Traveling Around in Yorkshire

We start the day with rain and drizzle and a fast trip to Wensleydale Creamery in Hawes. Yes, we try five varieties of Wensleydale (some plain, some “mature,” some with cranberries, etc.) and decide not to buy anything but a tea towel. The clerk gives me Wallace and Grommit stickers to give out to my family–we’re fans.

Hawes is a small town that is bisected by a stream, complete with stoney bridge. Very picturesque.

And did I mention it was raining?

The B&B host had mapped out a ride on the white roads of death, up over a rock formation called Buttertubs, through the Yorkshire Dales park, but when we couldn’t see out of our windshield, we decided on a more forthright course of action: drive the other direction on red-roads. We headed through Swinithwaite, West Witton and Wensley to Leyburn. I don’t know what we were expecting, but it was still raining and the town (that we were willing to explore with umbrellas) ringed the paved-over town greens. Lunch was from a grocery store, where I’m sure the clerk was snickering to her pal about those strange Americans. I tried to be polite, asking for “chips” to go with our sandwich and she said “they’re in the freezer.”

She meant fish and chips. I meant potato chips, what they call “crisps.” Snicker, snicker.

Back in the car at the car park we ate our sandwiches while watching the rain. We retraced our route to take another daring step: home for naps.

Later on the sky had cleared enough that we decided to venture out for a drive and head to dinner.

We arrived at Swinithwaite just in time to see the cows moved into another pasture.

This pastoral view was replicated in many turns of the road.

We headed south, detouring into a small town, West Burton, where I finally saw a proper village green. I’d heard about village greens in storybooks, but had never seen one. Basically it’s a Central Park for small towns–a large open grassy area where people meet and greet and play.

The Methodist Church on the village green–we were suprised at how many Methodist churches we saw.

Near Thoralby, a tiny town in the Dales.

Near Newbiggin, another tiny town in the Yorkshire Dales.

We stopped here for dinner–taking the brilliant suggestion of our B&B host.

The Street Head Inn. I think the lamb I had for dinner was frolicking in the pastures behind them last week–it was like no other lamb I’ve ever had.

View into the dining room, from the entryway. We were the first diners–we like an early dinner.

Roasted vegetables in a vol-a-vent was my appetizer. I could have stopped right there.

Dave had the butternut squash soup.

His dinner was three different types of sausage, I think–yes–they were the local award winners, or so it said on the chalkboard where the day’s menu was written. This time we didn’t look like idiots when they said head to the bar to order. We knew the drill.

I had stuffed lamb rolls, presented like this. The sides (in upper R corner) were green salad and vegetables. The lamb, like I said, was amazing.

We drove past Aysgarth Falls, Caperby, heading for Castle Bolton. I also wanted to get a video clip of lambs and friends bleating in the fields. It was so quiet there, that this was a common sound. Dave waited patiently for the sun to hit the castle.

Victorian Rock Garden

Across the street from Heather Cottage is an old-fashioned Victorian Rock Garden.

Apparently, when it began, travelers would bring back plant specimens the way we bring back souvenirs, and plant them in their rock gardens. Much of this garden was alpine, the flowers and plants tucked into the rocky hollows. Follow the above link to learn more about its history, which began at the turn of the century.

When the present owners purchased the house, it “came” with the Rock Garden, which was fairly run-down and in bad condition. Angela, one of the owners, has restored it and it is quite interesting. Quite a novelty.

These plantings are amazing–from the street it looks like a small rocky hill, but it has a winding path past a motion-activated waterfall, under a rock bridge, around a few bends until the upper garden is reached.

Looking back to the Yorkshire Hills through the rock bridge.

Dave, enjoying the upper garden.

This area has a little bench, grassy area rimmed with large rocks and plantings. A quiet oasis.

We watched the video about the restoration of the garden and several times Angela says she’s an amateur gardener. I guess in England that means they’re an expert, because in her backyard, on the way to the car and the hen house is this small rock garden, with teensy pond, and array of flowers in complimentary hues. A treasure. She said one time she was back here working, and a Scotsman (complete with kilt) admired her rock garden. She pointed out that the bigger one, the one they’d traveled to see, was across the way. I hope she smiled at that error–I’d be happy with this garden to gaze at.

