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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)

A Breath of Fresh Air

Grinton

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Swaledale

The Yorkshire Dales are one of the loveliest parts of England, and Swaledale one of the loveliest dales, though less well known than its neighbour to the south, Wensleydale. Near the head of Swaledale is the quiet village of Grinton. It isn’t particularly on the tourist trail, though connoisseurs of the English countryside may find their way here, as may fans of the James Herriot books which were set near this part of Yorkshire.

We know it however as the village where my father-in-law, John, spent several happy years as a boy, having been evacuated here to escape the war-time bombing of Tyneside. Although a city boy by birth, he fell in love with the beautiful countryside and the rural way of life, and continued to visit here regularly for the rest of his life, bringing us with him on many occasions. When he died in 2009 we followed his wishes and scattered his ashes on the moor above Grinton. Thus the place that had meant so much to him became his final resting place.

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Grinton Moor

The house where John lived as a boy was home to a gamekeeper, Billy Holland, and his wife. Nowadays it has become part of the pub next door to form the Bridge Inn, and we visit annually to meet up with the Hollands’ two daughters and their husbands, bringing John’s two sisters, May (who was also evacuated here) and Gloria (just a baby during the war and considered too young to leave her mother). It’s a chance for that generation to reminisce about the old days and for us to enjoy their stories.

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The Bridge Inn

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May, Chris and Gloria outside the Bridge Inn

Some years ago my mother-in-law Teresa captured John’s stories as part of the BBC’s ‘People’s War’ project in a piece they called ‘A Breath of Fresh Air’, and I’ve included some extracts here. I hope you enjoy them as much as we have done and will come to understand just why this place meant so much to John, and why his memory will live on here for all of us.

St. Andrew's Church

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St. Andrew's Church

I have seen this church referred to as “the Cathedral of the Dale”, which sounds very grand for what is simply a rather peaceful old parish church. The oldest part of the Church is Norman, showing that there has been a church here for over 900 years, and it is thought that there may even have been a Saxon Church here prior to that.

Most of the present-day building though dates from the fourteen to sixteenth centuries. Although I have been there several times, it is only now, researching for this page, that I have found out much about it.

The original Norman church was only the nave to the Chancel steps of the current church with the aisles being added in the 16th Century. The font, a small window in the west wall and the chancel arch are all that now remain of the original Norman church.

The wood screen in the chancel was carved in the 14th century. The Lepers’ squint, a small window in the screen, was designed to allow those who suffered from leprosy and were not allowed in to the church to see what was happening and take part in the service.

The church floor is 3 to 4 feet lower than the churchyard level. It is the original level of the church. The height difference is apparently due to all the burials over the last 900 years which have raised the churchyard by this amount.

The 1718 inscription over the pulpit is the date when the pews were installed. Until then there were no seats, the parishioners sat or knelt on the floor. It was only during the Reformation period that pews were installed in churches. The tower was also a 16th century addition.

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John in St Andrews Church

My father-in-law had many happy memories of this church. In ‘A Breath of Fresh Air’ he said:
‘Mrs. Holland played the organ in the local church so we found ourselves at services three times on a Sunday. Sometimes I was allowed to pump up the organ for her. I was also in the choir and sang solo until my voice broke. I never thought then that one day I would return to Grinton with my family, visit the church, see the organ and sit in a pew reminiscing.’

Grinton Moor

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Swaledale

Swaledale’s scenery is characterised by its green valley dotted with trees; fields above dotted with white sheep and separated by the traditional drystone walls; and windswept heather moorland beyond these. This landscape may look in places like nature at its wildest but in truth was created by a combination of traditional farming practices and lead mining.

While sheep farmers gradually enclosed the lower slopes to create this 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 will also see occasional ruined stone mine buildings up on these moors.

Swaledale is part of the Yorkshire Dales National Park and the moors are therefore protected. There are many footpaths crisscrossing the moors, and a walk up here will certainly blow the city cobwebs away!

My photo below shows the special spot above Grinton where Chris scattered his father’s ashes. The purple heather makes a fitting resting place for a man who loved this landscape and who came to feel so at home here as a young boy.

