Sunday, July 10, 2011

A well needed injection of Yorkshire, a trip for nostalgia’s sake and England’s green and pleasant land.

Bolton Abbey, one of my favourite spots in Yorkshire

Hello everyone,
Here I am this cloudy Sunday morning writing from our romantic and spotlessly clean little cottage, The Arbour, in the delightful village of Gargrave, near Skipton, the gateway to the Dales.We have done so much this week, that today we will spend enjoying the peace of our cottage and will only venture out for a walk this afternoon.

We really have done a lot in just a week.  If you have followed me on Facebook you will have seen some of the hundred odd photos I have posted of our trip down memory lane, in the area where I grew up and spent my formative years from 1965 to 1980, from the age of 8 to my early 20’s, with the interruption of University of course.    As I have commented more than once this week, I always used to hate living in Bradford, that very grim and industrial town in West Yorkshire and swore I would never live there.  Well you know the rest of the story.  I moved to Spain and have lived happily ever after.  However as the years have crept by I have remembered the area where I grew up with much more fondness than I had for it when I was a child.  In fact I look upon it with nostalgia and need a big dose of time here to satisfy my craving for revisiting my childhood haunts. When I was in my 30’s and 40’s I was so busy with motherhood and my jobs that I never had a moment to think back. Now I’m in my 50’s it is the time to revisit my childhood.  Of course I have done so sporadically over the years but this time our trip is longer, two whole weeks, enough to get a great big injection of England or rather Yorkshire and charge my batteries for when I go back to Spain so that I won’t miss my homeland so much.

That said, let me tell you what we have been getting up to in this wonderful part of England, the countryside outside Bradford, that is, an area that for me sums up the line from the famous Jerusalem hymn, “England’s green and pleasant land”.  And it certainly is green because of the wet weather, of which we have a fair share this week.  That however has not deterred any of our plans.  Come rain or shine and we are out and about.

The first day, Monday, was spent settling into our little cottage called The Arbour in Gargrave tucked away into a beautiful garden at the back of a big Yorkshire stone house owned by our landlords, Hugh and Janet.  Their house is on the main road, fittingly called High Street and for convenience sake we are right next to the Co-op, which seems to be the omnipresent chain of small supermarkets in this part of the country, mostly in the towns in the Dales and around us.  I thought it was not going to be very good but actually it is excellent.


Eladio outside The Arbour

The cottage apart from being impeccably clean is also very well equipped.  Janet and Hugh had put fresh flowers in a jug and had also left us tea, coffee, biscuits, strawberries, butter, tomatoes, as well as many other things we would never have expected. Our first day was spent exploring the village which is beautiful.  There must be just over 1000 inhabitants and we were most impressed with the various village greens, the beautiful church, the stepping stones on the River Aire but most of all with the canal. 

One of the delightful stepping stones in Gargrave

The Leeds Liverpool canal built during the Industrial Revolution in 1770 for transporting wool and cotton from the Yorkshire and Lancashire mills, goes past Gargrave and the walks along the parallel tow path are just spectacular.  The canal is the longest in England and stretches 127 miles (204km) and of course crosses the Pennines. Today the canal is almost exclusively used for leisure and it was fascinating to watch the very many colourful barge type boats going through the many locks. 

It's fascinating to watch the boats come through the locks on the Leeds and Liverpool Canal

On Tuesday we ventured out to Skipton, that lovely old market town, just 4 miles from Gargrave.  I am very familiar with the area.  My parents never drove so I only really know the places on bus routes.  Take me off them and I am lost or generally have never been there. My nostalgia is for the places I know and I am less interested in knowing new places. Funny eh?  Skipton, of course I knew very well and was keen to go back.  Here we parked next to something new for me, a Marks and Spencers, “Simply Food” supermarket chain, which are very up market in England now. Eladio found it cold inside and unable to understand my fascination with M+S, waited patiently outside whilst I stocked up for our evening meal.

We went up to the castle, then visited the ancient church, Holy Trinity Church at the top of the High Street then ambled along the main streets in search of a camera charger which amazingly I found.