Heather Cottage, Aysgarth, Wensleydale

We drove along a red road now–the A684–heading for Hawes. Where are we staying? asks Dave? I consult my travel book and look up. There! I say. Heather Cottage in Aysgarth. And so we arrive at our B&B.

Heather Cottage from the other side, at the bend in the road.

Our gracious and kind hosts for the weekend, Peter & Angela Jauneika.

She raised chickens (for our English country breakfast–which included eggs) with a proper hen-house out back. And no, we didn’t hear the roosters at all. This was a terrific place to stay. (More on the Victorian Rock Garden in another post.)

Aysgarth, Wensleydale, England

Notwithstanding the flowers in the bumper in the previous post, we did drive safely, arriving here on the afternoon of the 4th of July. Our bed and breakfast (Heather Cottage, see next post) is at the bend of the road just before you head on to Hawes, site of Wensleydale Creamery.

Aysgarth is actually about 3 blocks long, with two bends in the road. On one bend was our B&B, and on the other end was the George and Dragon Inn and Restaurant, where we headed for dinner.

We walked in and they to go sit in the pub and have a drink while you decide what to eat. This pub culture was new to us–let’s be real–as non-drinkers all pub culture is new to us. We don’t drink, I said lamely, but we went to a bar stool in the pub area where the evening’s menu was written on a chalkboard. We watched the bartender–always an interesting sight–as we chose what to eat. I selected squid and spinach pasta with salmon and Dave selected roasted chicken. They wrote it on a piece of paper, and impaled it on the hook next to a number–our table number, I supposed. Then the waitress came and got us from the bar and took us to our table.

First was our soup: an amazing tomato soup, but with a sweet taste like they’d added some apple juice to it. (Sorry the photo’s blurry.)

Dave’s chicken was artfully stacked. One of the challenges of eating in a foreign country is trying to match up what you think you are ordering with what they are actually serving. I thought I was ordering a pasta that was colored black with squid ink and colored green with spinach, all with salmon. Wrong.

I actually ordered SQUID and SPINACH and pasta with salmon. Yep, those long tubular shiny things are pieces of squid. “Calamari,” said Dave, trying to be encouraging as I stared at my dish. I cut it up into ribbons, but could still taste the rubbery-ness with the strands of pasta. I managed to eat enough to be respectable, but let’s just say that the salmon was the high point of the meal. I’ve never been a fan of squid.

We walked the two blocks home (about 8 buildings) but the evening was beautiful and a little lane behind the B&B beckoned.

What’s Harper Wath? we wondered. Later, at home I looked it up.

Wath: This surname suffix is said to be derived from the Viking word meaning “ford” or a shallow river crossing. Down the lane and around the bend was a small series of waterfalls and yes, you could have forded it at that point.

However, Dave thinks it led to another signpost that directed across the fields, heading upstream.

On our way back up, we saw these farm trucks moving across the field, then navigate the small opening in the rock wall. We waited while they moved on, then continued home.

We loved this tree, photographing it many times.

Dave braved the midges (and their biting) to get this sunset.

For the final entry in this post, the river and its sounds:

Yorkshire Dales National Park

“We are in serious babe country,” says Dave, looking around.
I was surprised. He usually never mentions the women. And the women in Milan and northern Italy I thought were more provocative. I mention this to him and he says,
“Not babe. Babe,” and makes the sound of a lamb bleating.

Yes, we are in serious Babe country.

These photographs are taken over the next two days while we travel around the Yorkshire Dales National Park–where we’re staying.

This area has many dry stone walls piled in zigzagging rows across green fields, white fluffy clouds (well, today we had them), grazing animals; James Herriot, the man who wrote All Creatures Great and Small lived in this area as well.

Another drive-by photo: I’m snapping as Dave drives from Grassington up the B6160 to Swinithwaite, through the Yorkshire Dales National Park. The scenery is bucolic, enchanting, all the cliches apply here. Okay, I’m finally “into” little English towns and they’re lovely.

