North Yorkshire Ramblings and Another Lock-down

Sue and I discovered recently that a long time friend of ours had been acknowledged by the Queen in recognition of his work with charitable and welfare organisations, and selfless public service. Roger Dunton was awarded an MBE,(Member of the British Empire). In my opinion, a very much deserved honour and long overdue. When I retired in 2008, I wrote to the High Sheriff of Leicestershire, suggesting that his name be put forward, but at the time nothing came of it. I met him last week and gave him our congratulations, true to form he was delivering medicines to those too infirm to travel to the pharmacy and couldn’t chat long.

26/10/20 After testing positive for corona-virus, 102 have died in the UK. There are 667 active cases in the Harborough area, up 152 from last week.

A planned two and a half hour, leisurely drive to North Yorkshire ended up being extended by a frustrating 40 minutes crawl through road works at the junction of the M1 and A1. Despite large areas of the country descending into lock-down with restricted movement, this particular section of road seemed very popular with HGV’s delivering ‘essential’ goods, keeping the economy buoyant.

The journey north was a showery affair and on arrival at the small village of Huby, we had to satisfy ourselves with eating a picnic lunch inside the car, nearby grass and benches were too damp for comfort. Optimistic that rain clouds had moved on towards Lancashire, in preparation for our first ramble we chose wellingtons rather than hiking boots for footwear. It turned out to be a good choice.

Conveniently, one of the residents of Huby had published a few local walks on the Internet to tempt ‘foreigners’ to the area and Sue chose one of the walks (No.3). I had previously plotted all the routes onto my GPS and also printed out an OS version for Sue to follow. The village of Huby is largely unexciting from a historical and architectural point of view, like many in ‘over-populated UK’ it has pockets of irritating new developments springing up everywhere. Folly Woods was our first plunge into the N/Yorks countryside following a puddle pocked path that eventually led us through fields via a series of well

used and very muddy farm tracks. Passing through one such farmstead we were engaged by a friendly and talkative farmer who insisted on opening one of the gates which barred our way. He was keen to talk about the horse in an adjacent field belonging to his daughter and inquisitive as to where we were headed. He confessed to being on the Parish Council and was pleased that we were engaged in one of its initiatives.

Like the village, the walk held few surprises, but it was a nice gentle wind-down from our earlier motorway dash and hopefully a suitable warm-up for more challenging leg-stretchers during the rest of the week. Quaintly, many of the houses and cottages we passed were heavily involved in the local rural economy, little tables or boxes were sited by gates or at the end of driveways, advertising eggs, apples, pears or kindling wood for sale. One in particular had a box of chocolate treats on offer and I took advantage of this and bought some oval slabs of the milk variety.

After checking into the nearby Burn Hall Hotel, we chilled out in our room until it was time for our evening meal in the the hotel’s restaurant. Earlier, I had been surprised to find that the car park was full, this was further confirmed during dinner when all the available tables were occupied. Certainly, Covid-19 seems not to deter these hardy northerners from enjoying life.

27/10/20 After testing positive for corona-virus, 102 have died in the UK. There are 563 active cases in the Harborough area, up 194 from last week.

Disappointingly, rain arrived soon after breakfast and was forecast to remain all day. We togged up in our best wet gear and set off to the start of today’s ramble in Coxwold. The village stands on a slight incline, with its rather impressive church perched at the top of the hill. We parked outside the local pub, the Fauconberg Arms, and launched into our irriguous trek on a path behind Saint Michael and All Angels.

Throughout our ramble we were hoping to catch glimpses of the Kilburn White Horse, but the cloud base was low and shrouded the surrounding hills and we failed to spot this striking figure artificially cut into the limestone hill above the small village of Kilburn.

We took a short break from our damp tramping with a stop at an enchanting ‘honesty cafe’ set outside the village of Husthwaite, and sited next to an abandoned railway line in the old Station Master’s house. We sat inside, sheltering from a light drizzle and made ourselves coffee, there was biscuits, cakes, sweets and crisps available by placing the correct money into a tin. What a lovely idea we thought, as did other walkers who had posted thank you notes on a small internal notice board.

Despite regular showers closing in the landscape around us, the route had plenty of variety to keep us interested; voles, rabbits, hawks, ducks, geese, partridge and pheasants were all surprised to see us emerge from out of the gloom that they thought they had all to themselves. Abandoned watermills and farms provided brief topics for conversation as we passed by, regularly scanning the distant mist for that damned white horse.

Returning to Coxwold we opted for rejuvenating drinks in the very snug lounge of the Fauconberg Arms. Resisting the temptation to settle down for the afternoon we next visited Saint Michael and All Saints before driving the short distance to Byland Abbey. We had spotted its presence on a signpost in the centre of the village and thought it would be an interesting diversion. Neither of us had previously heard of this Cistercian Abbey (1135), ruined during the time of the dissolution in

November 1538. It truly is an awe inspiring set of remains, the size and affluence of the original Abbey must have been staggering. We were so pleased that we gambled and came to have a look.

