Tuesday, 27 July 2010

"God's own county"

Well, that's what they say, apparently. And, judging from our very pleasant two nights at The Lamb and Flag in Bishop Monkton, they probably say it very loudly! To be fair, I'd guess that part of Yorkshire, the Harrogate / Ripon area, is pretty prosperous, as the punters were on average loud and large. They were advertising for part-time bar staff, but apparently had no takers: the local youths have no shortage of cash from their parents. We had bed and breakfast there in the barn behind the pub - I'd love to be able to say it was because there was no room at the inn, but actually the barn has been converted into three 4-star bedrooms!
We ate in the pub and the food was great - none of this microwaved nonsense, but cooked then and there by the hostess Carol while her husband Trevor presided over the bar. Our first night's room, Fountains, is on the right of the picture. All the rooms are disabled accessible, though our second night, in Jervaulx, was a bit of a tight squeeze.

We travelled up on the Thursday in order to have a full day of exploring the area - which we did going up Nidderdale to Lofthouse and then over Masham Moor. It was great to be back in the hills again - reminded me of days off in the Peak District. We had our lunch within the sound of a stream pouring under a bridge and out of clumps of sphagnum moss. 
Lunch on Masham Moor
Swaledale sheep?

And then it was on to the romantic ruin of Fountains Abbey. Unfortunately not having prebooked they were reluctant to let me take out an electric buggy in case it ran out of charge, and so Jane had to push me round the extensive grounds instead. Still the main track was fairly level and tarmac. I'm not saying it was easy, mind, but she managed. What a lass! And I must say it's an impressive place - not that I'd have wanted to have lived there, in its tree-lined valley. Though I daresay they were jolly, large and loud Yorkshire monks! An abbey full of Friar Tucks.
East end of Fountains Abbey church
Damsel fly in Fountains Abbey

As well as some more delicate creatures.

On Saturday morning we wandered (=Jane pushed me) round the rather immaculate village of Bishop Monkton, which has a stream flowing down the main street. As well as providing the children with plenty of ducks to feed, it also provided quiet points of intimate landscape.
The stream in Bishop Monkton

However all good things come to an end, and we had to move on. But Yorkshire had another treat in store for us....

.... in the form of our good friends, the Hateleys, who were celebrating their silver wedding with their family and friends. Readers of My Donkeybody with elephantine memories will recall that Barbara and Gareth were the first of our friends to have an inkling of the true nature of my symptoms, with their combined medical and veterinary expertise. Gareth and I used to play squash, and he still sounds disgustingly fit, doing enormous bike rides round the Dales. I was reflecting how, despite flashes of envy, it is possible to 'learn to be content' with one's limitations. It reminds me of something T S Eliot writes about marriage in The Cocktail Party about being content with the morning that separates and the evening that brings together... which is a 'good way'. I suppose one has to learn to be content to be pushed where one wants, and eventually to be pushed where one doesn't want to go....

Gareth in Falstaffian mode
Toasting 25 years (Barbara on the right)
Anyway on we drove to their house for an excellent party, where we learned, among other things, about the advantageous investment that photo-voltaic solar panels are at the moment (see http://www.smconsult.co.uk/page11.htm ). No seriously, if you have a south-facing roof and a few thousand to invest, I'm told you could get an equivalent 8% annual rate of return - which isn't bad. More of the time was spent catching up with news and renewing acquaintances; and I got a professional view of Rev, the sit-com about an inner city vicar which seems to have divided my facebook friends. If you take it seriously, then it's distressing to see a smoking, swearing (occasionally), vague (apparently) priest; if you don't, it's wrily amusing to see stock caricatures in action. It's nice to be in relative detachment from wedding interviews, archdeacons, and church in-jokes. I'm not sure, to be honest, how much those not 'in the know' would get. I suspect it represents and reinforces the half-informed stereotypes of the media world. It can't - and doesn't try to - enter the heart of faith and its outworking.

So after a thoroughly full (in every way!) few days we wended our way homewards, in record time down empty motorways, and climbed into bed grateful for friends - and bed-leavers.


  1. Beautifully done post, as usual. I love the damselfly, and Fountains Abbey!

  2. Drat! Now I feel I need another holiday.............