We pause at the crest of the hill (perhaps just past Buckden?) because I tell Dave he just has to see this vista.

This photo is just after a rainstorm, the fields vibrant green against the gray-blue sky.

Thistles by the side of the road.

I’d seen this lone tree the day before as we drove and we went back to capture it digitally.

On July 5th, we headed to dinner near Newbiggin, but first drove up towards the summit of where we’d been the day before. The rainstorms had blown through, for the moment.

This is behind our B&B, taken after a rainstorm when everything’s misty and ethereal.

I currently have this photograph as a desktop photo/wallpaper.

Dave liked how the trees grew as a canopy over the road. This is near Aysgarth Falls, or Fells: a series of short waterfalls. We’re used to looking for high waterfalls in the Western U.S., such as the drop in Yosemite, or Bridal Veil Falls in Utah. Here, the waterfalls are more like gentle cascades, with several short drops.

Aysgarth Falls
From a local tour book: “Aysgarth Falls are a breathtaking triple drop waterfall, carved out by the River Ure as it flows through the Wensleydale countryside.”

Grassington, Wharfedale, England

July 4th–Happy Independence Day

To celebrate properly, we decided that we should sing Our Country ‘Tis of Thee as we drove along small country roads. The tune is based on the English melody God Save the Queen. Fitting, we thought. We really owe a great debt to being of English lineage; when I say “we” I mean three of us: the USA, and both Dave and I.

We left Fountains Abbey, and drove down a yellow road. I should explain. On the maps there are blue motorways (like an American freeway), green highways (some divided, most only two healthy-sized lanes with side shoulders), red roads (two lanes sometimes with a dashed line showing division). After that come the yellow roads, which have NO shoulders, no dashed lines, but are wide enough for two cars. And sometimes a farmer’s tractor and a car. The last one, which we went on for about 100 feet and quickly turned around are known, according to my niece Jessica, as the “white roads of death.” Well-marked maps clearly state that they are less than “4 metres wide.” That’s less than two car widths.

Dave did pretty well. Only occasionally did I say, “a little close over here.” When we arrived at our destination one night we did find a tuft of flowers in our bumper, yet no finger dents in the door handle from the grip of death. I practiced zen-like deep breathing. Just kidding–Dave was fairly good at this by now.

So, we headed on the yellow road to Grassington. Lots of websites raved about this little town. I frankly just wasn’t in the groove yet for little English towns. I guess my head was still in little Italian town mode. There wasn’t much there, really, but we did find the toffee shop where we purchased some goodies for the drive.

A wonderful shade of green, on a door in a rock wall.

Loved the horse shoes over the door. For a long time, we hung a four-leaf clover over our front door. I finally gave it back to Matthew (who had found it), but I like to think that this brought us luck.

Finally, I’m getting in the mood for rock walls, green fields and small gray building-towns. But as we stride by, I notice they are hungering after Southern California beach.

I had begun my search for Whitby Jet in York, fixating on this type of “stone” as it was from the area. (If you want to know about it, watch Persuasion with Gwyneth Paltrow–in one scene she is shown in Hammond’s shop in Whitby with a lovely carved black brooch on her coat. Below are some earrings.)

We toyed with the idea of driving to Whitby, but couldn’t execute (too tired). The prices in York at Hammond’s shop, already steep, seemed too high with the exchange rate of two dollars to a pound. So I passed on a necklace there. I wondered if I could find Whitby Jet in the netherlands, maybe at a jewelry or at antiques shop.

In Grassington, I visited with a woman in a jewelry shop about Whitby Jet. She said it should sound like plastic when you tap it against you teeth. If it sounds “sharp” then it’s French Jet, and is made of glass. I asked her if she had any for sale, and she didn’t. But she did bring out her collection of jet bracelets that she’d picked up at auctions. With her permission, I tapped the stones of one bracelet against my teeth–yep, sounded like plastic. She wouldn’t sell any of her bracelets, and there was no other in the shop. Although Dave and I looked for it after that, it was not to be found.

Couldn’t resist taking a picture of this sign–Humped Zebra Crossing–which meant the stripes painted on the speed bump on the road, not the lady waiting on the bench.

