Tag Archives: Leyburn

Yorkshire, The Forbidden Corner

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!

North Yorkshire – Leyburn, Middleham, Yorkshire Day and Richard III

Richard III Middleham castle

“Now is the winter of our discontent 
Made glorious summer by this sun of York.”

William Shakespeare – Richard III, Act 1 Scene 1

The following morning we drove once more to Leyburn and this time the chocolate factory workshop was open so we spent a full morning there while the children made chocolate pizza and Kim and Sally ate chocolate cake.

Next we drove to the town centre which was horribly busy once more and once we had secured a much prized parking place I gave in to the demands of the others and we 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.

Leyburn postcard

These are not shops that interest me a great deal in Grimsby 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 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.

In one shop we were invited to choose a white rose from a basket because today, as it turned out, was ’Yorkshire Day’. 

Yorkshire Day is 1 August to promote and celebrate the historic English county of Yorkshire.  It all began in 1975 started by the Yorkshire Ridings Society, initially in Beverley, as a protest movement against the Local Government re-organisation of 1974 which effectively dismantled the historic old County.

The White Rose County of Yorkshire is the largest in England and for administrative convenience was once divided into Ridings, North, West and East, but no obvious fourth and I wondered why?  Well it turns out that there is a simple explanation because the word Riding is derived from a Danish word ‘thridding’, meaning a third. The invading Danes called representatives from each Thridding to a Thing, or Parliament and established the Ridings System.  I rather like the idea that Parliament is called a Thing! I have heard it called worse.  To this day, Yorkshire consists of three Ridings, along with the City of York, and that’s why there is no fourth, or South, Riding.

After some shopping for essential supplies (beer, wine and cracker biscuits for the over-supply of Wensleydale cheese) we left Leyburn and carried on to nearby Middleham.

Middleham Postcard

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 Wesleydale but blessed with history and a magnificent castle, almost as big as the town itself. We parked the car and found a pub for lunch called ‘Richard III’.

Richard III 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.

Thanks to William Shakespeare poor old Richard is mostly remembered as a bad man and an evil King who got what he deserved at the battle of Bosworth but history is now beginning to revise this judgement following the discovery of his bones in an unlikely burial place under a public car park in my home town of Leicester.

Richard III

Yorkshire demanded that he should be immediately returned to York for a final decent burial but discoverers held firm and he now lies in the Cathedral of his adopted County of Leicester.

Leicester has laid claim to Richard III. Some people claim that this is significant.  Leicester City are a football team in England who have never really done anything spectacular.  In 2014 they were playing badly and looked likely to be relegated from the Premier League but after the bones of Richard were found they suddenly began to play like champions and in the following year won the English Premier League.  The reversal of fortune has been attributed by some to Richard III and though it is unlikely it is such a good story that I really want to believe it.

Although Leicester is a large city in the UK there are only three places in U.S.A. named after it, in Massachusetts, North Carolina and Vermont.  As far as I can see there is no Leicester in Canada or in Australia.   Perhaps it is too difficult to pronounce correctly?

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!

Middleham Castle