Sunday, 24 July 2016

Black Sheep and Wensleydale

Friday we saw the amaze-anti turned down somewhat. Our last full day of the holiday and our first stop was the Black Sheep Brewery in Masham.  Smaller than I thought it would be yet no less impressive for it we arrived an hour early for the next available tour so took advantage of the restaurant and beer tokens you get on entry.

The Portobello mushrooms with blue Wensleydale Sauce were out of this world but I was glad of the deep cut fries that I shared with Simon as they weren't particularly filling.  We washed them down with our free three thirds each. I had a microbrewery third chosen randomly at the bar by Simon, a blonde brew and the dark Riggwelter which I later found out meant 'rolling over' and at 8.5% I can see why. It was my favourite being smoother and having a less bitter taste than the others.

The tour takes just over an hour and is well worth doing.  The family history is interesting with Black Sheep being set up by Paul Theakston who is part of the Theakston brewery family who still have a brewery in Masham also.
We'd not visited Masham itself so far so drove into the centre and had a wander around the town square and visited the church. Simon had his wits scared half out of here when a horse came up behind him and nudged him whilst he was taking a photo.  We had locally produced Brymor  ice cream from the local cafe which was just lovely and so creamy.

We headed back to the cottage for a few hours and to see where the owners recommended eating for an evening meal then headed out to The Three Horseshoes in Wensley itself another place we had only driven through thus far.  The pub was bristling with folks, one of the locals remarking to me that they'd never seen it so busy. On leaving later on we spotted the 'happy hour' sign which not only explained the pubs popularity but also why the 2nd round of identical drinks cost nearly £3 more than the first.  Had a lovely veggie pizza which was huge and I ended up asking for a doggy bag and Simon a steak and ale pie he said was out of this world. Well he would have said that if he was one for superlatives but he isn't so I'm translating for him :-)

We took the long road home over the tops and parked up on the top of the Moors to watch the swifts and swallows again. I sat and finished off the pizza whilst overlooking Wensleydale in one direction and Coverdale in the other.
Soundtrack today was Springsteen then Simon's shuffle which included Bad Company, The Kinks, Dr Feelgood and Echo and the Bunnymen.

Haven't managed to find out what this is yet but by its weather beaten appearance it looks very very old
St Mary the Virgin, Masham

Friday, 22 July 2016

'That's easy for you to say!

So we've somehow managed to get to Thursday in our holiday already. The week is flying by. 

Today we decided to take things easy and mostly chill around the cottage. My phone is warning me it's almost out of storage space so Simon downloaded my photos to his laptop and cleared my phone of the unnecessary apps and other bits and pieces that were slowing it down.  I did a bit more embroidery.

We decided to venture out mid afternoon to go look at Jervaulx Abbey which is just this side of Masham so about a 15 min drive away. We've passed it every day whilst out and about so had it on our list of places to visit.

As you enter the grounds from the roadside, and walk over the grass to the ruins the small part of the Abbey you can see from the wrought iron gate barely prepares for what is to follow.  The site is way larger than first impressions show and is a meandering wander through ruinous rooms carpeted with grass and walls adorned with wild flowers. It truly is a magical place and so romantic. The perfect place for an outdoor summer wedding.

That the Abbey is privately owned and not administered by a heritage organisation is apparent by the arbitrary use of crumbled wall and pillar sections stacked upon each other to make the boundary wall of the site. It's as sacrilegious as it is enchanting.  As a civil engineer Simon was appalled that some of the remaining great walls of the Abbey are  supported with very little in the way of weight bearing stones with very thin sections supporting gigantic pieces of wall above.  The site is free to visit and open from dawn til dusk. The literature about the Abbey says that it's the proceeds from the  provision of an honesty box that is the only source of funding for the upkeep of the Abbey which is much in keeping with the promoted air of romance, although I did read somewhere that grants from English Heritage have been forthcoming in the past. 

A true spectacle in the Yorkshire countryside,  this corner of the county has produced daily delights which had made our holiday truly magical and a perfect foil to the distressing events reported around the world on a daily basis at the moment. Next week I will be back to reality with my job at the hospital and unprecedented political debacles abounding but for now it's good to unwind, relax and partake in some much needed recharging of the human batteries.

After our lovely walk through the Abbey we visited the tea shop adjacent. I had the most wonderful piece of sticky toffee cake. I'd have bought multiple slices to bring back with me except I don't want to blow my weight loss efforts completely this holiday. Washed down with organic Dandelion and Burdock whilst discussing with Simon alternative ideas for the distribution of land and hereditary laws, which was quite amusing.