With heavy rain falling we set the SatNav for Kilburn White Horse, determined to see this illusive feature on the now completely blanketed landscape! The 20 minute drive along the Oldstead Road and valley was fabulous, I haven’t enjoyed a drive so much since we followed the Pendle Witch Trail a few years ago. Arriving at a small car park located below the horse, we were surprised to see a few other cars. The rain was lashing down and it was blowing a gale as we started on the lung busting steps upwards through the cloud cover. We could see the legs of the

horse from our parking spot, this creature was huge! As we climbed, other bits came into view, but weather conditions, closeness and topography prevented us from seeing the animal in its entirety. At the very top, leaning into a gale and squinting through horizontal sheets of rain we saw slabs of greyish gravel, wisps of thick mist whipping by randomly obscuring vision. What were we doing here?

Dotted around the gravelly edge of the horse’s back and head, and within its grassy eye were little plaques indicating the scattering of ashes, some had fresh flowers attached. I thought (weather permitting) what a lovely place for the dead to lay. Having lived a life within sight of this white horse, what a wonderful memorial for your loved ones to remember you by each time they gaze upon the creature on the hillside.

On our descent, we passed a mother and father with youngster in tow struggling upwards, the man tightly gripping a small brown cardboard box, the woman a small bunch of flowers, how poignant. A few moments later, as we reached my little Fiesta, the rain stopped, the wind subsided, the sun came out. Perhaps the recently departed and soon to be scattered had considerable influence ‘upstairs’, or is that just wishful thinking?

We chose to have our evening meal at the 16th century New Inn in Huby, now a Cantonese restaurant as well as a bar. An excellent meal and quite authentic, we discovered in conversation with the owner that she was born in Vietnam from Chinese parents.

28/10/20 After testing positive for corona-virus, 310 have died in the UK. There are 522 active cases in the Harborough area, down 9 from last week. Good news that infections in Harborough are taking a downward turn, especially as the opposite seem to be taking place in the rest of the country.

Today was a dry day. After breakfast I rang the York Bird of Prey Centre, it was established in 2011 and based within the walled garden at the back of the hotel. We booked a half day falconry experience and hawk walk for later that morning. We were first to enter the site when it opened, after being given a blue rubber glove for our left hands, we were introduced to our falconer, Colin. Luckily, we were the only ones having booked the ‘Experience, others visitors were there for the flying displays and exhibits.

We were surprised how large the centre was and the number and variety of birds of prey they had on view. During the first part of of our ‘Experience’ we had a tour around the cages and were given the opportunity to hold the birds. Some could be stroked, others not without the risk of losing a finger or two! When the morning flying display was in session Sue and I were the ones selected to participate and we became landing platforms for a selection of birds, as they flew from roost to gloved hand for small tit-bits of meat. The largest and heaviest being a golden eagle. It was incredible to see the birds up close and a privilege to be trusted by such powerful creatures. We may have been just a factor in their feeding regime but the the experience felt extremely special. A cameo by a very cute Kookaburra was

very amusing, after an impressive flying display over and among the audience, he was given a dead chick which he refused to let go of. His prize triggered the natural instinct to eat and survive and despite the chick being swung in the air quite violently he refused to let go, with beak firmly clamped, he was taken back to his cage.

On completion of the display, Colin collected Kaiser, one of several Harris Hawks at the centre. The four of us were to spend the next hour wandering through the wood and meadow surrounding the hotel, the hawk flying from our leather gloved arms to perches in the surrounding trees and back again for tiny slabs of meat scraped onto thumb. Certainly one of the best walks we have been on, the Harrier displaying such trust by continually returning, freedom was so easily attainable, very humbling.

Returning to the centre we spent some time on our own, wandering among those cages that caught our earlier interest, reading information boards on habitat etc. until the afternoon show took place. As before, we became the landing perch for a different number of birds, the largest being the Chilean Blue Eagle.

Having planned afternoon cream tea at the hotel, our natural instincts to survive also kicked in and we left the display as the smaller birds were being flown. What a fabulous day we had. The staff were incredibly friendly, knowledgeable and passionate about the birds, who were well looked after.

As we had our cream tea in one of the hotel’s lounges, we got talking to another couple who were thankfully socially distanced at another table. During our conversation we discovered that they were from Fleetwood, yet seemed unconcerned that the town is currently in Tier 3 Lock-down and they were flouting lock-down rules:

  • People should try to avoid travelling outside the ‘very high’ area they are in, or entering a ‘very high’ area, other than for things like work, education, accessing youth services, to meet caring responsibilities or if they are in transit
  • People should avoid staying overnight in another part of the UK if they are resident in a ‘very high’ area, or avoid staying overnight in a ‘very high’ area if they are resident elsewhere

It doesn’t take many to have a similar attitude to negate the efforts of those who are genuinely trying to put an end to this pandemic! We made our exit.

We finished off the afternoon with a drive to Huby and a short circular walk from the village, aptly taking in the cemetery. On route we passed one of the many ‘boxes’ selling local produce, from one we bought two large bags of walnuts, yummy! The walk was just a short stroll of two and a half miles and was accomplished in slightly over an hour. The sun was setting as we drove headed back to the hotel.