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Grinton Moor

Here are some more extracts from ‘A Breath of Fresh Air’

‘We arrived in Grinton, Swaledale, ten miles west of Richmond, Yorkshire, into the most beautiful scenery I had ever seen. I knew nothing about the countryside at that time. George and I were billeted with a young, newly married couple, Mr. and Mrs. Holland....

The house where I lived is now part of the Bridge Hotel. The first memory of the village was the silence and the lack of noise from trams, trains, ships’ hooters and the like. Also the sound of unfamiliar birds each morning. We had no timepiece in the bedroom and consequently always being hungry I found I was first up each morning! The house was a big, two-storied building adjoining the Bridge Hotel at the side and the back so there was no back entrance. … It fronted the main road to Reeth, a village about a mile away. It had three steps down leading to a sunken patio. The door led to a cosy living room with a coal fire. Here we took our meals and relaxed in the evenings listening to the battery-operated wireless, or, in the case of Mr. Holland, dozing by the fire. Sometimes he would be nursing George and the two of them would be fast asleep in the wooden slatted rocking chair!

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Chris and May at the Bridge Inn

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In the Bridge Inn
- I believe this is the
former Sunday Parlour

Paraffin lamps provided the lighting (there being no gas or electricity) and the cooking was done on two primus stoves or on the grill above the coal fire. There was a highly polished fender surrounding the fire.

A door to the left led to the Sunday Parlour. It was rarely used at any other time. On a rack in the corner were Mr. Holland’s two 12 bore shot guns, (he was employed as shepherd/acting gamekeeper) and later a 303 calibre Enfield rifle, which was supplied when he joined the LDV (later to become the Home Guard). Also in the rack was a selection of walking sticks and umbrellas.

To the right leading off the living room was the kitchen. This had a sink (cold water only). The two primus stoves stood on a bench. Off the kitchen was a walk-in pantry. The shelves held a number of the previous year’s storage jars of home-made jams and chutneys. It also had a stone slab for “perishables”. The milk was delivered in a churn from where the milkman used a dipper to measure the required amount into Mrs. Holland’s large enamel milk jug. The milk float had rubber tyres and was pulled by a horse.

A staircase led to the three bedrooms upstairs. At one time the third bedroom was occupied by an elderly lady from London. She was kind to me but didn’t see eye-to-eye with Mr. and Mrs. Holland and returned to London soon afterwards. We all went to bed by the light of a candle. My household chores commenced early each morning when I primed the two stoves and lit the fire, which I set with cowlings (a form of dried heather) and coal…

The nearest school, Fremington, was located about one mile to the north but only catered for children up to the age of eleven, so they had no facilities for a couple of us. One of the Government slogans at that time was ‘Dig for Victory’ so the schoolteacher put us to work growing vegetables in the school garden. Mr. Holland and I dug up the Vicar’s tennis court and we planted more vegetables. The fresh air gave us quite an appetite and we were very well fed. We developed muscles and in the summer sported healthy suntans….

At first George was homesick and set off to walk to Gateshead regularly but his legs didn’t carry him very far and I was able to bring him back. I remember Mr. Holland sitting some evenings with George, teaching him to read and write. George was a great favourite in the village. When not at school he would sit with his legs dangling over the bridge which spanned the river singing some of the bawdy songs the cattle drovers had taught him in Gateshead. This greatly amused the villagers although I suspect they couldn’t understand his Geordie accent.…

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On Grinton Moor

There were no buses at all but our entertainments included an occasional silent film show given by the Vicar — usually featuring Charlie Chaplin — a great favourite. We listened avidly to the battery radio as we had no gas or electricity. Once Gateshead Council arranged for us to be taken to the Zetland Cinema in Richmond — another treat! The film was ‘Pinnochio’.

They also arranged for my mother, two younger members of the family and my cousin to visit us twice. Each week we wrote letters home and each week we received a postal order for 6d [2.5p in today’s decimal currency]. Of this, I got 2d, George and May also 2d. Mr. Holland cut a slot in an empty Fynnon Salts tin and this was for my savings. Other outings included trips with Mrs. Holland to the Women’s Institute. They had a small library on the premises so I spent the time reading. I remember on one occasion Mrs. Holland discovered me reading a book she considered unsuitable so she removed it.

