Tag Archives: Hawes Yorkshire

Aysgarth Falls, Middleham Castle and Leyburn

The next morning we planned to drive a route along Wensleydale as far as Hawes in the west and set off early and stopped first at Aysgarth Falls about half way along the route.

Aysgarth Falls is a natural beauty spot where thousands of gallons of water in the River Ure tumble, leap and cascade over a series of boulders and broad limestone steps.  Sometimes passive, sometimes aggressive and sometimes playful like today.

It was featured as the location for the fight between Robin Hood and Little John in the film ‘Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves’ and in 2005 it was included in a BBC television list of seven best natural places in Northern England.  The other six were The Lake District, River Wear, Whin Sill, River Tees, Holy Island and Morecambe Bay.

I had visited Aysgarth Falls before, around about twenty-five years ago with my children…

And five years ago I visited with my grandchildren…

Middleham describes itself as a township; smaller than a town but bigger than a village and it is a very fine place. Less frantic than other towns in Wensleydale but blessed with history and a magnificent castle, almost as big as the town itself. We parked the car (free parking) and found a pub for lunch inevitably called ‘Richard III’.

Richard was the last Plantagenet and House of York King of England, the last King of England killed in combat, at the battle of Bosworth in 1485, and succeeded by the victorious Henry Tudor of the House of Lancaster.  Before he became King in 1482 he lived for a while in the castle here in Middleham.

After lunch we walked to the castle.  Between us there were mixed opinions about paying the entrance fee but with my new castle enthusiast pal, William, eager to climb the battlements everyone finally gave in and we went inside.

It was once a massive castle, one of the biggest in Northern England built on a site previously garrisoned by both the Romans and the Normans and deep within the labyrinth or towers and walls is a statue of Richard III and for those who say he was evil he looked arm less enough to me!

Next we drove to the town of Leyburn which was horribly busy and after we had secured a much prized parking place I gave in to the demands of the others and visited the shops.  Actually, I rather liked the shops in Leyburn  and the reason for that was that there were none that I recognised.

Usually in England every town has the same shops, there is practically no individuality in the town centres.  Every shop that I can expect to find in my home town can be found anywhere else.

These are not shops that interest me a great deal in Grimsby where I live so it was completely unlikely that they would do so elsewhere.  To make it worse, in a typical English town there is an over-supply of banks, building societies and pay-day loan money lenders and the trouble with financial service providers is that they simply cannot make their window displays interesting and except for a different logo all they can display is a list of lending and savings rates most of which are exactly the same anyway.

This, I am happy to report was not the case in Leyburn where there were an abundance of traditional shops owned and run by local traders and I rather enjoyed an hour or so looking around.  Please don’t spread that around too much, it might get back to Kim.

Click on an image to scroll through the Gallery…

A Viaduct, Wensleydale Cheese and a Castle

After a second hearty Yorkshire breakfast we settled our account at the New Inn at Clapham and began our journey east across the Dales.

One structure that I have always wanted to see is the Ribblesdale railway viaduct and as it was conveniently close by we (I) took that route and we arrived there after about thirty minutes, high up in the Yorkshire Dales with a fierce wind that filled our lungs, tugged at our clothes and rearranged our hair.

The Ribblehead Viaduct or Batty Moss Viaduct carries the Settle–Carlisle railway across Batty Moss Valley and was built by the Midland Railway a hundred and fifty years or so ago, it is 28 miles north-west of Skipton and 26 miles south-east of Kendal and is a Grade II listed structure.

The land underneath and around the viaduct is a scheduled ancient monument. Because it was so far from any major settlements the workers and their families lived in three navvy settlements called Sebastopol and Belgravia and best of all Batty Wife Hole – there is an appropriate monument to commemorate them below the arches.

It may just be the most famous railway viaduct in the United Kingdom just because it is so panoramic but at four hundred and forty yards it is by no way the longest because that distinction belongs to the London Bridge – Greenwich Railway Viaduct which is an three and a half miles long.

At one hundred feet high it isn’t even the tallest because at seventy feet higher that is the Ballochmyle Viaduct in Scotland which carries the former Glasgow and South Western Railway line between Glasgow and Carlisle.

It may not be the longest or the tallest but it is almost certainly the most photogenic, a fact that requires car parks to be provided close by, thankfully without charge. On a blustery mid morning in October the car park was surprisingly full but I when a steam train comes through and amateur photographers descend upon the place in their droves then I imagine finding a parking spot might be very difficult indeed.

There were no theatrical steam trains today but we were delighted to see a scheduled diesel service obligingly cross the viaduct for us.

Moving on we drove east now into the heart of the Dales towards the town of Hawes in Wensleydale. The Dales is one of the twelve National parks of England and Wales. The area is so called because it is a collection of river valleys and the hills in between them. ‘Dale’ incidentally comes from a Viking word for valley.

Most of the dales in the Yorkshire Dales are named after their river or stream, Swaledale, Wharfedale, Ribbledale etc. but not Wensleydale which is named after the small village and former market town of Wensley, rather than the River Ure, although an older name for the dale is in fact Yoredale.

The Yorkshire Dales rivers all run west to east from the Pennines draining into the River Ouse. The Ouse is in fact a continuation of the River Ure, and the combined length of of 129 miles makes it (after the Severn, the Thames, the Trent, the Wye and the Great Ouse) the sixth longest river of the United Kingdom and the longest to flow entirely in one county. The Ouse eventually joins the Trent to become the Humber Estuary and drains away into the North Sea.

It was around about now that we started to have difficulty with the car satellite navigation system that began to make some very unusual route choices that led to some demanding driving conditions and a lot of cussing.

