So Much Yarn!

Exploring England #34

Some visitors come to the North Yorkshire market town of Skipton to immerse themselves in history; Skipton castle, surrounded by 12th century stone walls, was once the home of the aristocratic Clifford family, while the beautiful Parish Church of Holy Trinity houses their resplendent tombs.

Others enjoy Skipton’s natural beauty or use it as a base for exploring the hills and woodlands of the Yorkshire Dales. On Thanet Canal, pretty houseboats compete for space with families of swans and ducks.

But on one weekend in September, people come from far and wide to see something else altogether – yarn!

Celebrating creativity, colour and “all things woolly”, Yarndale brings together producers, designers and textile artists in a festival dedicated to yarn in every imaginable form.

More than a kilometre of crocheted bunting decorates the ceiling inside Skipton Auction Mart, where exhibitors display their yarns in all the colours of the rainbow.

Beautiful finished works create a collage of colour and texture. It’s an Aladdin’s cave of treasures for any crafter, and the possibilities are only limited by their imagination.

Even the creatures who provide the yarn are represented!

Yarndale 2017 takes place on 23rd and 24th September.

Weekly Photo Challenge ~ Collage

Visiting Brideshead

Exploring England #33

In the 1981 television adaptation of Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited, Brideshead Castle is home to the fictional and fabulously wealthy Flyte family. In reality, the magnificent building which stars in the series is Yorkshire’s Castle Howard, one of the largest country houses in England. Belonging to the Howard family since the 18th century, Castle Howard is not really a castle, but a stately home built where a military castle once stood. Filled with statuary, paintings and a wealth of precious objects, the house is one of the ten Treasure Houses of England.

Ticketed entry to the house allows us to wander at our own pace from one elegant room to the next, where friendly household staff tell us stories about this beautiful home. In the Antique Passage, we see treasures collected by generations of the Howard family while on their grand tours of Europe. We marvel at the workmanship in the Chapel, the collection of family portraits in the Turquoise Drawing Room and the dome of the Great Hall, restored after a devastating fire in 1940.

Castle Howard is surrounded by 1, 000 acres of lush parkland, ornamental lakes and fountains, gardens and woodlands. Gilded gates lead into the 18th century walled garden where roses, fuchsias and an abundance of annuals grow alongside beds filled with edible plants destined for the family kitchen.

Beyond the garden we stroll along the shaded Lime Walk to the Atlas Fountain, where gods of the sea serenade Atlas as he holds up the sky.

At South Lake, the Prince of Wales Fountain plays elegantly over the water while the Shepherd Boy keeps watch.

At the end of Temple Terrace stands the elegant Temple of the Four Winds, while in the distance New River Bridge leads to the private family mausoleum.

In Ray Wood, sunlight shining through the trees dapples the wide path. Birds sing but remain unseen as they stay hidden in the leaves.

At the Boathouse Café, we enjoy a delicious lunch on the shores of Great Lake.

All the time we’ve been at Castle Howard I’ve almost expected to meet the family; not the Howards but the Flytes – Julia, elegantly lounging by the fountain, Cordelia sitting quietly in a window seat or Sebastian, with his teddy bear, Aloysius. They’re nowhere to be seen, but I’m sure I feel their presence.

A Walk Around York

Exploring England #32

On our first day in York we had one goal – to visit The Cathedral and Metropolitical Church of Saint Peter in York, more commonly known as York Minster.

Dating from the 13th century, the church is the second largest Gothic cathedral in Northern Europe. To make the most of our visit, we took a guided tour around the vast interior. With our enthusiastic leader, we learned the stories behind the medieval stained glass, Gothic carvings and ornamented ceilings inside the church and marvelled at the intricate stonework outside.

It would have been a mistake for us to think, once we’d seen the minster, we were finished with York. We spent the rest of the day exploring beyond the minster and found a wealth of historical buildings with their own stories.

