, and unspoiled Adlestrop is one of them.

Today a seat at a bus stop near the entrance to the village bears a plaque with the poem’s verses, and above it is a sign from the railway station that inspired them.

Adlestrop, by Edward Thomas

Yes. I remember Adlestrop -
The name, because one afternoon
Of heat the express-train drew up there
Unwontedly. It was late June.
The steam hissed. Someone cleared his throat.
No one left and no one came
On the bare platform. What I saw
Was Adlestrop – only the name
And willows, willow-herb, and grass,
And meadowsweet, and haycocks dry,
No whit less still and lonely fair
Than the high cloudlets in the sky.
And for that minute a blackbird sang
Close by, and round him, mistier,
Farther and farther, all the birds
Of Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire.

Jane Austen in Adlestrop

The village also has another literary connection, with one of my favourite novelists, Jane Austen, who is known to have visited at least three times between 1794 and 1806 when Rev. Thomas Leigh, her mother’s cousin, was vicar, living at the Old Rectory. Jane Austen is thought to have drawn inspiration from the village and its surroundings for her novel Mansfield Park. The rectory is now known as Adlestrop House and is just by the churchyard. Although it’s not open to the public it's possible to peer through the gates and get a sense of the lovely views it commands - views that must be largely unchanged since Austen's time.

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A house opposite the church

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View with part of Adlestrop House

St. Mary Magdalene

St. Mary Magdalene's church in Adlestrop sits on a knoll at the end of the village street, which here turns into a track. The tower is the first thing to catch the eye. This is 14th century, and consists of three stages, with the lowest serving as the church porch. Much of the rest of church was rebuilt between 1750 and 1764, though so sympathetically that the building retains much of its earlier feel.

The oldest part is the 13th century chancel arch, on either side of which are two 18th century memorials set high into the wall. These are to members of the Leigh family, relatives of Jane Austen’s mother. Other reminders of the same family can be found elsewhere in the church, including gravestones set into the floor of the chancel and memorial windows.

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Adlestrop church, and a Leigh memorial

Talking of windows, many of them have lovely stained glass, and were looking especially good on the sunny day when we last visited. Look out too for the 15th century font.

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Stained glass window

The peaceful churchyard has some 17th century chest tombs, a cast iron entry gate and lantern which commemorates Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee in 1897, and a sundial built to commemorate the golden jubilee of Queen Elizabeth in 2002. A rare Elizabethan memorial (from 1594) is built into the exterior south wall of the chancel. From this churchyard you can look past Adlestrop House to the beautiful rolling hills beyond - the view in my photo above. I like to stand here and think that Jane Austen too would have stood and admired this very same view, perhaps after attending a service taken by her mother's cousin. And you can't get more quintessentially English than that!

Posted by ToonSarah 06:54 Archived in England Tagged monument history views church village houses poetry literature cotswolds author world_war_one Comments (17)

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