The unmistakeable Parish church of Skipton

 Skipton also lies on the Leeds and Liverpool canal too and offers short boat trips.  Being the tourists we are, we went on a short one under the castle and were fascinated by the stories our guide told us of the use of the canal in the Industrial Revolution.  It was a great experience.

The boat trip on the canal at Skipton was fun

The boat trip and walk around Skipton made us hungry, so we did the quintessential Yorkshire thing and bought fish and chips and ate them outside.  That certainly took me back a few years.

Our next destination was the nearby Embsay train station. We wanted to take the lovingly restored steam train from there to nearby Bolton Abbey.  We had missed the train so were advised to drive to Bolton Abbey to catch it back.  So there we were on minor B roads, without a satnav, but we managed it.  The station is old fashioned and the train service is run by volunteers and we loved the whole adventure.  Here is a picture of me waving from the 60’s steam engine train happy as a sand boy.
Enjoying the steam train experience from Bolton Abbey to Embsay near Skipton
Wednesday, the next day, we decided to drive to nearby Malham, some 4 miles away, that delightful village in the Dales. I well remembered it from my many visits as a teenager, often with the Girl Guides.  It was raining and cold and from Malham we drove to Malham Tarn (lake) past the famous Gordale Scar rocks, formed by limestone, so typical of the Dales.  We had the Tarn to ourselves and it was so dark the camera used the flash for pictures.

Malham Tarn

It is cold for us, 12ºc or less at times, yet the English people go around scantily clothed, often with shorts and just a t-shirt, something that is beyond us.  But then of course, the English, consider this their summer and dress as if they were on a beach in Spain.  I can’t understand how they don’t freeze but then again their body thermometers are very different to ours.

From Malham Tarn we drove to another market town, perhaps the most famous in the Dales, Grassington, via Arncliffe and Long Ashes where we used to stay on a caravan site on a caravan owned by my parents’ friends, the richer Forrester Patons (he was a Judge and we lived at their house at 27 Heaton Grove before moving into our own in the mid sixties).  After Long Ashes we drove past Kilnsey Crag, another landmark on my trip down memory lane and through Threshfield before we arrived in Grassington. It was pouring with rain so all we could do was have a cup of tea in the local pub.



The two of us in Grassington last week

We drove home on another B road to Gargrave for an M+S curry lunch (fabulous!) and rested a bit before setting off on our next destination.  We were going to Bradford, yes that ugly city of my childhood.  Here we went to the city centre which is more like Pakistan in England these days with even more burka clad women than in Hyde Park.  I had an errand to do with closing my Father’s bank account at the Nat West on Darley Street with whom he had an account for probably more than 40 years.  As the business was to do with Barclaycard, I was then sent to Barclay’s Bank down the road, where my Mother had her account for an equal amount of time.  In a way this was also part of my trip down memory lane because I used to come here with my Mother before the hole in the wall days and she would get money out and give me the odd pound or two and then we would go shopping.  In those days we would shop for clothes at C+A on Broadway – now demolished, and would have coffee at the Acropolis around the corner.  They were particularly happy days.  Or we would go into Brown and Muffs or Busby’s, both long gone now but well remembered by many Bradford people.  There was even a Betty’s tea room at the time, but no longer, I am afraid.  My next stop was M+S for clothes shopping.  When I was a teenager I rather despised the shop but since then it has become more up market but not exactly Zara for fashion.  However it has great lingerie, t-shirts and cosmetics.  The Bradford store has become very small so my choice was disappointingly very much reduced.  I later heard that I should visit the gigantic store in Pudsey and so will be going there next Sunday with Kathryn and her sister Liz.  Eladio still does not understand my fascination with Marks and Spencers.  I think it has something to do with it being quintessentially British and something I cannot get in Spain.  These days you can buy online but that is a little risky for clothing you need to try on before deciding the size.

In any case I did manage to get a few things as you can see in the picture of me with the M+S bag on Darley Street.


Shopping is not what it used to be in Bradford.