Described as the best preserved medieval street in the world, The Shambles is  lined with haphazard half-timbered buildings. Each storey overhangs the one below until, at the top, they almost touch. Once filled with butcheries, the street now bustles with artisan stores, cafés and souvenir shops.

Until King Henry VIII’s reformation of the churches in the 1500s, the Treasurer’s House was the official residence of the Treasurer of York Minster. It was given to the Archbishop of York in 1547 and now belongs to the National Trust. Built over the top of a Roman road, the house is said to be haunted by a group of Roman soldiers who march in formation to an unknown destination.

The Abbey of St Mary was another building forever changed by Henry. Once the richest Benedictine Abbey in England, it was closed during the dissolution of the monasteries in 1539. Much of the stonework was reused on other buildings; today only the north and west walls remain. The gardens of the nearby Yorkshire Museum enhance the jagged beauty of the ruins.

In contrast to the ancient buildings of York, the museum is relatively new. Opened in 1830 by the Yorkshire Philosophical Society, it was one of the first in England specially built as a museum.

We came across many more wonderful buildings on our walk. We did not know their history but we were entranced by their appearance.

After wandering the streets, we found a different way to view the beautiful architecture of York. The city wall, complete with medieval gates and defensive towers,  gave us another insight into the past.

It also provided us with excellent vantage points to appreciate once more the glory of York Minster.

Join Jo for more Monday Walks

What the Devil’s Going On?

Exploring England #31

Imagine you’re driving from Kendal to York, and just past Kirkby Lonsdale you come to a car park on the side of the road . It’s full of cars, buses and motorbikes but there’s nothing to indicate why everyone has stopped. What would you do? Continue on, all the while wondering what the attraction was, or turn off to find out?

It wasn’t difficult for curiosity to get the better of us – of course we stopped to investigate. From the road there was nothing to see but a food and coffee van strategically placed nearby. Plenty of people were taking advantage of the treats on offer, but there had to something more, so we continued on until we came to a bridge over the River Lune. We soon discovered it wasn’t just an ordinary bridge – it was a scheduled ancient monument dating from medieval times.

Known as The Devil’s Bridge, the triple arched stone bridge is the finest of its kind in Northern England. It was probably built in the 14th century, but records of its construction were lost in York during the English Civil War. The bridge was in use until 1932 when, a little further upstream, Stanley Bridge was constructed to cope with increasing traffic demands.

How did the bridge get its devilish name? According to local legend, the Devil offered to build a bridge over the river in one night, and in return he demanded the soul of the first being to cross in the morning. He was outsmarted when a woman threw some bread which her dog chased onto the bridge.

We imagined the Devil may have been very annoyed by this trickery, but thankfully there was no sign of him when we crossed the bridge. On the opposite bank of the river, both The Devil’s Bridge and Stanley Bridge were beautifully reflected in the river.

At the western end of the bridge we found an intriguing sign.

Again curiosity took over –  what were Radical Steps? We thought perhaps a curving spiral staircase or a twisting set of ornamented treads leading to a mysterious destination! We set off along the shaded path beside the River Lune to find out.

When we came to the steps, they weren’t radical at all. Steep, worn and covered in moss, 86 steps went up the hillside in an orderly fashion. It was only when we got to the top that we discovered the origin of the name. Built in 1819 by Francis Pearson, the steps were christened “Radical” because of his strong political beliefs.

At the top of the steps we found a tiny cottage, just big enough for one.

Nearby on Church Brow was Ruskin’s View, a lookout high above the Lune Valley. A painting completed in 1822 by the artist JMW Turner later inspired the poet John Ruskin to describe the scene as ‘one of the loveliest in England, therefore in the world’. As we stood admiring the view of the valley and mountains beyond, it was hard to disagree.

A cheeky robin posing on the fence seemed to enjoy the view too.

From the lookout, the path continued past the Norman Church of St Mary the Virgin and its graveyard dotted with timeworn headstones to the old market square, complete with an ancient market cross. In medieval times, this was the site of the swine market.

