Have Bag, Will Travel
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Staying in a cottage neat Leyburn in Yorkshire the children were drawn to a brochure for a nearby attraction called ‘The Forbidden Corner’ just a few miles away near the town of Middleham so we set off one morning to visit. I should have read the brochure with more care because it does point out that it is only possible to visit after pre-booking so after being turned away I made reservations for the next day and had to break the disappointing news to the children.
This is a good idea as it turns out as it allows the site to regulate the number of visitors to prevent it becoming too overcrowded at peak times.
They soon got over it and we made alternative arrangements for the day and then returned at our appointed day and time for the promise of a unique labyrinth of tunnels, chambers, follies, paths and passages that lead nowhere with extraordinary statues at every turn.
There is something quintessentially English about Follies, buildings or places without any real purpose except to satisfy a mad ambition and this is one of the best.
It seemed rather expensive to me when I paid the family entrance fee, left the gift shop and followed the path to the entrance and I was wondering how better I could have spent the £40 but within minutes I was certain that we had made the right decision because it turned out that this is a beautiful, four-acre Victorian garden in the Yorkshire Dales that is full of secrets, oddities and tricks.
It starts as a gentle saunter through a series of gardens with a squirting statue here, a baffling gate there but quickly turns into an enchanting, bewildering underground-overground labyrinth of passages, pathways, spiral staircases, stepping stones, revolving floors, pop-up fountains and wooden doors to somewhere – or nowhere.
It is pure genius and so good that it has recently voted best European folly of the 20th century by The Folly Fellowship and also voted the best children’s attraction in Yorkshire.
Interestingly the Forbidden Corner was not actually designed to be a Family Attraction in the first place. It was simply a private Victorian garden in a quiet spot in the North Yorkshire Dales, owned by a man called Colin Armstrong. He had the idea to turn part of it into a sort of folly for his family and friends. Just as a bit of fun – as English eccentrics with time on their hands tend to do. It is such a crazy place that when he opened it in 1994 he neglected to apply for planning permission and had to wait for six years for retrospective approval.
Places like this are wonderful, you arrive with low expectations and end up being blown away with excitement. On arrival I didn’t see how we could possibly spend a couple of hours there but we ended up going round twice and spending four. It is a giant maze with a labyrinth of paths and tunnels and with no map or formal route to follow then you have to have your wits about you to be careful not to miss something, I know that we did.
We would have stayed even longer because it had a nice restaurant and menu but there is so many hidden jets of water and surprise fountains that the children were soaked through by the time we finished and with no change of clothing we had to abandon dining plans and return to the cottage so here is a big tip – make sure the children have something to change into when you have finished the visit.
If you are close by, even if you are not, a visit to the Forbidden Corner gets my absolute recommendation for a great day out for all the family!
“Drink is a sort of anaesthetic, it diminishes the pain…and I did quite enjoy the days when one went for a beer at one’s local in Paris and woke up in Corsica.” – Peter O’Toole
In Iceland March 1st is National Beer Day and my blogging pal Richard (https://abitofculture.net/) explains why…
“Before I talk about beers and bars, here’s a bit of history that might surprise you. Prohibition was introduced in Iceland in 1915, and although spirits and wine were later allowed, beer was still outlawed until 1989. The beer ban was finally lifted on 1st March that year, a day celebrated annually by the nation as Beer Day. Beer festivals, pub-crawls and drunken debauchery allegedly ensue. I’d loved to have experienced Beer Day in the bars of Reykjavik, but unfortunately got there four days too late!”
I imagine Richard found Reykjavik a little quiet as it recovered from a collective hangover!
Like Richard I have visited Iceland but never on National Beer Day. I would like to but here is a word of caution, if like me, you are tempted to join Icelanders to celebrate 1st March then be sure to take a lot of cash because beer (and everything else as it happens) is very expensive. Here is a top tip – if you are travelling to Iceland and you want some spirits, beer or wine then be sure to visit the airport duty free shop after you land because here alcohol can be bought for almost sensible prices.
But Iceland isn’t the only place to celebrate a National Beer Day.
National Beer Day is celebrated in the United States every year on 7th April, marking the day that the Cullen–Harrison Act which repealed prohibition became law. After being signed off by President Franklin D. Roosevelt it is alleged that he said “I think this would be a good time for a beer.”
Everyone seemed to agree with him because it is said that on the day that the Act was passed into law people across the country consumed one and a half million barrels of beer to celebrate. This raises a question mark for me – during prohibition who brewed one and a half million barrels of beer and why?
Not satisfied with National Beer Day, the USA has a second day of celebration on 27th October which is celebrated as National American Beer Day. There are more than two thousand breweries that manufacture beer in the United States and I suspect that they all taste the same.
In 1990 I first visited World Disney World in Florida and spent an hour or so at EPCOT World Showcase. After a whirlwind tour of the World we came eventually to the United Kingdom, designed to look like a typical British village with shops, thatched cottages and gardens. The shops sold British goods, such as tea, toys, clothing, and Beatles merchandise. I was fed up with it all by now and bypassed Hampton Court and the Cotswold village and aimed for The Rose & Crown Pub which at least served English beer.
I ordered a pint and so did an American guest but he took one sip and his face distorted in agony at the taste (English beer has flavour whereas American beers do not), he said ‘What the hell is that?” and slammed it down on the bar and left. I was tempted to take it but the bar staff, obviously used to this reaction, swiftly took it away and poured it down the sink.
And another day to mark in the diary in the USA is 24th January which is Beer Can Appreciation Day which celebrates the day in 1935 when beer was first sold in cans.
National Beer Day in the United Kingdom is celebrated on 15th June which is a happy coincidence for me because that also happens to be the day of my birth. 15th June was chosen as the day of celebration not in recognition of my birthday however but rather because it happens to be the day in 1215 when Magna Carta was signed by King John and the Barons at Runneymede and article 35 of the Charter stated “Let there be throughout our Kingdom a single measure for wine and a single measure for ale…”
During research I have been surprised to find no mention of a National Beer Day in Australia but someone suggested to me that is probably because every day is Beer Day in Australia.
If they ever did have a National Beer Day I would suggest April 30th to celebrate a gargantuan beer drinking achievement. The Australian cricketer David Boon (who had a moustache so huge it had to be taken out twice a day for a walk) famously drank fifty-two cans of beer on a flight from Sydney to London before the 1989 Ashes tour, breaking a record of forty-four set by Doug Walters and Rod Marsh on an earlier flight. Boon himself played down the achievement by pointing out that they were only small airline sized cans.
“How can anyone put it? One thing is certain – here we have always been and here, whatever happens, we shall remain, listening to the voices of the old sea.” – Norman Lewis