At Last, the Summer Wine!

Over the last couple of weeks both Sue and I have been hectically occupied,  not a day has gone by where Sue hasn’t scooted off on one of her U3A rambles or group meetings and I have been tackling those jobs in the garden that I had been successfully putting off all summer. First, the fir and privet hedge along the drive got a haircut, quickly followed by the rear garden Leylandii who received a neat trim and severe topping. In all, over one gruelling week, 12 large builders sacks of trimmings were taken to the recycling site and a mammoth pile of branches was reduced to 8 sacks of logs and stored in the greenhouse to dry out over winter. However, such late autumn beavering has come at a cost; my usually reliable hedge trimmers gave up the ghost and had to be replaced with a more powerful and sturdier machine, the wheel on my barrow collapsed under the weight of trimmings and replenished by a much more robust model from Jewson, while my sliding mitre saw used to cut logs also died in a splutter of sparks and acrid fumes to be substituted with a second-hand model from eBay. The stress exerted on seldom-used muscles, ligaments and bones ensured that my ageing body clicked into stiff mode, punctuating my evenings with random bouts of cramp whenever I foolishly attempted to reposition to a more comfortable repose. Unfortunately, eBay does not yet have replacement body parts, not even Amazon!

On the 4th of November, I received the much-vaunted Covid-19 booster jab. I received a text at 9.30 pm the previous evening inviting me and I chose a slot just 12 hours later. Sue had to wait another 24 hours for her summons and she also chose the following day.

It was on the morning of Bonfire Night that I began round two of ‘put-off’ garden jobs. As the hedging was nearing completion I had ordered 4 tonnes of gravel to replace the ‘thinning’ areas on the more used sections of the driveway, it arrived in 4 large, one-tonne builder’s sacks. Eager to test the new wheelbarrow I set about the task of spreading the fresh pebbles, the last two sacks were completed with the help of ‘volunteer’ Jim and proved to be an excellent substitute for his daily visit to the gym. As we worked, Mike (from next door) was using the pit in my garage to work on his Austin Healey and provided some useful distraction during our lengthy ‘rest’ periods. However, as Jim arrived with his two dogs, Shoby raced into the garage to greet me only to disappear headfirst down into the pit. Luckily the ladder must have broken her fall as she got away with just a cut lip, it could have been far worse!

With hedges manicured and the driveway refurbished I moved onto the swimming pool. I have decided to fill it in and replace it with a more ‘useful’ amenity. Unused over the last two years, it has needed some major ‘TLC’ throughout ‘lockdown’ and rather than spend a large amount of money to bring it up to scratch, it seems sensible to install a multi-purpose facility that will be used throughout the full year and also add value to the house. It will eventually be replaced by: garden room/pod, office, BBQ, pizza oven, sauna, hot tub, or a combination of. It is yet to be decided.

I set about dismantling the pool on a damp morning when Sue was off with her Nature Group looking for fungi,  Sarah arrived mid-morning and dropped Mia off (to keep me company) on her way to visit a local farm park with Alice and Charlotte. I had removed the plastic liner the previous day leaving the metal side panels exposed, it took three trips to relocate it to the recycling centre. Before cutting away a small section of the panelling using an angle grinder, I removed several barrow loads of sand from the base of the pool and began making a growing pile on the patio. I will re-use this sand when laying slabs around whatever new structure appears later.  Using a sledgehammer and pick-axe I then attacked the concrete collar surrounding the pool. At first, I had early success, but with an increasing stubbornness to my blows and the start of the rain, I decided to call it a day and took Mia for a much more enjoyable walk. Any further disassembling would have to wait until I return from my much-delayed trip to Holmfirth.

I spent the afternoon bottling the wine which had been settling out over the last two weeks.  In all, the grapes have produced 21 litres of Red wine and 21 honey blended Rosé. An average year would produce around 70 litres of wine, it is an indication of how little sun and warmth we had over the summer months.

LotSW-(12th Nov.) From an original party of four (myself, Sean, Jim C & Paul) booked for a long weekend to Holmfirth with accommodation in Nora Batty’s cottage for the spring of 2019, there had been two additions (Jeremy & Jim H). Due to pandemic restrictions, this was our 5th attempt at rescheduling. Unfortunately, Nora’s doesn’t sleep six so I had arranged for the two extra tourists to stay in Bell Cottage sited just a couple of hundred metres away.

