Up Hill and Down Dale: Yorkshire and Northumberland

30 Dec

Choosing children’s names is best undertaken with due care and concern for their future. That’s why we named our second son after a character in a TV series.

We couldn’t agree on a first name from the baby book we used to name our firstborn, Cameron, however we could agree on Tristan, the name of the feckless but loveable young trainee vet in ‘All Creatures Great and Small’.

The series, based on the best-selling book, is set in the glorious Yorkshire Dales. Each episode found us glued to the small screen as Siegfried and Tristan Farnan, and James Heriott tore along impossibly narrow dry stone walled lanes up hill and down dale at high speed to deliver calves, stop foot and mouth disease and treat ‘flop bot’.

Thirty years later we’ve finally visited the Yorkshire Dales (an attempt in the 70s was aborted when Stuart ate toxic mussells) to tramp through snowy fields and sup local ales in front of crackling fires. As luck would have it we drove up from Cambridge during the post-Xmas 2014 big freeze. We missed the blizzard but passed abandoned cars along the highway.

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With the benefit of local knowledge for trip planning, courtesy of friends from our California days, Linda and Colin who live in Yorkshire, we stayed two nights at The Cow and Calf Hotel, tucked into Ilkley Moor.

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On our first morning we woke to bright blue skies and freezing conditions, snow still crunchy underfoot. Perfect conditions to hike up to the Cow and Calf Rocks and on to the crest of the moor passed by fell runners and their dogs.

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With Linda and Colin as our guides we went on to Bolton Priory (established 1154) to stroll the National Trust grounds and visit the active, small, stone priory church with its wall paintings by Thomas Bottomley.

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I’m deep into the Shardlake series by CJ Sansom on the recommendation of my well-read friend Anne. This series of historical crime fiction opens during the dissolution of the priories and monasteries by Henry VIII. It’s especially interesting if, like me, you’ve read Hilary Mantel’s Thomas Cromwell books. I walked through the ruins and graveyard imagining it both in its prime, as an Augustinian centre of worship and wealth, and during its destruction, as the building was stripped of precious lead, the canons pensioned off and the Priory’s servants cast out to their own devices.

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With Linda and Colin at The Priory

Lunch in The Snug of The Fleece in Addingham introduced us to the largest Yorkshire pudding I’ve ever seen, as well as delicious Copper Kettle and Black Sheep beer.

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A Yorkshireman and some of his favourite things.

Next day was similarly bright and even colder. A quick stop in Harrogate provided a coffee stop at the Rasmus cafe and design centre, followed by a peek at the Debenham’s sale. A sharply discounted Ted Baker dressing gown in the style of Obi Wan Kenobi will become our communal cosy garment in Tristan and Jenny’s Edinburgh apartment.

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A borrowed scraper!

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A cold Cupid and Psyche in central Harrogate.

The goal for our final day with the rental car was to drive to and walk in Nidderdale, a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. We warmed up with leek and potato soup at the cosy Sportsman’s Arms at Wath-In-Nidderdale, before heading uphill across farmers’ fields for a ninety minute loop walk. As we walked we could hear the boom of guns in the distance. Not a good day to be a pheasant.

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The afternoon’s destination, Masham, had to be abandoned as the tyres on our rented Seat failed to grip on a more or less deserted snow and ice covered road. The view from the highest point we could reach showed white hills as far as the eye could see.

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We spent our third night in northern England in the Northumberland town of Wooler, an old mill town at the base of the Cheviot Hills, a popular walkers’ area. The No1 Hotel and Wine Lounge is interesting in a slightly Fawlty Towers way. Our bedroom had a freestanding tub, rhinestone encrusted bed cushions and a collection of dried branches suspended from the ceiling entwined with small white lights. Stuart said he felt like he was sleeping in a scene from ‘Day of the Triffids’.

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On the advice of two local men I accosted in the street early next morning, we drove up to Wooler Common carpark which now doubles as a skating rink, to walk part of St Cuthbert’s Way. St Cuthbert (c. 634 – 20 March 687) was a monk, missionary, bishop and hermit during the early Northumbrian Celtic church formation and is regarded as the patron saint of Northern England.

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Once again I was reminded of how hardy medieval folk were (and how soft I am) as we hiked uphill through mud and snow with the wind whistling across the moor. Oddly the gorse was flowering.

We heartily enjoyed our stopovers en route to Edinburgh and have added The Dales Way, a 78 mile walk, http://www.dalesway.org/route.html to our list of future adventures.

From Wooler to Edinburgh was an uncomplicated drive via Coldstream where we saluted the first of the Scottish flags flying proudly in a stiff breeze.

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4 Responses to “Up Hill and Down Dale: Yorkshire and Northumberland”

  1. GHWATT watt December 31, 2014 at 2:32 am #

    Have a great NewYear stay healthy see you when you get back to Aus. Love to all George Heather Cameron

    Sent from my iPad

    >

    • Sharon Tickle January 1, 2015 at 10:47 am #

      Hope you had a grand new year’s eve Heather and George! Best wishes for 2015. Sxx

  2. Michelle January 1, 2015 at 10:16 am #

    Happy New Year to the ever wanderers!! So glad you got to visit Yorkshire , my home county. We had all our family holidays around Masham, Leyburn, Bolton Abbey etc so know the area quite well. You certainly got the best weather! Stunning pictures….
    Have a wonderful and exciting 2015.
    Love from us both in the Alps where the snow finally arrived last weekend 🙂
    xx

    • Sharon Tickle January 1, 2015 at 10:49 am #

      You have some of the finest countryside in Yorkshire we have seen anywhere in the world Michelle. You must love the cycling there. Hope 2015 treats you both well and may our paths cross again before too long! S&Sxx

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