She bottled all sorts of jams and preserves, some of which were donated to the local Fayres. The recipes were taken from Mr. Woolton’s radio programme. He was the Minister of Food. Sometimes I was allowed to go on her bike for the shopping in Reeth. Another treat was to ride pillion when Mr. Holland and I mended the fencing. Other times I was allowed to visit his four gun dogs which were kennelled away from the house….

The Vicar had an orchard from where we were allowed to pick up and eat the windfall fruit. What we couldn’t eat my pal and I squirreled away in the hollow of an old tree. We also tickled trout in the beck. The Vicar was the only person in the village (apart from the Post Office) who owned a telephone. He was also the A.R.P. warden and one occasion he went around the village with a hand-bell to announce that a land-mine had been dropped on Grinton Moor leaving a huge crater but not doing any damage. The following day I went up and picked up a piece of shrapnel and a length of multi-coloured parachute cord. I was fascinated.

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On Grinton Moor

Life in 1941 carried on as usual but the outstanding memory of it was the winter. This was particularly severe. Mr. Holland’s sheep were kept up on the moors and during the winter they would take shelter in the lee of the dry-stone walls and fences. Unfortunately this was where the snow drifted and a considerable time was spent digging them out. Mr. Holland and the dogs knew exactly where to look for them and consequently we managed to save the majority. But as the winter dragged on we were digging out dead sheep. These we attached to the spade with rope and dragged by the horns to a nearby bog where they immediately sank. This I found very upsetting and exhausting but Mrs. Holland had a meal ready for us with home-made stout to wash it down with! Sheer heaven.

By 1942 I was well and truly a Yorkshireman and delighted in it. I even spoke their dialect. ... Unfortunately Gateshead Council decided I was now old enough to be bombed so they instructed me to return home. I was nearing school-leaving age (14) and was required to collect my School-leaving Certificate and find a job. My brother and sister were too young to remain on their own so they returned home with me. I don’t remember much of the parting except that it happened very quickly and my elder brother came to collect us, but I did not feel I had said a proper “goodbye” to Mr. and Mrs. Holland and my friends....’

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On Grinton Moor

I hope some of you will have enjoyed reading these first-hand reminiscences about the war years and what it was like for a city boy to find himself living in such a very different environment. Although of course things have changed since then in Grinton, life still moves at a slower pace in this corner of England and the village that John knew is still very recognisable – and well worth a visit.

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Grinton Lodge with sheep

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Swaledale sheep and dry walls

And if you do come, have a meal or a drink in the Bridge Inn and raise a glass to John and the family which welcomed him and George into their home, just as so many other families welcomed the children of strangers during those years.

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Sunday dinner at the Bridge Inn
- when my in-laws were still with us

Posted by ToonSarah 11:07 Archived in England Tagged landscapes churches history views village family war_and_peace world_war_two Comments (20)

Dodging the showers and dining in style

North Yorkshire

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View from Rievaulx Terrace

Driving regularly between our home in London and our ‘second home’ in Newcastle, we pass through Yorkshire every time, usually speeding through on the A1M motorway. We also make annual visits to Swaledale (see my page on Grinton: ‘A Breath of Fresh Air’). Recently however we decided to break our journey home with an overnight stay at somewhere rather special – somewhere I have wanted to visit for some time (wait and see!). Before that stay, there was time earlier in the day to see some of the sights in the area around the busy little town of Helmsley.

Rievaulx Terrace and Abbey

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The path through the woods,
Rievaulx Terrace

Not having done my homework as thoroughly as I would do for a major trip abroad, I hadn’t realised until we arrived that Rievaulx Terrace and Rievaulx Abbey were two separate properties – the former under the care of the National Trust and the latter under English Heritage. Arriving at the turnoff for both we were faced with a choice and opted for the Terrace, at least as our initial stop.