On the way back we stopped off at Holy Trinity, Coverham another little ancient church we'd passed daily. It's set back from the road amongst a cluster of trees, it's approach by foot hidden until you almost touch the stonework.  Norman built with its square tower it has some amazing stained glass windows but the surprise and piece de resistance for me was the pristine tiled sections behind the altar and under one stained glass window.  The tiles looked as new as anything yet the border declared they were installed in 1878.  Stunningly beautiful and well worth the visit alone.

On leaving the church and wandering around the graveyard I noticed that my necklace had come undone and the small hand made heart pendant had fallen off. I was upset as it was a present from Simon on my last birthday. It took some doing but we eventually found it nestling amongst the grass. I was so relieved. The silver chain had snapped close to the clasp so I'll need to replace that when I get home.

I spent a lot of time in the conservatory this evening just watching the rabbits playing in the field their little white tails bobbing up and down. The swallows and swifts swooping and gliding outside the window are enchanting. I will be sad to go home on Saturday.   I'd love to see these views in the different seasons so hopefully we can book a long weekend in the autumn. Despite getting out and about every day it has been the most relaxing holiday ever with so much to do just a short distance away. We will leave having a list of things we didn't get to do but that's ok because we will be definitely be back.

Today's soundtrack was Pauline's shuffle including Future Kings of Spain, TV Smith, The La's and Jason Isbell.

Thursday, 21 July 2016


We've had a brilliant week so far but today was the day I had really been waiting for.  Forecast for light rain we packed our Kagools and suncream and set off in a southerly direction on the hour's drive to York.

We used the park and ride and got the bus to the station then wandered down to the National Railway Museum. The museum is a great resource housing some amazing trains and carriages. The Mallard, an engine and carriage of a Japanese Bullet train, old Royal Mail train and a Euro Star carriage amongst them.  There's loads of memorabilia too, signage, furniture, stained glass panels and even a decorative cast iron toilet screen.  We enjoyed wandering around although it was very hot and we only lasted about an hour before heading into York for some light refreshments. 

We had a leisurely lunch at a small cafe called Burr which I'd highly recommend. The falafel wraps were lovely and they have an extensive home made cake section which Simon partook of.

We did a bit of browsing and some clothes trying on but that didn't last too long as it was way too hot for those sort of shenanigans so we found a pub and indulged in more liquid refreshments. It had greyed over and looked like rain and the covered courtyard of the Old White Swan was a perfect choice.

On one of my solo visits to York a few years back I'd done the Snickelway trail which follows around 3 miles of ginnels and alleyways throughout the town. Some of them had revealed hidden gems and the pub was right next to one which housed a 12th Century church that I had happened upon on that visit.    Holy Trinity on Goodramgate is one of 45 mediaeval churches in the parish of York and has rare stained glass windows the oldest dating back to 1470. It's the closest you will get to a post-reformation church.  Since my last visit there has been the addition of a huge bell situated outside the main entrance with the words 'Ring for peace' carved into its wooden frame. I must investigate how and why it's there.

We had another wander heading towards the Minister and found the entrance to the gardens of the Treasurer's House which are open to the public and truly are an oasis of peace and quiet.  We sat there for a while soaking up the sun, the threatened rain showers having failed to materialise. We then headed off through the shambles in search of a needlework shop for some black embroidery thread as a finishing touch to the cacti designs. However that little quest was fruitless so we made our way to The Hole in the Wall pub for, yes, more liquid refreshment and an early tea.  Its become my traditional evening meal pub whilst visiting York,  and the food is good so was keen to take Simon.

We got back to the cottage around 7.30 so had a full day out with my York cravings satisfied until the next time.

Today's soundtrack was mainly alcoholic ramblings with a few ouches thrown in here and there.

Forbidden Pleasures

We had a slow start to what looked to be an even hotter day than yesterday.  I started the 2nd cacti cross before heading out for today's adventure.
Our destination was The Forbidden Corner.  Set in acres of stunning countryside Forbidden Corner is a myriad of trails, tunnels, staircases and ramparts. All are littered with statues, sculptures, fountains, giants, devils, skeletons, crystals, animals and revolving floors for you to find and tick off the accompanying leaflet. Beware though none of them are in order and for each trail or passageway there are three others you could choose. 
The fantasy playground was built by C R Armstrong as a folly to entertain his friends and family but was soon opened to the public due to overwhelming demand. Additional parts have been added over the years making this a truly extensive treasure trail and no expense spared on the buildings and artefacts littered throughout.
It really is an amazing place, suitable for all the family. I was a bit worried it would be child-centric and that we would look out of place without any kids with us but that was totally unfounded as there were people of all ages enjoying the adventure. You just need to be young at heart and have a sense of fun.
It took us just shy of three hours to complete the challenge although we were short of 4 ticks from our list. To say Simon is a completist is an understatement yet he was happy to let the last few go. Once out through the exit though there were still a few surprises to find.
Forbidden Corner can be found at Coverdale in North Yorkshire.
We headed out to Leyburn to get some supplies before making our way back to the cottage to put our feet up for a few hours.
For tea we headed into Middleham and ate at Richard III.  The interior was very shabby and the d├ęcor littered with photos of successful horses from the local stables. The home cooked food was really nice though and it was a good way to end a brilliant day.