We were expected for dinner at 6pm at The Wright’s.  In Spain you would arrive for dinner after 9pm, so we thought that rather early but are now getting used to English hours.  We stopped at Morrison’s in town, where my Father used to shop, to buy some wine and some flowers.  Morrison’s is a big supermarket chain in the UK, especially in northern England.  Amazingly the owner, probably now retired, Ken Morrison and his family lived opposite my best friend Amanda when she lived in Bradford at Chellow Dean.  They had just opened that particular store at that time, I seem to remember.  Amanda used to babysit for their children.  Her parents were very good friends of Ken Morrison and his wife, who today will be multi millionaires.  I wonder where they moved to from Chellow Dean in Bradford?

But I am diverging.  Yes, we were going to have dinner with the Wrights, our neighbours at Heaton Grove, the family house for some 40 years before my Father sold it in 2005.  We lived at number 6 and they still live at number 5.  Susan Wright, a spinster aged 78, has looked after her Mother seemingly forever because Margaritte will be 103 next month.  Parking outside our old house was probably the most nostalgic moment of this trip of course.  Looking into the garden took me right back to when I was 8 or 9 and playing with my brother.  It is now owned by Mr. Nawaz, a local and very rich Pakistani.



Seeing our old house is always a bit of a shock
The last time we had been at the quirky Wrights was in 2009 with my Father and Mrs (Marguerite) Wright was still going strong at 101.  However this time I was in for a shock as this year dementia has struck her.  She has deteriorated a lot and I was upset to see her in this state. For Susan, of course, this is very upsetting and extremely hard work.  However we still managed to have a lovely dinner in their most genteel dining room.  The Wrights had been antique dealers and their home is like a palace inside.  The house itself, built between 1870 and 1880, is probably not worth much these days, despite its 20 or so rooms (but only one bathroom!!) but the inside is possibly worth a fortune.  I think Susan found our visit a huge relief and it seemed cruel to leave, but of course we had to.  As we said our goodbyes I wondered whether it would be the last time I was to see Mrs. Wright bless her.


Eladio with Mrs. Wright at dinner at their house last week.  She will be 103 next month!

On Thursday morning, I decided I wanted to show Eladio Saltaire.  Saltaire is some 4 miles from Bradford and very near our old house.  When I was a child it was considered rather a down market area with its mills and back to back housing.  Today, unbelievably for me, it is a World Heritage Site.  The founder of Saltaire was Sir. Titus Salt, a politician and successful wool merchant in the mid 19th century.  He built a model industrial self contained township which is now of world renown.  It is a living village today and the mill closed in 1987.  Today it houses the biggest collection of paintings by the local born world famous painter, David Hockney, as well as some fancy souvenir shops.  David Hockney went to Bradford Grammar school where my Father taught Russian, German and French for too many years for me to remember.  I think Hockney was before his time though.  So yet another connection on my memory trip.


The mill at Saltaire, amazing for its times, as was the village

 In Saltaire (called so from Sr. Titus Salt’s surname and the River Aire that passes through the township)  you will find two beautiful mills and a town built of Yorkshire stone, unique in the world, but probably modeled on New Lanark in Scotland.  He was a non conformist who belonged to the Congregational Church and was apparently very religious.  He built for his workers some 800 homes, all different sizes depending on the hierarchy of the worker, so everyone knew their place in life.

Some of the houses in Saltaire, made for the workers who of course had to pay for them.

He also built schools, a church (Saltaire Congregational Church, now an A listed building and probably the most important building in the township, is a gem of a place), a hospital, a corner shop on every street and everything his workers would need.  He even built wash houses and public baths, although these were not popular. He did not, though, build any public houses (pubs) because drinking he thought was evil.

The United Reformed Church in Saltaire

He had a dark side too and although he disliked the police he built in place of police stations watch out towers to make sure the population behaved.  He was both loved and hated by his workforce.  After our walking character tour I could not make up my mind whether he was a true philanthropist or whether he did everything for his own benefit, i.e. improving production and of course his riches.  But I must say I was impressed by Saltaire and how it has been spruced up and all that it means in the local industrial history; something I was little aware of when I lived 3 miles up the road in the 70’s.