Eagerly we left Harborough at 10 am in two cars, meeting up for refreshments shortly after leaving the M1 north of Sheffield, before carrying on the short distance to Holmfirth. We had lunch and further refreshments in the Elephant and Castle, conveniently situated close by both sets of accommodation. We had driven through drizzle from Leicestershire, but here in Yorkshire the rain had become much more determined so it was with just a little reluctance that we deviated from the planned itinerary; an orientation walk around Holmfirth’s Heritage Trail. We grudgingly chose to sample more northern brews in the warmth and comfort of the hostelry.

By 3 pm, the rain had not abated and in a rapidly descending gloom, our group split up and checked into their respective accommodations. As expected, Nora Batty’s was delightfully stuffed with memorabilia from the TV series (Last of the Summer Wine) and it was some time before we stopped seeking out photos and props used during filming and settled down to watch England play Canada in a women’s rugby international. Due to the steepness and narrowness of the streets, Jeremy and Jim H had some difficulty in finding their cottage and got rather wet before successfully locating their less famous but equally comfortable lodgings.  We met up again at 6.30 pm in Nora’s before wandering across the street to dine at the Mezze Bar & Restaurant to enjoy what we all enthused as, ‘a superb meal that just kept coming.’

We returned to Nora’s in time for further refreshments and to watch the England v Albania soccer international. By halftime England were 5:0 up and it was no contest, so we switched over to watch the Wales v Fiji rugby international before again visiting the Elephant & Castle, retiring late to our respective beds.


LotSW-(13th Nov.) Thankfully the rain of the previous day had departed and a beautiful sunny day greeted us. Our group met up again at 9.30 am for breakfast at the Wrinkled Stocking, sited just next door to Nora’s. After a substantial English Breakfast, we made our way to the pavement outside Sid’s Cafe for 11 am where we met the ‘Summer Magic‘, Last of the Summer Wine Tour. For the next hour, we were entertained in a delightful, hand-built charabanc to a 10-mile journey around the film locations used in the filming of the world record-breaking BBC comedy and incorporated some of the beautiful scenery found in the foothills of the Yorkshire Pennines, all suitably described by our driver Colin.

From bus to foot, our nostalgic journey continued with a ramble, first taking in St. John the Evangelist churchyard to see Bill Owen (Compo) and Peter Sallis’s (Clegg) graves in Upperthong. The graves themselves have been adorned with trinkets and offerings left by fans of the programme. From here we headed up the steep hillside to admire views of the town below and its surrounding rugged landscape. Making our way through several copses along the summit we headed towards the small village of Netherthong and our destination for lunch. The Pure North Cider Press is located in the grounds of our 200-year-old farmhouse and contains a small shop and cafe selling a wide variety of ciders brewed on the premises as well as serving food. Here we sampled all of the brews and had lunch. Overall opinion on the ciders sampled was that few of them were to our liking, most seemed to have weird flavour combinations for a cider and some were just unpleasant. However, the food was good. We returned to Holmfirth by way of the road.

We reached Nora’s place in time to watch England take on Australia at Twickenham (5.30 pm ko). Satisfyingly, the Aussies were beaten 32:15. Afterwards, we ambled to nearby Poppa Piccolinos for our evening meal. Though Italian cuisine I chose the Malaysian dish of Beef Rendang, the chefs are Malaysian and did not disappoint. Stomachs full, we moved onto a bar in the town centre. This proved to be a bit of a mistake. Packed with ‘trendy’ locals and very loud music, we were forced to shout to continue a conversation. We stayed for one drink before asking the bouncer on the door to recommend a hostelry more in keeping with our age and needs, and we moved on. Long gone are the days when appearing to be trendy by standing holding a drink and screaming at the top of your voice seemed cool. With the ringing in our ears slowly diminishing we finished the evening sitting comfortably in a quiet pub with a fine selection of beers.