Today's soundtrack was mainly laughter.

Tuesday, 19 July 2016


Was up fairly early so finished the first of the cross stitch cacti.  Didn't feel so good with a poorly tummy so we got off to a slow start and left for a planned trip to Richmond about 1pm when I started to feel better. We parked alongside the river which looked so welcoming on what turns out to be the hottest day of the year thus far. 

We walked up the steep winding road to the castle passing lovely cottages.  The castle was built just after the battle of Hastings by Alan of Brittany, a relative of William the Conqueror to strengthen the Norman hold on the north of England.  Overlooking both the river and the town it afforded some cracking views of the surrounding area.  I particularly loved the garden and it was easy to imagine courtiers relaxing there on a similarly sunny day in years past. The garden is still well maintained although full of flowers and the area which would once have grown vegetables to feed the residents of the castle and herbs for medicinal purposes is now a very neatly manicured lawn.

Afterwards we wandered into the town for a late lunch and settled on the Red House Hotel.  I had a gorgeous halloumi in beer batter sandwich with roast vegetables, fries and coleslaw. I'm not too keen on the current trend to serve things in brioche buns which are too crunchy and not easy to eat. I'd have preferred a soft bap but other than that it was lovely and washed down well with a Golden Sheep bitter shandy

When we got back to the cottage we drove past to see what was further up the hill.  The village is literally two streets at right angles to each other.  Beyond that is glorious Yorkshire moorland full of sheep and nesting birds and we could see a lot of the route we'd travelled earlier in the day.

We turned round to come back to the cottage which is when I noticed the red telephone box we'd passed on the way up. The other side had a sign saying 'Book Swap'. I was very excited as I've seen these things posted on Facebook but never encountered one in real life before so once we parked up I picked up my phone and camera and wandered up there to take some pictures.

It was a delightful surprise and the perfect way to finish the day out.

We watched The Intern after tea with Ann Hathaway and Robert De Niro Alot of De Niro's recent films are about the challenges facing older people post-career and family raising and decry a bygone age of chivalry and snappy dressing. The Intern touches on those as well as the role the more mature person has to play in a society so geared up to youthfulness. A lovely gentle watch.

Today's soundtrack was the Pauline ipod shuffle which included Skinny Lister, Jason Isbell, John Fulbright and Don Henley.

Sunday, 17 July 2016

Mostly Masham

Today started off dull but quickly brightened up.  Headed off to Masham for their Steam Rally.  Lots of stalls selling strange and wonderful things. Bought a cast iron  rail sign from Sheffield for our next door neighbours as a thank you for feeding our cats while we are away. They are big rail enthusiasts and have a few such plaques in their home bar already.
Two stall holders stood out. one chap collected oil cans complete with model of the Tin Man from the Wizard of Oz. He was impressed I got the connection. Or maybe more that I was the only person all day who mentioned it. He must have had a couple of thousand different oil cans there which are a mere fraction of the 15,000 that he owns.
The other chap I spoke to collected gramophones. He played a couple of his cylinders which he explained were made from wax with grooves in and worked with a stylus much like vinyl records do. Like vinyl they are easily damaged and also prone to cracking.  Given that both systems he played were over 100 years old they sounded remarkably clear.
Took loads of pics of the vintage vehicles, fire engines, motorbikes, trucks and caravans but they need downloading from my camera so I'll add some when we get home.
Wandered back to the cottage mid afternoon and so started some embroidery for Becky and Rob's spare bedroom (cacti designs to fit their Mexican theme!) whilst Simon listened to the golf on the radio.
Made pasta with pesto, mushrooms and parmesan with garlic flat bread for tea which we ate in the conservatory while watching the rabbits in the garden chasing each other around and counting the different birds that were visiting the garden.  So far we've had sparrows, wood pigeons, starlings, wagtails, doves, blue tits, swallows and swifts.
Simon proceeded to whoop me at Backgammon. Boo.
Tonight's soundtrack was mainly Ryan Adams.

