Vacation, Part II: Yorkshire

Saturday morning, we drove to Dublin, big roads, no problems.  We dropped off the car, got their shuttle to the airport, and had an uneventful quick flight to Manchester.  Picked up our car there, even smaller than the little Ford Fiesta in Ireland. This one was a Nissan Micro, very cute, very tiny, little bug eyed cutie.  And we proceded to try to find a map of England. The car rental place “didn’t give them out anymore, for it was too costly.”  (You’d think they’d have them for sale!)  None of the stores in the airport had any.  The information center didn’t have any, though they DID have a map of Manchester City, which turned out to be helpful.  We had Google directions to our cottage in Knaresborough, but without a map, if we made a wrong turn, we were fried.  We made a wrong turn.  Took us a while, but with the Manchester map and a little ingenuity, we were able to backtrack, and get back within the Google directions.  We made if finally to our cottage, in the village of Knaresborough, which is a town of some size.  The cottage was built into the side of a hill made of rock (some of it showed through the walls in the hallway).  The only problem is it was on a very busy road, with no shoulder, and no sidewalks, and constant traffic from 6:30 a.m. til 11 p.m., and in both directions the road curved just beyond the cottage, so crossing the road was taking your life in your hands!  We had a parking area down and around the corner, but couldn’t get to it safely, without crossing the road to the other side, walking on the sidewalk on that side down a bit, and then recrossing.  Several times, we started to cross and found ourselves running.  Cars there don’t seem to slow down (or rather, drivers) just because they are in a residential area!  The cottage was on two floors, bedroom and bathroom on first floor, living room, dining room, kitchen on second floor (British fashion, nothing on ground floor, but outside steps to get up to the door.)  The bed was better but the sofa was another “sink in and good luck getting out” model.  Other than that, the hosts had very thoughtfully left us some tea, coffee, milk, cereal, wine, beer, biscuits, and salt and sugar.  The place was very comfortable, despite the fact that when you opened the windows, the traffic noise made it difficult to hear the television or have a conversation.  A couple of evenings, we stayed in after running ourselves ragged all day, so we did watch a bit of British tv, taking comfort in the fact that it was largely as bad as American tv.

Sunday morning, we got up early, and were in York by 8:20 a.m., easily finding a parking space. On Sundays there are no tours at the Minster, so we were able to just walk around in the quire and transepts.  (It was the day of the Bikers’ Service, so the place was surrounded by hundreds of bicycles and the bikers were in the cathedral singing and worshipping.  We were quiet and stayed away from the nave where that was going on.  Then we explored outside the minster.  At 9:15, the bellringers rang changes on the bells until 9:30.  Beautiful!  Majestic!  and LOUD!  No one sleeps late in York on Sunday mornings, that’s for sure!  The service at 10 a.m. was wonderful, organ superb, choir very good, can’t remember the sermon, but I seldom do, so that’s no comment of worth.  Coffee hour followed in the Chapter House which was a round building, remarkable for its time, in that it has no center post holding up the dome, and the carvings on the lintels are incredible.  Most of the statues are gone from the niches, inside and out, thanks to Cromwell and his campaign to free the church of idols.  Boy, between Henry VIII and HIS Cromwell and the dissolution of the monasteries and Oliver and his gang, a lot of destruction of really fine architectural wonders was wrought.  After coffee, we walked the lovely narrow streets around the cathedral/minster (I spent a lot of time asking people what a “minster” was as opposed to a cathedral and a church…got a few different answers.  I think I’ve got it figured out now:  a minster was a center for outreach and evangelisation, which was mostly done by religious orders, hence, minsters are connected with monasteries and religious orders.  They do not have to be cathedrals.  There is a minster nearby that is just a parish church of cathedral proportions…more on that later.)  We stopped at Little Betty’s Cafe, one of several of a chain with a cooking school connected with it.  Here’s a picture of the York Minster:DSC01013 Medium Web view

It is so big it is hard to get a photo of it, without also photographing a block in front of it!