LotSW-(14th Nov.) Despite being briefly woken at 6.31 am by a 5-second vibration of my bed and a violent rattling of Nora’s crockery, precariously displayed on the dresser in the room, we all slept in until nearly 10 am, meeting up again in the Wrinkled Stocking for scrambled egg on toast and lots of coffee. Though Jeremy in Bell Cottage had also been woken by this Yorkshire tectonic plate movement, the rest of our party had been oblivious of the 3.7 Richter Scale shaking, whose epicentre according to the internet was near Ripon.

To refresh ourselves we took a short, late morning wander around the town before driving the short distance to Digley Reservoir, situated within the Peak District National Park and sitting just below the petite Bilberry Reservoir. After parking up we left Jim H to rest in the car (yesterday’s hike had aggravated his knees) and followed a well-trodden 1.5-mile circular path around the water. The air was still, allowing the surrounding forest and hills to be reflected perfectly in its mirror-like surface and a late morning mist brought a hauntingly mysterious beauty to the scene. We passed many other hikers and walkers on our circumnavigation, all engaged us in pleasantries and some in a longer conversation, this is Yorkshire and the locals are very friendly and inquisitive. Returning to the cars we woke Jim from a nap and drove to the White Horse Inn in Jackson Bridge, where we had a very traditional Sunday lunch with the most authentic and tasty Yorkshire puddings you could ever want. It was on our itinerary because it is where the main characters would stop and enjoy a pint or two in the series.

Returning to Nora’s, the rest of the afternoon and early evening was spent eating a wide selection of cheese and crackers with copious glasses of wine, watching yet more rugby on the TV. When all broadcast sport petered out on the ‘gogglebox’ we made our way to The Nook Brewhouse just a few steps away.  The Brewhouse stands on a site to the rear of the Nook where a previous brewery dating from 1754 once stood, it is a traditional pub serving very acceptable beers, many of which we sampled. I had attempted to book tickets to see ‘Scouting for Girls‘ in the nearby Picturedrome for our evening entertainment but unfortunately, the concert had long been sold out. However, by 11 pm it seemed many in the audience had chosen to finish off their evening at the Nook and we were treated to random songs from the gig. It was just after midnight when we retired to our accommodation, eventually crawling into bed around 2 am after finishing off the wine leftover from earlier.

LotSW-(15th Nov.) Curiously we were all awake, showered and packed to leave our cottages by 9 am! It was a nice touch that the owners of Nora Batty’s had left a complimentary Nora Batty Teddy Bear for me to take home and enjoy. Half an hour later we were sat in Sid’s Cafe, often featured in the  ‘Last Of The Summer Wine. Though a full English Breakfast wasn’t on the menu, we managed to cajole most of its elements onto the slices of toast we had ordered.

Stomachs full, we drove a couple of miles to Holmfirth Vineyard, located on the south-facing and very steep hillside overlooking the town. I had booked a guided tour here and it’s where we spent the morning discovering the colourful history of the vineyard, the growing popularity of English wines and learnt how they produce their award-winning wines. Of course, we finished with a tasting session, sampling their very young White, Rosé and Red. Quite a few of our party were impressed enough to buy a few bottles. We completed our nostalgic saga to Yorkshire with a chat over coffees before heading south to Harborough and normality!

The British sitcom, Last of the Summer Wine was originally broadcast by the BBC from 1973 to 2010 over 31 series and is shown and loved worldwide, so it wasn’t surprising that no matter what time of day we emerged from Nora’s front door, at the top of the steps we would be faced with a variety of its fans, taking photos and eager to pose against the railings and frontage. Cheekily, on each occasion, Sean would invite them in for a tour of the property, of which none refused and it was usually left to myself to conduct these awe-struck devotees around the property. They were all very appreciative, though I couldn’t shake a Korean couple’s from the belief (seeded by Sean) I was the ‘love-child’ of Nora and Howard!!!

It seems appropriate  when summing up this trip to Yorkshire by quoting Jeremy: When asked if he had read the itinerary I had sent him, he replied, “No need, as always we will eat too much, drink too much, watch some rugby and you will try to educate us.” Yep, that about says it all!

The week of return saw me attacking the demolition of the swimming pool again with fervour. I have decided to substitute my morning exercise and bike ride by spending 3 hours each morning on the task until it is completed, leaving the afternoons to recover from my exertions, usually listening to music and falling asleep.


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