After so much history, we were once again hungry.  Lunch was of course planned to be on the memory trip route, past Baildon and our old house in Roundwood Road where we lived for 9 months before buying 6 Heaton Grove and up Hollin’s Hill where my brother once crashed on his bicycle, all of which would take us to our destination: Harry Ramsden’s fish and chip shop in Guiseley.  I had been there many a time, on the bus, in my childhood and every time I go back to Yorkshire I try to go there.  Eladio is always game for fish and chips, his favourite food in England.  Once again we ate outside, which is how they taste better, and we were lucky that the sun shined.

Fish and chips at Harry Ramsden's is a must when we come here

Thursday was a very full day.  I told you we did a lot …. In the afternoon, we visited another landmark on my memory route, this time Bolton Abbey, that gem of a place in between Skipton and Ilkley on the River Wharfe.  Here you will find a ruined monks’ abbey from Henry VIII’s times and a wonderful stretch of land down to the river with its famous stepping stones.  The place never ceases to amaze me and I have been here countless times.  The picture illustrating this blog is of me at Bolton Abbey.


Bolton Abbey, it means so much to me.
From here I was eager to walk to the nearby Strid Wood, that dark and mysterious river with its tales of danger but with so much beauty I have to go back there every time.  The river narrows and you can cross it at certain points.  It is very dangerous to do so as the undercurrents can suck you down the whirlpools as has happened in the past.  My Mother once went there and my brother jumped across the rocks and it made her fear the Strid forever.  Whenever I go I still feel guilty that she wouldn’t like me to be there but I cannot resist its attraction.  Unfortunately it started to rain heavily and we had to walk back. We only had one umbrella between us and Eladio, being the cautious man he is, was determined we would not be caught in a storm under trees with the danger that entails.  Thus we shall have to return another day for a full walk in the Strid Wood. 


The Strid Wood, another of my favourite old haunts in Yorkshire.
Friday was another full day.  We set off early in the morning to visit the nearby market town of Settle which can take you on to the Lake District or further into the Dales.  Settle is famous for the Settle – Carlisle railway which takes you on a heritage railway line across breathtaking countryside.  My Father loves it especially and is even a member of the Settle Carlisle railway society.  So I thought especially of him when we were there.  Settle was pretty enough but a bit dead. 

Settle, an ancient market town in the Dales

We then decided to go further into the Dales, leaving the Lake District for next week.  Our next stop was Austwick where I had camped with the Girl Guides some 40 years ago.  The village is very beautiful and it quite obviously hasn’t changed in appearance since I was last there!

Austwick in the heart of the Dales

From Austwick we drove to nearby Clapham and into the heart of the waterfall and cave district of the Dales.  At Clapham we happened upon a little shop run by a company called www.sheepsheep.co.uk.  I was actually looking for a fleece as I was so cold.  I didn’t find one there but we did find some delightful owners who run a flourishing little textile business, serving things like Harris Tweed caps to the likes of Harrods in London, amongst other things.  We got talking, they were great lovers of Spain and I bought from them a wonderful pair of shocking pink shepherd skin gloves for 30 pounds which they told me sold for 100 in London.  I shall treasure my pink gloves from Clapham forever.

From Clapham we drove to Ingleton which gives its names to one of the Three Peaks, Ingleborough.  Here I had stayed at a bed and breakfast with my Father and Amanda when we were in our early teens.  Ingleton hadn’t changed either. 

From Ingleton we drove to Hawes, the highest market town in England.  To do so we went over the moors and past the Ribble Head viaduct, a sight for sore eyes. It is across this viaduct, of course, that the Settle Carlisle train travels.

The Ribble Head viaduct just after Ingleton and on the way to Hawes

Soon we were in Richmondshire and reaching the vibrant Dales town of Hawes.  I think Hawes is the most beautiful of all the towns we have seen in the Dales, maybe with the exception of Skipton.  Here I was lucky in my pursuit to buy a fleece and found a lovely pink one at Waltons of Hawes in the High Street.  Here I am wearing it outside the shop.

