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.
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