Instead of taking the main road into town, we followed a footpath lined on either side with high stone walls and prickly hedges. It took us past beautiful old homes and green fields back to Bridge Brow and The Devil’s Bridge.

After a walk full of exploration and discovery, we were grateful to see the van still open – now it was coffee time!

Join Restless Jo for more Monday Walks

Meeting the Locals

Exploring England #30

Our Airbnb home near the Lake District was a pretty stone cottage, one of several in a row surrounded by verdant farmland. A mill pond complete with ducks and their ducklings lay behind the cottages, and beyond the pond at the top of the hill was the Lancaster Canal. A public footpath began at the end of our street, and we decided to go exploring in the hope of meeting some of the locals.

The path took us along the edge of the field where, even in the late afternoon, the thick green grass was still damp with morning dew.

We climbed over a stile

and up the hill to the path beside the canal.

From the top of the hill we could see our cottages and the lush farmland of the Lancashire countryside.

Late summer wildflowers bloomed in profusion along the water’s edge. Some we recognised, while others were new to us.

We did meet some of the residents but they had little to say, merely raising their heads in curiosity as we passed by.

As the sun sank lower in the sky, the temperature began to drop. We retraced our steps until we were on our lane again and, with the day almost over, our cosy cottage was warm and welcoming.

Join Jo and her friends for Monday Walks.

Walking in Circles

Exploring England #29

Mention stone circles and most people’s thoughts turn immediately to Stonehenge, the famous prehistoric monument in Wiltshire. Ask about the other thousand or so located in the United Kingdom and they might have difficulty naming any.

Castlerigg Stone Circle was one we hadn’t heard of, and like Ambleside Roman Fort, it was clearly marked on our map of the Lake District. Unlike the fort, it was well signed and easy to find, not far off the A66 between Penrith and Keswick. There was no designated parking so we joined the rest of the afternoon visitors, leaving our car on the side of the narrow lane to walk past lush fields edged by ancient dry stone walls.

Archeologists believe Castlerigg is a Neolithic stone circle, constructed around 3000 BC. Like most other circles its purpose is unknown, but it is thought that the location, in a wide valley surrounded by rugged mountains including Helvellyn and High Seat, was deliberately chosen for its mystical atmosphere.

There is no cost to visit Castlerigg and, once inside the gate, there are no restrictions on accessing the stones. We walked around the circumference of the circle, examining the stones and marvelling at their placement in this remote area. We explored a little further along the valley, wondering about the people who once came here.

Perhaps they followed ancient paths over the hills, coming from their homes to gather for ceremonies or worship.

I was glad I didn’t have to walk that far!

Join Jo for more Monday Walks.

One Family’s Heritage

Exploring England #28

When Lady Anne Clifford came to stay at Brougham Castle in the autumn of 1670, she was continuing a long family tradition dating back to the 13th century. Located near the River Eamont near the Cumbrian town of Penrith, the castle was one of four owned by the Clifford family and even then, it had an impressive history. Built in the early 13th century, it played host to Edward I in 1300 and was an important strategic site in the wars with the Scots and during the English Civil War. After restoring the castle in 1643, Lady Anne stayed many times and died here in 1676.

The centre of Brougham Castle has always been its magnificent stone keep, a three storey tower with spiral staircases, hidden passages and stylised carvings.

On the third floor, a walkway inside the walls circumnavigated the entire building, joining one room to the next. After climbing the narrow steps to the top, we followed in Lady Anne’s footsteps as we walked around the tower. Inside we could see the structure of the building, and from the outside windows we looked out over the remains of later additions and the surrounding countryside.

Back down in the paved courtyard, we were awestruck again by the sheer size of the castle keep. It was easy to imagine how happy Lady Anne must have been when she passed through the gatehouse to her family home on that long ago October day.

Weekly Photo Challenge ~ Heritage