Here is one of my favorite painted tombs inside the minster, some bishop or another, having gone “to sleep,” head propped up.  There are some remarkable painted tomb decorations and some unpainted as well.

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After lunch at Little Betty’s, we went back to the cottage, changed out of “Sunday clothes” and went to Knaresborough’s “Medieval Day” at the Castle, which meant walking along the Waterside (here’s a photo of the Waterside with view of the lovely viaduct in Knaresborough):

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(Knaresborough is built on a hill, very picturesque, river running through it, lovely walks.), and then climbing about a billion steps to get up to the medieval castle (also destroyed by Oliver and his gang of do-gooders, except for one portion of it, which the townspeople convinced him to save to use as a prison), where there were townsfolks dressed in “medieval” costume (sort of), one woman with three ravens on leashes, several men attempting sword fights on the green, storytellers, minstrels, a very festive town affair, not professionally done, but everyone clearly having fun.  We explored the castle, took a quick look at the museum, and then headed home, stopping on the way at Holy Trinity Church (C of E) which had an exhibition of 50 miniatures from medieval manuscripts rendered in larger form by some artist.  They were interesting, as was the church, and as were the folks welcoming us and others to the exhibit.  We talked a while, walked the rest of the way back to our cottage, JOhn calling Graham on the way to check on arrangements for the next day.  We got back to the cottage and started to make some dinner, and in came Graham and Audrey to visit, make sure they knew where we were, and welcome us to England. (Graham and Audrey were two of a choir from a small church near the Lake District who visited my church 13 years ago.  I had invited them to dinner that day, they came, and we had a splendid time. Graham and Audrey and we had kept up Christmas cards and catch up since then, with their encouraging us to come to England.  So, now we were here, and they were two weeks short of emigrating to Australia where both their daughters and husbands and their grandchildren all lived.  They’d sold their house, were living in a flat, and mostly packed up…so we got there none too soon.  We talked a while, they left, we ate dinner, and headed off to bed, eager to meet the rest of the group the next day.

Graham and Audrey picked us up at 8:40 the next morning and we took off for the Lake District, a couple of hours away, stopping for coffee in Kirkby Lonsdale and to see the Church of St. Mary the Virgin, a really beautiful church in that town with Norman columns of stone, incized with diamond shaped lines, and many other interesting features.  Then, we continued on and met the “ladies” for lunch in the tea shop of the Diocese of Carlyle’s retreat and conference center, a gracious manor house and grounds fit for, if not a king, at least a bishop!  The house is one which was in Wordsworth’s family at one point.  The gardens are lovely, the house spacious and gracious (they’ve spent a good deal restoring a lot of it. )  It is used for conferences, retreats, and has a bunkhouse where interns from around the world come for the summers to work and learn and enjoy the charms of the Lake District.  We went on to some lovely gardens and then for a ride in a tourboat on Lake Windemere, then dinner (tea?) at a lakeside restaurant, all in all, a splendid day and wonderful opportunity to catch up with Gloria, May, Jill, Pat, as well as Graham and Audrey.  Here is a photo taken by John (so he’s not in it) at the Rydal House:

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Tuesday morning we were up early to walk the city walls of York, on our way to Cottingham, near Hull, to visit with the aunt of friends from N.J., Mike and Angela.  I had met their Auntie Eve some 25 years ago, when she was visiting the States with Mike’s mother, having been brave enough to serve them tea, forewarned by Angela that the tea had best be strong, and made properly!  They very graciously drank it; no idea if it measured up or not, but it was too strong for me to enjoy, for sure!  Anyway, off we toddled, then got lost in York, then I realized I had left Eve’s phone number back in the cottage…and we needed to call her to find out where she lived exactly.  Reception the night before at the cottage had been poor, so I agreed to call her when we got to Cottingham.  So, in a panic, and not thinking real clearly, I said, “Don’t worry, I’ll call Angela; no problem”, and I blithely dialed Angela’s number in N.J.  John was just as dense.  I thought she sounded a little strange when she picked up but she gave me Eve’s phone number and address, asked me how we were enjoying ourselves, and then when I hung up, it finally dawned on us both at the same time: it was 8:30 a.m. in Yorkshire, which meant 3:30 N.J.  Boy, was I embarrassed!  But I sure wasn’t going to call back to apologize then!  We found Eve’s flat, and headed out to Beverley for lunch and to see the Beverley Minster, which Angela had recommended. The impression she had given me was that it was a nice little church.  NOT!  Nearing the village of Beverley, 10 miles from Cottingham, the minster rose up and dominated the village much as Yorkminster did York.  It was huge, though not quite as huge as Yorkminster.  When it was built, Beverley had been a city of some note.  Now, it was a small town, rural.  So Beverley was a village church with a vicar.  No cathedral.  It had been associated with St. John, a medieval saint who began a monastery in the area, and the minster grew out of that community of faith.  It didn’t appear to have as much damage done to it by Ollie and the boys, but clearly had some.  Later additions included some more modern statuary in some of the niches.  It has about 70 sculptures of men and women singing and playing instruments on the capitals on top of the columns, and along the walls of the nave.  Another beautiful church.  It was moving to me to see all the ruins, but to see buildings 800 years old STILL in use and actively used was really amazing.  Here’s a photo of John and Eve, on their way out of the Beverley Minster:

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I think Eve would have spent the whole day showing us other sites and sights in the area, but she had mentioned her constant pain in her knees from having fallen several months ago, had new bruises on her arm from having fallen last week, and had been doing a lot of sitting in places in the minster, so we felt it better to take her home, and go home to take a nap ourselves.  Monday had been a long day!

Wednesday was Dale Day…started out early again, driving east, onto more rural roads through Nidderdale to Coverdale with a stop at Pateley Bridge, a charming town on the side of a hill in the Dales. (By the way, by this time, we’d seen a lot of signs with names of towns, and I observed that I had two favorites: Giggleswick and Blubberhouses.)  The roads in the Dales were narrow, with many impatient drivers tail gaiting, and John was getting more and more uncomfortable, and also unwilling to slow down (for it inconvenienced the nuts behind us!) or seemingly, to pull off to get good photos, so when we got to Wensleydale, we turned toward Leyburn and didn’t make the big loop around Wensleydale and Swaledale.  Instead, we headed east and north to the Wensleydale Sheep Shop on the farm of one of the two owners of the shop, along with their Wensleydale sheep.   I stocked up on rovings and yarn, and then Ruth took me out to see the sheep.  Here’s a photo of a couple of them.

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Ruth explained that their sheep aren’t perhaps the best Wensleydales, with coats not quite as long as some. Another breeder came into the shop, and we struck up a conversation as well.  Her sheep, recently shorn, had staples of 11-1/2 inches or more.  We talked about American Wensleydales, which have been bred by AI-ing Wensleydale semen on Lincoln ewes.  Both these breeders felt that wasn’t appropriate.  The original cross was a bluefaced leicester ram (fine fleece) and Teeswater mugg ewes. (There are still Teeswater sheep, but no more Teeswater mugg sheep, which are somehow different.)  They didn’t think using a Lincoln, which generally has more coarse wool would yield Wensleydales like the British Wensleydales, which I found interesting.  I had always heard that Wensleydales were fairly fine fleece, and that Lincolns weren’t, so I wondered about the methodology of the American breeders.  I’m not sure what other British Wensleydale breeders would say or their sheep breeders association for the breed, but it was interesting to hear my doubts confirmed.  After our visit, we had lunch at a local pub and went to Middleham, favorite castle of Richard III, which was special because I’m a Richard III fan.  I bought two books about him.  John felt somehow emotionally connected to this ruin, as he hadn’t at others we’d visited.  I read the books while in England, one a little crazy, about seances and reaching Richard through a medium and asking him what happened.  The other was not easy to read; the author’s writing style was not particularly good.  But I plowed through to find nothing particularly new.