What had started as quite a bright but windy day in Newcastle had by now turned showery, but as we parked the latest shower stopped and we made our way to the ticket office hopeful of being able to explore without getting wet. The friendly lady there explained about the separate sights (so if we wanted to see both we would have to pay twice) and suggested a walking route that should bring us to the larger of the two ‘temples’ here just as it was opened up for one of the talks that take place a few times each day.

Rievaulx Terrace is a wonderful example of the 18th century taste for the Romantic in landscape gardening. The land here was originally part of the estate of the abbey but after the dissolution of the monasteries in the 16th century it passed into private hands and was owned by several local aristocratic families before being bought by Sir Charles Duncombe in 1687. The Duncombes were already wealthy local land-owners; their Duncombe Park estate adjoins this one. By 1747 both properties were in the hands of Thomas Duncombe II, who returned from his Grand Tour full of ideas about the development of his estate, in particular Rievaulx Terrace. Like others of his generation he planned to create his own idealised landscape, inspired by the scenery of Europe he had so admired on his travels, and unlike many of them he had the perfect spot in which to do it, overlooking one of the features held dear by the Romantics, a magnificent ruined abbey. And not content with that, he also included two picturesque temples, one at either end of the terrace.

Our walk took us along a woodland path to emerge near the first of these, the Tuscan Temple. This is kept locked as its floor is too precious to allow anyone to walk on it. The tiles are medieval, taken from the abbey below – a fate suffered by many of these religious structures after Henry VIII had wielded his royal powers.

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The Tuscan Temple

At this point the route turns back on itself, paralleling the woodland path on a wide strip of green lawn. To our right were the woods; to our left was a steep partly wooded escarpment. Breaks in the trees, thirteen in all, allowed for views down to the abbey below. As befitting the Romantic tradition, each of these views is like a framed painting, offering a different perspective on the ruins. And, again in the Romantic tradition, the effect seems totally natural while in fact being carefully designed.

Rievaulx Abbey

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Views of Rievaulx Abbey from the Terrace

Rievaulx was one of the great Cistercian abbeys of England prior to its dissolution by Henry VIII in 1538. It was founded in 1132 by twelve monks from Clairvaux Abbey in France. Originally the abbey buildings would have been of wood. The first stone structures were erected towards the end of the 12th century and the impressive church completed in the 1220s.

At the time of its dissolution in 1538, the abbey consisted of 72 buildings. These were, as was usual following dissolution, confiscated, rendered uninhabitable and stripped of any valuables such as lead, before being left to fall into ruin. The site was granted to the Earl of Rutland, one of Henry's advisers, and later was sold to Sir Charles Duncombe, a wealthy London banker, along with other land in this area.

Just as the Duncombe family’s many guests would have done, we strolled the length of the terrace admiring the different perspectives of the ruins. Many of them would no doubt have stopped to sketch or paint a watercolour; we in our turn took photos, of both the views of the abbey and our immediate surroundings.

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Bee and wild flower

The Ionic Temple

At the opposite end of the terrace to the Tuscan Temple is the Ionic Temple. Its interior replicates the sort of grand dining room that would have been found in the stately homes of that era. Here the Duncombes would have entertained their guests with delicious meals prepared for them by servants in its basement kitchen.

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The Ionic Temple

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The temple’s design was inspired by the Temple of Fortuna Virilis in Rome which Thomas Duncombe II would no doubt have seen on his Grand Tour. We arrived here as hoped while the building was still open, and although we had missed the start of the talk by the docent, we were in time to hear his description of its star attraction, the painted ceiling. This is the work of an Italian painter, Giuseppe Mattia Borgnis, who came to England around 1753. The central panel depicts Aurora, Apollo and the Muses, and is based on Guido Reni’s mural in the Palazzo Rospigliosi in Rome. Around it are other mythological scenes.

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In the Ionic Temple

Below, the table is set for dinner as it would have been when the Duncombes and their guests arrived here after their stroll, with Worcester porcelain, and a set of twelve mid-18th century mahogany dining chairs.