29/10/20 After testing positive for corona-virus, 280 have died in the UK. There are 525 active cases in the Harborough area, down 28 from last week. West Yorkshire will be placed under Tier 3 corona-virus restrictions from Sunday morning. Children in France aged six and over will have to wear face masks in the classroom to keep schools open. That sounds a very sensible move to me.

Our walk today began at Kirkham Priory set in the beautiful Derwent valley. The thirty minute drive was in steady rain which unfortunately continued throughout the day.

Crossing the River Derwent via the ancient and narrow stone bridge, we began our ramble by ascending a steep incline through dense woodland. Today, the only community we passed through was the small but picturesque village of Crambe, its name derived from the Anglo-Saxon word crumb, meaning “a bend in the river“.

The first half of our route was mostly through undulating fields, distant views being obscured by the dreary day and constant light rain. Passing through one field on a descending slope, I turned around to discover I had the close company of a dozen or more sheep. They had obviously mistook me for the farmer and were baaing loudly for food? I had to smile at the quizzical looks on their faces as Sue and I stepped over a stile to leave them behind, hungry and confused. E by gum, that wer a rite laf.

The final leg of our trek was along the east bank of the River Derwent. The rain of yesterday and today had turned the trail into a treacherous hazard, the danger of slipping and sliding into the river was a a constant worry. With eyes constantly scanning the ground for sure footing there was little time to take in the remarkable riverside vista we were passing through. We did manage to stop for a moment to gaze at the prominent 16th century Howsham Hall and grounds. It is presently up for sale and probably a bargain at just over £4 million.

Afterwards, still raining, the track became more and more unpleasant as we neared the Priory. Reaching the bridge we were grateful to be standing on solid medieval stone once more. We tarried briefly to peer through the gloom at the priory ruins but the lure of the Stone Trough Inn sited on the hillside above proved too much and we soon ensconced ourselves inside for drinks and a dry seat.

On return to the hotel, we had planned another walk around the nearby village of Huby, but bedraggled and wet we opted for the warmth of our accommodation and a sumptuous early evening meal.

30/10/20 After testing positive for corona-virus, 274 have died in the UK. There are 482 active cases in the Harborough area, down 65 from last week.

There was no rain today. The forty minutes drive to Helmsley was a dry one! Our aim was to visit the impressive ruins of one of England’s most powerful Cistercian monasteries, Rievaulx Abbey. We were to follow the same route that the Medieval monks walked from the Abbey to Helmsley.

We left my Fiesta in the car-park that serves both the 900 year old medieval fortress, Helmsley Castle and the starting point of the Rievaulx Trail and set off accompanied by several other socially distanced parties. This is a well trodden path so my GPS was relatively redundant, but it still bleeped reassuringly at each twist and turn in the trail to confirm that were were on track. The path gave great views of the castle and the dale until we descended steeply through a series of individually named woods, resplendent in their bright autumn colours. Arriving at the abbey sited at the head of the dale, we satisfied ourselves with chocolate and ginger beer drinks in the cafe, seated at a table which gave magnificent views of this historical structure.

Thirst quenched and photos taken, moving on we completed our circuit by returning to Helmsley through the pretty sunken valley of Beck Dale. Today it is used principally as a location for pheasant shooting and indeed we came across a shooting party returning to their Range Rovers with dogs in tow. Throughout the dale we came across hundreds of squawking, scattering birds, blissfully unaware that their days were numbered.

Back in Helmsley we spent a couple of hours roaming the streets of this popular charming Yorkshire town, visited its Friday open air market and had a foray into Duncombe Park, overlooked by the castle.

Dusk was descending as we returned to the Burn Hotel. We ate our evening meal at the Jaipur Spice, the ‘winner of the best curry house in Yorkshire and Humberside‘ in the Bangaladeshi Catering Awards, located just outside Easingwold.

31/10/20 After testing positive for corona-virus, 326 have died in the UK. There are 415 active cases in the Harborough area, down 186 from last week.

On a foul and miserable day we checked out of the hotel and drove through torrential, driving rain, whipped up by 50mph gusts of wind back to Harborough. A very unpleasant journey made worse by a strategic detour to avoid a 45 minute delay on the MI caused by an accident on the notorious Catthorpe Intersection. AND to cap a rubbish day, it was announced during the evening that a second national lock-down will be imposed across England from midnight on Thursday with all nonessential shops, restaurants, pubs and leisure facilities to close for at least four weeks. This means that Jamie and Ruth’s trip to Sweden next week will not happen and neither will my visit to Holmfirth and Norah Batty’s Cottage with friends.

I suppose another lock-down was inevitable, it takes common sense and co-operation to defeat this virus and we have created a society that tolerates differing points of view, even those that are counterproductive to the greater good. The nation is split by factions that cannot see beyond their own individualism and the right to tread their own path. The Welsh have a ‘Firewall’, the Scots a ‘Route Map’, Northern Ireland has ‘Restrictions’ and England has ‘Three Tiers’, all have slightly different criteria, politically designed to express their distinctiveness. In reality, it is just confusing and encourages non-compliance.

When will our politicians understand?

It can be done: on Saturday, it was Taiwan’s 202nd consecutive day without a single locally transmitted case.

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