Fountains Abbey

This is a post from our trip to Italy and England, July 2008.

FountainsAbbey2008_1Fountains Abbey is in ruins. I liked this church very much, as the structure, not the decoration, was the emphasis. No windows, statues, mosaic floors (except for one)–just the walls, the layout and the gloriously sunny sky. This was one of our more well-documented sites.  This is the view taken from the abbey guest house, also in ruins.


The abbey ruins are approached from walking through pastures above the site, and the tower aside the north transept is visible just over the trees. We read from the guide pamphlet as we walked around, and I’ve excerpted some of it below.


A group of monks left St. Mary’s Benedictine Abbey in York in 1132 to found a more devout monastery. One of their vows was not to be within an arm’s length of each other, so this abbey is very large in scale, although it only housed about 80 choir monks.


I found a map  that identified what all the parts of the structures were at one time, plus I’m getting the hang of this church logo after all the churches we’d toured thus far in our trip.


View from what would have been the front door, toward the window behind the high altar.


The side corridor flanks the nave, with small hollows where chapels used to be. Most of the abbey buildings date from between 1140 and 1270, though the north tower was added during King Henry VIII’s reign.


Through the roof and side chapel to the tower. We weren’t allowed underneath to look up: falling rocks.


The window over the front door. This little settlement at Fountains was part of the austere Cistercian Order.


Not a monk.


View from the high altar towards the back of the abbey.


The only mosaic left was the altar floor. The abbey was closed down in 1539 and the Abbot, the Prior and the monks were sent away with pensions. The estate was sold by the Crown to a merchant, and remained in private hands until the 1960s.


The North Transept.


Between the high altar and the huge window, was an area they identify as the Chapel of the Nine Altars. This view is looking toward the north side of that area.


Looking from the south side of the Chapel of the Nine Altars through to the infirmary passageway walls.


Windows of a small chapel in the South Transept.

The nave is the portion of the church that runs from the front door to the back window, and the transept runs crossways, forming a cross-shape. At that intersection in this church is the choir and, except for the built-in seats, is indistinguishable by any remnants. Maybe it was because in the early 17th century, Sir Stephen Proctor build a mansion using sandstone blocks and a stone staircase from the abbey. However I’m sure this cleaned-up version of an abbey that we see now happened only after carting out tons of fallen rock.


The choir seats.


Several groups of school children were there. They donned habits to emulate the monks. The 80 choir monks were known as “white monks” because they wore habits of undyed sheep’s wool. The lay brothers worked the farms (or granges) that belonged to the abbey and they wore darker wool. They may have numbered several hundred in the early years.


We are on the south side of the cloister, a large square area that is on the other side of the side corridor of chapels. They are passing what would have been the doorway to the Chapter House.


View into the Cellarium from above.


Above the Warming House. I liked the blue light on the stone floor.


The vine-covered walls in one corner of the cloister.


The Cellarium, or as they refer to it on the map, the Lay Brother’s Refectory. They had a separate eating area for the monks. One end of this was for their “stores” and the other is where they ate. It’s all mossy and green, but intimate with its low, yet vaulted ceiling.FountainsAbbey2008_24.jpg

Looking again toward the high altar and the Chapel of the Nine Altars.


We decided to walk down along the meadow, catching a different view.


We took the “High Ride” walk up in the forest to Anne Boleyn’s Seat and Surprise View. The Half-moon Pond is a nice counterpoint to our surprise view.


Some tourists.


John Aislabie inherited the estate in 1693. He was the Member of Parliament for Ripon and became Chancellor of the Exchequer in 1718, but was discredited for his part in a financial scandal just two years later. After spending some time in the Tower of London, he retreated to this estate and threw himself into plans to create a formal water garden in the River Skell Valley. This project kept him busy for the rest of his life.


The Temple of Piety was first named Temple of Hercules, perhaps to commemorate the huge labor of constructing the garden. In 1768, the temple was furnished with “six chairs, a tea table and a little stand,” which gives us an idea of how it was used in his day. A statue of Neptune, the Roman sea-god (1740), stands in front.