Saturday, 16 July 2016

Holidays at last!

After 3 months of work, study and house renovation we are finally on a week's holiday. I guess we could have chosen anywhere. A last minute break in Italy, Spain or the English Lake District did appeal but when I cleared my head and listened to my inner voice I was longing for some North Yorkshire countryside. No idea why but driving over to Wensleydale/Coverdale I was getting the big feels in my tummy which I'm taking as a good sign.

The non-working  'farm' cottage we have rented is delightful. Just the right size for the two of us although it sleeps 4. With a beautiful small entrance conservatory with stunning views over the nearby hills we're already planning our first trek from here.

This weekend there is a Steam Rally just down the road and we passed a few vintage lorries and tractors on the way here who were signing out for the night. I think that will be tomorrow's excursion. Hopefully it will include a beer tent :-)

Simon, who apparently can't live without music,  cough,  has bought some ipod shuffles each containing various play lists. Tonight we're  chilling listening to Bruce Springsteen on shuffle and demolishing the 3 bottles of wine we picked up en route.


Monday, 30 May 2016

Meeting Bob

It's funny how things turn out.  I like to take a photo or two when I go out on my walks around the town but short of a pink shoe on a wall there wasn't anything that inspired me today.  I missed a turn off on my route which would make the walk shorter so deviated towards the end and headed home from a different direction than I intended. I'm so glad I did. 

There was an old chap at the top of the lane near our road who said hello and remarked on the view. We got chatting and he said he was born in Dronfield 74 years ago. I said he must have seen some changes in that time. What followed was a delightful local history lesson. 

He told me that the place we were standing used to be called Scrater's Lane, scrater's being an old word for 'at the bottom of the tree' as in 'very poor' and the lane is where the poorest people of Dronfield used to live.  Here's a picture of the lane now.  Behind the hedge to the left of the photo are a few large detached houses. It's quite a little secluded enclave and so very different to how Bob remembers it.


There's a house at the bottom end of the lane called The Monkey House and I have vivid memories of pushing the girls in their prams up there and stopping to look at the cage of monkeys they had in the garden. The house is under different ownership now, has been spruced up and the monkeys are long gone. People usually think we are making it up when we tell them about it, it was very strange thing to have in the middle of our small town.

Bob walked me to the top of the lane which is adjacent to the top of our street and told me that our road used to be a field with horses. Bob grew up with one of my neighbours Frank, and he remembers when one of the horses bit Frank on the chest when he was around 7 years old. Amazingly Frank now lives almost on the exact same spot so I guess he wasn't too traumatised by it.
There are two really old cottages at the top of our road that I must have passed a thousand times over the past 30 years. I knew one used to be a local shop as someone pointed out the thick glass windows in the wall which were serving windows. What I hadn't paid attention to was the boarded up window and door and the dilapidated shop sign which were still there. The sign said 'SMELTS', and if you get really close up to it you can still see the faint outline of the writing.I'd walked passed it so many times and just not seen it. I can only guess my focus was on the post box when going down the hill, and on looking forward to getting to the top of the steep hill when climbing up it! It just goes to show that looking at things from a different vantage point from normal can be quite revealing. Here's what is left of the shop now turned into two cottages. The cottages are privately owned and it's a wonder that the owners haven't bricked the old frontage up by now.  I'm really glad they haven't though and hope that future owners leave it too as a sign from an almost forgotten past.

I was such a pleasure to meet Bob, as much for it being unexpected as for the stories that he told me.   I learned a little more about my locality and  got my interesting photos in the end. 

Tuesday, 10 May 2016

Tempus Fugit!!

It flies, it flies

Can hardly believe how fast the past few weeks have gone.

I've been so busy.

Done some pottering on the house which is good. We have the electricians in today until the end of the week. Quite excited to get this bit done because then we can go almost full steam ahead on painting and creating and seeing some of the fruits of our labours.  Plasterer is booked for next week and he is going to do the rendering at the front of the house too, which is a relief as the first chap never got back to us.   

My very final Heritage assignment was submitted last week amidst much jubilation on my behalf.  Tomorrow I start revising for the exam my last hurdle to get over this year.  Then I can assign all of these lovely books to the bookcase where they shall sit and look pretty gathering dust.

I received a very thoughtful gift from Lily a few weeks ago that I had meant to post about. I saw the book when it first came out and meant to get around to buying it but like a lot of things it slipped my mind. So it was a delightful present to receive.  There are some great tips in there for would-be runners like myself, not just about running, but about nutrition and having the right mental attitude. A very useful gift indeed. 