The docent explained that when the family fell on harder times and entertained less, the basement was converted to serve as a garden store. Our arrival at the temple had coincided with the start of a heavy shower, so after the docent had finished his talk and we had taken a few photos, we went outside and down the short flight of stone steps at the side into this basement area.

Nowadays it appears to be used for exhibitions about the history of the terrace and temples. There were panels describing some of the wildlife to be found on the terrace, some examples of the garden tools that were stored here, and a temporary exhibition which I found very interesting: A Tale of Two Sketchbooks. This described the artistic lives of two young 18th-century women artists from contrasting backgrounds. One was Ann Duncombe, daughter of Thomas who built the terrace, and the other Effie Silver, a child of the Foundling Hospital who had found work as an assistant to an artist through the intervention of one of the hospital’s famous patrons, Hogarth. The exhibition focused on their chance meeting on the terrace when Silver’s employer was working for the Duncombes, painting family portraits. It took me a while to realise that much of their history, and even their very existence, is fiction, although the historical background is real, and what I took to be facsimiles of their sketchbooks are in fact new works of art created for this exhibition.

Helmsley Walled Garden

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In Helmsley Walled Garden

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In Helmsley Walled Garden

When the shower had passed, we headed back to our parked car to decide where to go next. We considered a visit to the abbey ruins below but decided instead to drive into Helmsley where there might be more to do if the weather worsened. A friend in Newcastle had recently visited and enthused about the walled garden there so we took a chance on the weather, parked as recommended in the busy long-stay car park (this is clearly a popular town with visitors to Yorkshire) and followed the footpath to the gardens.

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Glasshouses, Helmsley Walled Garden

Helmsley Walled Garden occupies the site of the former vegetable garden of the ‘big house’ at Duncombe Park. After WW1, the garden was leased out for use as a commercial enterprise. This closed down in 1982 and it fell into disuse and became overgrown. In 1994, a local lady Alison Ticehurst, who had been looking for a place to develop her ideas on horticultural therapy, decided to buy and restore the garden. It was a mammoth undertaking as it had by then turned into a complete wilderness, but she persevered, helped by her family and volunteers, and created the beautiful gardens we can see today. Sadly Alison died suddenly and at a relatively young age, in 1999, but not before she had realised her dream, and the garden continues to thrive and to provide therapeutic support for many. It is also a very pleasant place in which to spend an hour or so.

By the time we arrived the sun was shining again, but we opted to have a light snack in the café at the gardens before exploring them. We had reason to want to be very hungry this evening (wait and see!) so just had a coffee (not very good) and cake (excellent), enjoying the warm sun through the glass roof and the grapevines all around.

After a while the sun became too warm, so we went to pay our entrance fee for the gardens themselves – just as a very black cloud appeared overhead. And we had got no further than the glasshouses when the heavens opened, and we were forced to take shelter. No matter – there was plenty to interest us here in the glasshouses – thistles laid out on the wooden shelves to dry, attracting loads of bees, colourful geraniums and other flowers in pots, and a water-colour artist at work.

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Bee and thistle in the glasshouse

When the shower blew over we went out to explore and spent a happy hour meandering along the paths, and taking lots of photos. The garden is divided into a number of ‘sub-gardens’ – the Clematis Garden, the White Garden, the Hot Border, the Long Border, the Orchard, Alison’s Garden. In some the flowers had taken a bit of a battering in the rain, in a few the blooms were passed their best, but there was still lots of colour and lots to photograph.

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The White Border

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In the orchard

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In the clematis garden

Beyond the walls are the photogenic ruins of Helmsley Castle. The first castle on this site was a wooden one, built in the early part of the 12th century, with stone construction starting at the end of that century. It grew over the next two hundred years, with the impressive East Tower, a chapel and living quarters. In the 16th century the old medieval hall of the castle was converted into a comfortable ‘modern’ Tudor mansion and the chapel into a kitchen. It passed down through generations, and at the end of the 17th century was sold to Sir Charles Duncombe – the same Sir Charles Duncombe who also bought Rievaulx Abbey. When he died his sister Mary's husband, Thomas Brown, inherited the castle. He promptly changed his surname to Duncombe, had a country house built on the estate, which he called Duncombe Park, and left the castle to fall into the picturesque runs so beloved at that time. It is still owned by the same family (now the Barons of Feversham after an early 19th century Charles was raised to the peerage).