William Aislabie, John’s son, took over and worked on some of his own ideas from the garden, fashioning it into a more natural state, which was popular at the time. In 1768, he managed to buy the abbey ruins, “securing the romantic vistas along the valley,” says the guide sheet. The High Ride walk (with the Surprise View) was his creation. He holds the record as the MP with the longest period of continuous service: 66 years.


“The Cascade” is a the last small falls in the Water Gardens, but the place where John Aislabie began construction. The work took three years, as nearly 100 men were needed to dig the canal.


We didn’t see everything, but enjoyed the day in the gardens. Stopping back by the visitor center, we had a bite to eat before driving further into Yorkshire.



York Minster

York Minster is England’s largest medieval cathedral, complete with stained glass windows, lovely wooden carved choir seats and Gothic everythings. It also has the Semaphore Saints, but more on that later.

We approached the cathedral from the side, and could see the massive bell towers.

This is the south transept entrance, where they shake you down. No, I didn’t mean that exactly, but the cathedral does exact an entrance fee. Luckily we’re readers of Rick Steves and knew to wait until the evening song service: Evensong, when they don’t charge you to go to church.
The first church on this site was a wooden chapel built around 627, and after that was a Roman basilica, followed by a church built by St. Wilfred (which was destroyed during William the Conqueror’s reign). I’m getting all this from my guide book, which goes on to detail the first Norman church, which we saw fragments of when we took the tour of the undercroft. This present building dates from 1220 and took about 200-plus years to complete.

They ushered us for Evensong, and we sat in the carved choir seats. The choir filed in: men on one side, young women (ages 17 down to about 7, I guess) on the opposing side. Listening to the organ, sited atop the choir screen, and the voices of the choir was a subliminal experience. I enjoyed the topic of the evening prayers: first, for those who are judges in the land, and secondly, those who are victims of knife crimes. The prayer’s specificity really made me think about these two sub-groups of society. Usually we bless the “poor and afflicted,” and leave it at that. But during the prayer I did think about judges, and the difficulties they must face. I am less familiar with knife crimes, but did feel blessed that I am less familiar.

After the last notes of the organ faded away, we were allowed to walk around the cathedral and take photos. This is of the choir area.

If I looked directly overhead, these angels were in the carved wood of the seat.

The ceiling of the cathedral is wood, painted to look like stone.

Stained glass window.

View from the choir area to the back of the church. The large rose window in the choir area is under reconstruction, so we couldn’t see it.

This window is known as the Five Sisters Window, with sections over 15 meters high. It is the minster’s oldest complete window, dating from around 1250 AD.

The organ pipes are painted decoratively.

From the back of the nave, looking toward the organ and the choir screen.

The choir screen depicts the 15 kings from William I to Henry VI, and they all have wonderful and wild hair.

The Semaphore Saints. It’s a sculpture from 2006, and is at the very back of the church. On the last chair, they’ve left a chart so the viewer can figure out what they’re saying. I didn’t, but did enjoy them.

Detail of screen.

Outside, looking up…

…and up…

…and up…

And up again!

The City of York

The Grand old Duke of York,
He had ten thousand men.
He marched them up the hill,
And marched them down again.

And when you’re up, you’re up;
And when you’re down, you’re down.
And when you’re only halfway up,
You’re neither up nor down!

This old song kept running through my head as we went up and down the walls. It refers to the wars over York that apparently took years and years to settle out. I’m a little fuzzy on my history, but when you show up in York, you know they had some.

Maybe it’s because this pub has the year it began–1454–on the front window?

Or this gate was built ages and ages before George Washington ever crossed the Delaware? Oh yes, said one British tourist to a fellow American traveler (they were teen-aged), American history only takes one day to cover in our schools.

You can also tell the age of something (someone) by how much they’re sagging in the midsection. I like how the window has kept right up with the leaning.
The half-timbered buildings were quite common–obviously this one’s been restored.

And when you’re up, you’re up. . . Yes, on our tour arranged by the local tourist office (free!) we went up these stairs to the wall surrounding York. This bar (or gate) is called Bootham Bar.