It is a new car and it subsequently turns out that Volkswagen have problems with the car software operating systems including the satellite navigation which apparently works well if you are in the Black Forest but not in the Yorkshire Dales, or anywhere else in the UK it seems. 

I have returned the car several times in the four weeks that I have owned it but so far no fix.

Hawes is a charming little town and we stayed for a while, walked along its quaint streets, bought some local produce from independent retailers and finished at the famous creamery and stocked up on Wensleydale Cheese.  I like Wensleydale cheese it is especially good on cheese on toast.

We were heading now towards our weekend accommodation near Leyburn but we found time to take a look at Castle Bolton where Mary, Queen of Scots was held prisoner for six months in 1568. There wasn’t time enough to visit and there was an inevitable car parking charge so staying true to being a skinflint we just moved on.

After all, I had visited Castle Bolton before, around about twenty five years ago with my children…

… and then again five years ago with my grandchildren…

Twenty Good Reasons to Visit Yorkshire

Fountains Abbey Ripon YorkshireAysgarth Falls YorkshireTour de France YorkshireSt Mary's Church BeverleyBeverley MinsterBeverley Minster MusiciansBenedictine Monk Fountains Abbey YorkshireRichmond Town CryerRichard III Middleham castleHarrogateThe Mallard National Railway Museum YorkIMG_4207Richard IIIMiddleham CastleHawdraw FallsHull Humberside YorkshireHull - The DeepJorvik Centre York VikingsNorth Yorkshire SheepFountains Abbey Yorkshire

North Yorkshire – Wensleydale

Yorkshire Postcard

At school holiday time there is always the threat of an extended visit from the grandchildren which can be a stressful experience as they spend a week dismantling the house and trashing the garden.

Since 2011 I have lived in the east coast town of Grimsby and every so when they visit it is my job to arrange entertainment.  This can be a challenge because to be honest there isn’t a great deal to do in Grimsby

I like the town but it has to be said that it is an odd place.  It is a community in decline.  On the south bank of the Humber Estuary it is so far east that the only place to go after this is the North Sea and there aren’t any ferries to Europe as there are in Hull on the north side of the river.  It is a dead end.  It is a place that you only go to by choice.  No one visits Grimsby by accident.  You cannot stumble upon it while taking a leisurely drive along the coast as say in Northumberland or East Anglia.  It can never be an unexpected discovery.

This year I decided to rent a holiday cottage elsewhere and let them trash someone else’s place instead.  I chose a cottage in the village of Thornton Stewart in North Yorkshire and drove there one busy Friday afternoon along the A1 – The Great North Road, which many people claim is the only good thing that comes out of London.

729127

The A1 route used to be a real chore with inevitable traffic jams and frequent hold-ups but recent investment has seen it upgraded to a three lane motorway which in theory should make it much easier to drive.  Unfortunately, what happens when a road is improved like this is that lots of extra traffic decides to use it so after a very short time the original problem is back again and so it was on this particular day and the journey took far longer than anticipated.

The village of Thornton Stewart is in Wensleydale (one of only a few Yorkshire Dales not currently named after its principal river) and it was immediately obvious that it was rather remote with no local facilities so it was lucky that I had had the foresight to pack food provisions and a few bottles of wine.  And it was severely challenged when it came to communications as well with no Wifi and no useable telephone signal either.  Only forty miles from Leeds, Manchester and Newcastle and no phone signal!

Thornton Stewart Yorkshire

Never mind, we unpacked, picked our bedrooms, Sally and the children rearranged their room in the way that they like it – rather like Belgium after the German Panzer division had passed through on the way to France in 1939 and then we explored the garden and settled down for the evening.

The next morning we planned to drive a route along Wensleydale as far as Hawes in the west and set off early and stopped first at Aysgarth Falls about half way along the route.  Aysgarth Falls is a natural beauty spot where thousands of gallons of water in the River Ure tumble, leap and cascade over a series of boulders and broad limestone steps.  It was featured as the location for the fight between Robin Hood and Little John in the film ‘Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves’ and in 2005 it was included in a BBC television list of seven best natural places in Northern England.  The other six were The Lake District, River Wear, Whin Sill, River Tees, Holy Island and Morecambe Bay.

I had visited Aysgarth Falls before, around about twenty years ago with my children…

Aysgarth Falls 1997

And now I was back with my grandchildren…

Aysgarth Falls North Yorkshire

After Aysgarth we continued to Hawes which was swarming with visitors, too many visitors to make it a comfortable experience and unable to find a parking spot we just carried on to the Hawes creamery factory which is the only place in Wensleydale that continues to make the famous Yorkshire cheese.  A few years ago the owners tried to close it down and move production to next door Lancashire but no self respecting Yorkshire man or woman would allow that to happen – make Yorkshire cheese in Lancashire, whatever next! – so after a management buy-out the staff resumed production for themselves.

For a modest fee it was possible to visit the factory and a small museum and an inevitable shop where we overspent on dairy products described sometime before by T S Eliot as the “Mozart of Cheeses”, with a variety of unlikely ingredients – ginger, pineapple, blueberries etc.

Aysgarth Yorkshire

On account of just how busy it was we declined to stop in Hawes and drove back instead to Castle Bolton where there is a magnificent castle where Mary Queen of Scots was once imprisoned with tall walls, crenulated battlements and expansive views over the Dales but admission was quite expensive and not certain that the children would appreciate the visit we decided against it and after we had gate-crashed the gardens without a ticket we drove back to the cottage stopping briefly in the town of Leyburn for some grocery supplies.

I had visited Castle Bolton before, around about twenty years ago with my children…

Castle Bolton 1997

And now I was back with my grandchildren…

Castle Bolton Yorkshire