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Helmsley Castle from Helmsley Walled Garden

Helmsley

When we left the gardens, we opted not to visit the castle, as we had already seen a bit of it from the gardens, and instead had a stroll around the town. It has some attractive buildings and a striking memorial to William, the 2nd Baron of Feversham, in the middle of the market square.

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The monument to Lord Feversham

But that same square was marred by all the parked cars and the pavements crowded. The large number of signs outside the houses (‘Private property, no parking’; ‘Drive in constant use’; ‘No access’; ‘Not a public footpath’ etc. etc.) said a lot about the impact of tourism on this small community, although no doubt it is great for the local economy.

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All Saints Church, and Helmsley Castle from the town

We had a quick look at the exterior of the church, All Saints, which although dating in part from the 12th century is largely the result of a significant Victorian make-over. But rather than linger in the town we decided to make the most of the sunshine, which seemed now to be firmly with us, and visit another of Yorkshire’s ruined abbeys.

Byland Abbey

With the weather improving all the time, and having not paid a visit to Rievaulx Abbey, we couldn’t really miss stopping at Byland, especially as we had to drive right past it to reach our destination for the night. What is more, although like Rievaulx and Helmsley Castle, Byland is under the care of English Heritage, there is no fee charged for admission! I had expected therefore to find very little to see here, but that is by no means the case.

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The west front

In its day Byland was one of the largest Cistercian abbeys in the country. The great church with its magnificent west front and rose window was the inspiration for a similar window at York Minster. The buildings whose ruins we see today were mostly constructed in the 12th century and the abbey thrived through to the 14th. It acquired considerable land and derived much of its income from sheep farming. But during the 14th century it suffered a series of setbacks. Byland, Rievaulx and several other religious houses in this area were pillaged by the victorious Scots as revenge for the English attack the Cistercian abbey of Melrose. The Black Death also hit the abbey population hard, both monks and lay brothers.

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View of the church from the west front

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Church ruins

By the early 16th century it was starting to recover and rebuild its economy, but then Henry VIII dissolved all religious houses in the country when he declared himself head of the Church in England in 1533. Like Rievaulx and others, Byland Abbey was stripped of all valuable materials before being given to a favoured local aristocrat – in this case, Sir William Pickering. The Byland estate later passed through various hands, and the abbey’s stones were gradually taken to serve various purposes – building local cottages, decorating the gardens of Myton Hall in Swalesdale. The high altar and a small alabaster image of the Trinity are both now at nearby Ampleforth Abbey. What remained fell into disrepair and then into ruin.

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Remains of the south (left) and north transepts

Following excavations in the 1920s much of the original plan was revealed, and what remained of the church, cloisters and other buildings preserved. As well as that great west front you can still see some of the 13th century tiled floor, especially in the south transept. Parts of some other walls still stand, the cloisters are easy to trace, and a number of other rooms are labelled such as the parlour and kitchen.

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Medieval tiles

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Church ruins from the domestic buildings to the south

The Black Swan at Oldstead

I became aware of chef Tommy Banks and his Michelin-starred pub restaurant in Yorkshire through the TV programme Great British Menu. I was impressed by his ethos of ‘field to fork’ – fresh seasonal ingredients, produced locally (most on his parents’ nearby farm or in the pub’s own extensive kitchen garden) or foraged for in the hedgerows and woodland around Oldstead, and presented with creativity but without forgetting that taste is foremost. Banks was Britain’s youngest Michelin-starred chef in 2013 and won Great British Menu in 2016 and 2017, and more recently has been a judge on the programme. So having been so impressed I looked up the Black Swan and realised that it was not too far from the route we take regularly between London and Newcastle, and back again, and that although a stay here would be a splurge, it was not an unaffordable one. As I am closing my small business this year to go into ‘almost’ retirement, I decided this would be the perfect treat with which to mark that closure and blow some of the profits!