Our guide had great stories. I did want to see ruined castles, and was happy to note that York had a ruined building right in their main park: St. Mary’s Abbey. They’re big on ghosts around here, with ghost tours of all the gruesome things that have happened over the ages. I guess America’s ghosts, by comparison, would be toddlers.

Some local sights: an ice cream trailer. It’s only here in the day.

These school boys posed for me in their feather boas–I don’t know why they had them, but shortly after this, they all took them off.

After school games on the green in the back of the York Minster.

Morris Dancers.

This group of women dresses all up in official bell-adorned knee socks, green skirts, sashes, kerchiefs, white blouses and black athletic shoes to dance in the little square across from Barnett’s Hardware store, by the sagging building shown above. This happens every Wednesday evening, and according to the flyer, you are invited to join. There used to be a church on this square, and the steps up to the high altar remain. They danced down in what used to be the nave.

The accordion player was nimble on the keyboards, and the violinist, spritely. Unfortunately for them, York is a weird tourist town: bustling by day, ghost town by evening. Later on, we found out why: the buses that carry the tourists to the car parks on the outside of the city stop running at 8 p.m. Yes, that would be OUR bus. Because of this, the audience for these energetic, middle-aged women was limited. We put some money in their hat.

The insignia of the crossed keys were everywhere. The tour guide said later it was a key to the Gates of Heaven and the Gates of Hell. After Evensong that night, I asked the kindly man in York Minster (who was sporting a badge with the same design) if he thought that’s what they represented. He said the design represents the keys given to St. Peter. He had a sly smile on his face and mused aloud: “I can see why one might want the keys to heaven. But the other place? No, I think it means keys–plural–to heaven.”

After dinner, Dave and I meandered to the main touristy street: Shambles. Apparently it used to be a street where the butchers plied their trades. It takes its name from the Saxon word shamel, meaning “slaughterhouse.” Only one butcher remains.

Mostly it’s (and to quote from our Lonely Planet travel guide): “. . . the quaintly cobbled Shambles, complete with overhanging Tudor buildings, hints at what a medieval street might have looked like if it was overrun with people told they have to buy something silly and superfluous and be back on the tour bus in 15 minutes.”

Obviously all the tourists have cleared out. The upper buildings do lean in toward each other.

We’re still trying to perfect that photo-by-arm business.

This is taken the next day. We were walking around after our museum visits and decided to go walk the other side of the wall. Storm clouds were gathering, but Dave paused to snap the photo of the River Ouse, which divides the town, plus this elegant light post.

York Minster from the other side of the city walls (near Lendal Bridge).
See next post for more York Minster.

Elizabeth on Lendal Bridge. Before storm hit.

When the street lights started to flicker on, we knew it was time to go home to our B & B.

I don’t know what this tower was–maybe to a church? The dark one in front is now a bank.

So we head to our bus stop and discover that we had purchased roundtrip tickets on a park-and-ride bus, which stops running at 8 p.m. It was now 8:40. So we decide to take a city bus and head to the other side of the street, where one was supposed to come at 9:08. The chef for the local cafe was hanging out there talking to a friend, and they offered to help us. We showed them where we needed to go. “Oh, that’s a 15 minute walk, easy.”

Because this was the first time I’d gotten an estimate from a Brit about how long a walk something was, I believed him, and set out on our tired tourist feet towards home.

We pass some locals on their way to a frat party, singing “Onward Christian Soldiers.”

After about a half-an hour, I sat down to rest at a bus stop. When is that bus coming to this stop? Shortly, it turned out. However, it was a city bus, but the kindly female bus driver with a deep gravelly male voice let us on, as lost as we were. Then she took a turn off the main street. The lady Dave was sitting by said “not to worry,” and the man I was sitting by said “It’ll be back on the main road. Don’t you worry.” So after a detour around the edges of Fulham and back, we were dropped off at our bus stop in front of our B&B close to 10 p.m. It was still dusk, however, so it didn’t feel that late.

Of course, if you’d asked our feet, they would have said something different. I learned to double whatever time someone would give for an estimate for distances or walking. And to check the time of the last running bus.