Thursday morning, up early again, and off again, this time to the NOrth Yorkshire Moors and Whitby.  The moors were wonderful: rough and raw and a place where I imagined folks bent with nature, not defied it.  We just drove through on the way to Whitby, which was disappointing: a big tourist seaside resort sort of place, crawling with tourists, difficult to navigate.  We went up to the hill, where the ruins of the monastery were.  There is almost nothing left of Hilda’s monastery, one of those early medieval monasteries which had men and women in it and a woman in charge, one of my heroes, St. Hilda of Whitby.  Apparently, the Danes had obliterated it in 800 or so.  But after the Norman invasion, some guy was so moved by visiting the ruins of the site, that he vowed to start a monastery and rebuild, which he did: the hill became the site of a Benedictine monastery (men only), and the ruins suggest a very gracious and large, cathedral-like “chapel”.  The ruins were bombed in WWI, and there’s not much left of them.  Of interest also, was a huge fenced in area just outside the monastery grounds, divided by bits of this kind of fence, bits of that, into small gardens…must be community gardens for the people of Whitby.  One had a small camper in it; several had chairs and canopies, all had veggies growing.  Most had locks.

We left Whitby and retraced our steps through the moors, this time, detouring off the main road onto a road pointing to the town of Goathland, complete with signs to watch out for sheep in the road.  The village was small, a few houses, a few farms, a pub/inn, a couple of shops and a curious garage to repair cars with an additional sign on it saying funeral services.  We ate in the pub, which had photos all over the walls referring to something called “Heartbeat”, which we couldn’t figure out. Later, John walked down to see the train station, where the steam train that goes through the moors was “docked” and I tooled around, stopping at the strange garage, complete with car up on a lift, and tons of postcards. I finally realized that that town was the setting for some tv series called Heartbeat and the postcards  were all stars of the show.  I also realized that people fence in their yards to keep the sheep OUT of their gardens. The people are fenced in, not the sheep.  Here’s a photo of a couple of sheep out on the moor:

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We had our best meal so far at that pub in Goathland: a big “bread bowl” made from yorkshire pudding, filled with lamb for me, beef for him, about 5 different kinds of vegetables, two kinds of potatoes and onion gravy.  We hadn’t had many vegetables with meals while in England.  They didn’t seem to serve them with pub food, anyway. Thursday night we ate peanut butter sandwiches and watched tv. While flicking through the stations, lo and behold, we came upon an episode of “Heartbeat” and saw the pub and the garage and the village.  So, I’m guessing the signage on the garage was for the series, not reality.

Friday, back to York: John to the minster for tours, me shopping to find the Shambles, and poking around the farmers’ market in the city, and looking for salt and pepper shakers requested by friend, Carol…not an easy thing to find.  (They had to say England!) Finally gave up and found a pair that said York. Back to Knaresborough for lunch, and found a nice restaurant, Hannah’s, which served a dish similar to the one we’d had in Goatsland, so we were happy.  Their strawberry cheesecake was not as good as mine, but was reasonable.

Saturday morning we had to get up at 3, got everything packed, the cottage straightened, and were off by 4, on our long, all day, three flight trip home. (Manchester to Dublin; Dublin to Shannon; Shannon to Boston)  Then the Dartmouth Coach to New London, met by Sue and Tom with our car, the drive home, picking up Lizzie who was very glad to see me and hasn’t left my side since.

One lingering question: what makes a cottage as opposed to a house.  I asked Audrey and the ladies: it apparently is not to do with size.  They all said, “You just know.”  So I guess it will remain a mystery. …Mystery is good.

It was a great two weeks, which we’ll spend much time revisiting and reviewing through our photos and the books we bought at each site.  But it’s good to be home in Vermont…and now, off to the grain store for turkey grain for the poults which came yesterday, more pig grain, and chick grain…back to reality…


One Response to “Vacation, Part II: Yorkshire”

  1. Linda Bjarkman Says:

    Sounds like a wonderful trip and I sure did enjoy your travelogue.
    I’ve never been in an English/Irish pub, but I doubt that vegetables are big as a pub/bar food anywhere 🙂

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