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The Black Swan at Oldstead

Oldstead is little more than a hamlet – just a cluster of cottages reached along a single-track road from Byland Abbey. We arrived towards the end of the afternoon, parked behind the pub and went to check in. There are no bedrooms in the pub itself, with some being in a block behind and the remainder in cottages just a few metres away in the village. We were in one of the latter, so we grabbed our overnight bags (leaving most of our luggage in the car – we had been in Newcastle for nine nights and had quite a lot with us!) and followed the friendly receptionist to our ‘home’ for the night.

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Our cottage - our room is bottom left

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Our bedroom

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Our bathroom

Although not large the room was stylish and welcoming, and we had a sizeable bathroom with rain shower and huge copper bath-tub! We settled in and made use of the wifi to check emails, and I sorted through the photos I had taken during the day.

If you book a stay here a table is automatically reserved for you in the restaurant and breakfast is included in the package too – all you need to pay for on top are any drinks. We made a start on those with a pre-dinner drink in the cosy bar. And most of the drinks too reflect Banks’ ethos, being innovative and derived from local produce. I tried the local (Yorkshire-made) gin, Rare Bird, and Chris had a vodka and tonic.

The menu here is a set tasting menu, although if you mention any allergies, food aversions etc. in advance alternates will be provided. Our first course was a mushroom quiche, but forget any idea you may have of a slice of eggy cheesy set custard on a pastry base! This little work of art was served in the bar with our drinks and set the tone for a truly memorable experience – or rather, a whole evening of such experiences! Starting with the ‘pastry’, which was made with dried cep powder, this was a multi-layered mushroom feast in miniature – perfectly formed and absolutely delicious.

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Mushroom quiche

We were then escorted upstairs to our table to enjoy the rest of the meal. Chris ordered the accompanying drinks package too, but realising that would probably be more alcohol than I could comfortably appreciate (I have to manage my intake because of medication) I instead asked for advice and selected just a couple of the wines in the package. The advice was good (and also practical, with wines towards the lower end of the £6 - £118 (per glass!) range being proposed, and served in small amounts so that I could sample several.

The full menu was:

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Scallop with Sun Gold Tomatoes
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Raspberry & Elderflower
'ice cream sandwich'

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Monkfish with New Onions
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Potato with Fermented Celeriac

Mushroom Quiche

~o~

Crab and Pea
Beetroot Salad
Sour Bread and Sour Butter
Raw Oldstead Deer
Scallop with Sun Gold Tomatoes

~o~

Monkfish with New Onions and Lemon Verbena
Potato with Fermented Celeriac
Lamb with Courgette and Girolles

~o~

Raspberry and Elderflower
Strawberry and Woodruff
Chicory and Potato
Root Vegetable Toast

But those simple labels don’t really give any idea of the complexity of flavours within each dish. Each was presented with a full explanation of the ingredients, delivered by waiting staff who clearly love their work and the food they serve. The drinks too came with a description, and I know from what Chris told me (and the sips he offered me!) that all went perfectly with the dish they accompanied.

It’s hard to pick out highlights but if I was pressed to do so I would probably pick the mushroom quiche, deer carpaccio, lamb and (surprisingly) the dessert made with chicory and potato, which tasted for all the world as if it were made with vanilla ice cream, salted caramel and coffee!

None of the dishes was large, naturally, so at the end of the meal we felt pleasantly full rather than stuffed. We strolled back up the road to our room in the cottage, with a sky full of stars overhead.

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Kitchen garden views from our breakfast table, and from the car park

After a comfortable night’s sleep, we returned to the pub/restaurant and enjoyed a delicious breakfast of home-made granola, brioche with strawberry conserve and a ‘full English’, at a table with a view of the kitchen garden. Then it was time to check out and set off on the long drive home, but not before resolving to return to the Black Swan one day.

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Cat in the garden

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Sheep grazing nearby

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Swallow on a wire

Posted by ToonSarah 11:28 Archived in England Tagged castles architecture flowers restaurant history ruins views village pubs garden abbey Comments (19)

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