The end of April saw two wonderful gigs. The first being Richmond Fontaine at the Greystones in Sheffield, which, despite being about 7 miles away from me,  is fast becoming my local in that it's the pub I've spent most time in this year.  All band related I quickly add.  I don't often go to gigs on my own but sometimes there is someone who I really don't want to miss so I bite the bullet.  It's times like these that mobile phones and social media come into their own, something to do in the interval when everyone else there seems to be in a group and there's no-one to chat to.  Anyway, back to the gig.  The support was Fernando, a stocky grey haired troubadour  originating from Argentina.  He played acoustic guitar backed up by Daniel Eccles on electric guitar. A worthy support with some great tunes and lots of interesting banter between songs.  Best part of the set was Fernando and Dan really digging into the music with an intense face to face play down.

Willy Vlautin

Dan then joined the line up of Richmond Fontaine for their set which consisted of 3/4 of the new album 'You can't go back if there's nothing to go back to' and some back catalogue tunes.  It was great to see Willy Vlautin, Sean Oldham and Freddy Trujillo who I'd seen in the same venue last year in their Delines incarnation.  Whilst Willy writes songs for both the bands, and his subject matter is the down and out and less than angelic there's a very different feel to each of the bands.  Willy is lead vocals for Richmond Fontaine, I love his voice, which has a  kind of southern, slow, adolescent vibe to it.  As well as the stories in the songs there are plenty of anecdotes in between to keep us smiling.  Rumour has it this was their penultimate tour, with a few last dates coming our way in October. I'm sad I only really just got going with them, although finding some consolation in the hope of some more Delines shows in the future and happy that Sheffield is one of their go back to places.

The second gig of the month saw the return of the much missed Milburn.  A local Sheffield band who parted company around 8 years ago.  Any subsequent gig that any ex-member of Milburn undertook would hear the crowd shouting 'Milburn, Milburn, so it was thrilling that they decided to do a four night residency at the 02 in Sheffield.  Becky and Rob went to all four shows, Simon made three, and despite me having tickets for two I decided to restrict it to just the one night. It was a great night too, so good to hear all the old songs and Sheffield celebrated so well. It was great to see the smiles on the lads faces too as they performed on stage, so obviously humbled and happy that the Milburn legacy has lasted so long.   

Work has been extremely busy and tiring recently. We are way behind with letters, which means those of us who are fairly up to date have to help out other departments.  I don't mind helping, sometimes its a nice change to type about  people with  ailments other than arthritis. It's slower work  getting used to new voices and new terminology and consequently a lot more intense.  We barely come up for breath and I swear our little fingers have smoke coming from them some days. Perhaps not surprising I've not felt up to blogging much recently, sometimes the last thing you want to do when you get home is sit in front of a computer screen again. Still, tomorrow sees the end of this shift pattern although it will be straight into revision mode for the next lot of days off.

Just three more weeks though!!

Wednesday, 20 April 2016

And on the house front!

We have most of the prep work done on the house now.  I sanded down the woodwork in the living room at the weekend, and both me and Becky have done some painting.  The airing cupboard, under stairs cupboard and back porch are now brilliant white, making them a lot brighter than they were.  None of which were high priority jobs but much needed relief after all the wallpaper removal. 

We're close to appointing an electrician and have taken the decision to have the whole house rewired. I think this is wise on two fronts, firstly the house still has its original wiring and the house is as old as me  so that's an no brainer really. Secondly if we leave it a year down the line (which was an idea) we're causing ourselves more decorating work on top of what we will have just done.  Which will be disruptive for Becky and Rob if they stay there longer term.  If they decide they want to move on in a year or two and we decide to rent it out then by law we need a Part P Certificate and we might as well get that now rather than wait when we don't know what the situation will be in a couple of years time.  Financially we need to bite the bullet and just get it done.

We've also been talking to a guy about the rendering at the front of the house which has a gaping hole in it.  His unofficial quote is a lot less than we expected it to be but we will see what he comes back with when he's actually looked at the pictures we sent.

So there isn't too much that we can be doing at the moment until the re-wiring is done, hopefully that will be done and dusted in the next couple of weeks. Meanwhile we get a wee bit of time off from renovation work before we head into full scale decorating mode.  Which I'm really looking forward to. Seeing the house transformed into something livable will be really rewarding.

As an aside but kind of related, I've been thinking a lot about coincidences and synchronicity the past month or so.  On the day that we picked up the keys for the house, I bumped into my old landlady and friend Janet who I hadn't seen for  couple of years.  Turns out they had done exactly the same as us, bought a house to decorate and for their son in Leeds to rent, and picked their keys up the day before.  I need to start a book of these events.  Timing really is a strange and wonderful thing.