Buying a fleece in Hawes as I was so cold

Lunch was once again fish and chips, served by a young man with such a thick Yorkshire accent I am not sure whether he was Polish or local, as they “speak funny up there” to use the dialect myself.   They were pronounced even better than Harry Ramsden’s by Eladio.

From Hawes we made a circle in our route in the Dales and drove some 19 miles towards Kettlewell, the centre of the Dales in my heart at least as this is the place I have visited most often.  Kettlewell is small and pretty and right next to one of the Peaks, so it is a trekkers and hikers’ paradise. I would go there with my Father and with the Girl Guides and even with the school I think when we stayed at the local Youth Hostal.  I was glad to see the village shop was still going strong. We were most impressed with the church which I know have been to countless times on Sundays when in Kettlewell.  It’s called St. Marys. The gardens in the cemetery are just delightful.


By the church in Kettlewell

Once in Kettlewell, we took the short drive to Grassington and from there to Gargrave and we were home just on time for me to get changed to go out.  That evening the first of my two St. Joseph’s College (my old school in Bradford) reunion dinners was to take place, this one in Hebden Bridge, half way between Manchester and Bradford to make it easier for the girls coming from the former.  This was certainly one of the most important events on my heavy agenda and one I was most looking forward to.

Phil and Kathryn were coming to pick me up and Phil was to be our driver, bless him.  We had arranged to be at Nelson’s wine bar in Hebden Bridge which is where we had our first glass of white wine.  Hebden Bridge, part rural part urban, is a quaint little town which has apparently become the Lesbian centre of England but then we didn’t know that until we were served by a very butch lady at the bar and then I spotted many such magazines in the ladies.  Kathryn described the town as quirky and that’s exactly what it is.

The other “girls” never arrived at the Lesbian bar, so when Phil left us, Kathy and I walked around the centre to see a bit of Hebden Bridge.  It began to pour with rain so we went into the Shoulder of Mutton pub and had another white wine.  Soon it was time to go to Kitties, the restaurant where Kathryn had booked our table and the rain had turned into a torrential storm.  All we could do was laugh as we got wet under one umbrella and try to find the place which was half a mile or so from the pub.  There Maggie was waiting for us and we had our 3rd glass of wine before dinner!   I had been close to Maggie in the 6th form but had not seen her since, some 35 years ago. She was still tall and thin and blonde and fun and today is still just as I had remembered her.  Maggie, now a social worker with children living in Edinburgh, had driven from Scotland just for the occasion.

Brenda and Ellen, driving from Manchester, had taken the wrong turning so were rather late but it didn’t matter, as the staff at Kitties were very understanding and in fact let us stay on until quite late for England, at midnight.  When Brenda and Ellen arrived all hell let loose and we all hugged and smiled and kissed, so happy to be reunited.  The food was great – good choice Kathryn – and a great night was had by all.  We spent the time divided with catching up on our lives and on remembering our times at school. During the latter we laughed so much my stomach ached. Brenda had brought an album of some very old and badly taken photos where we could just about recognize people, most of us skiving or smoking in the 6th form common room.  Brenda reflected we were a very rebellious year and she is probably right.  However, we are now upright citizens and pillars of society, so obviously our Catholic convent education did work out right in the end.  We have all agreed we must do another reunion next year and that it will be bigger.  There is talk of doing it in Edinburgh which I would certainly vote for.  Meanwhile here is a photo of the 5 of us and the link to the rest of the photos I have posted on Facebook of that lovely evening in quirky Hebden Bridge.

The 1st SJC (my old school)  reunion dinner at Hebden Bridge

If Friday was memorable for its reunion, yesterday, Saturday, wasn’t going to be less.  My cousin Zuka (Sophie) was coming to see us and I hadn’t seen her since my Father left England in 2005.  I hardly have any relatives so this meeting was important. Zuka is my Mother’s brother Nicol’s (Kolya to me) only daughter.  She was born in Paris and came to England to learn the language when she was a teenager.  That was when we were living in Baildon in the late 60’s and she came to stay with us. She not only learned the language, she fell in love with a local boy, Bruce, and they married.  From what I understand, because I was only 10 at the time, her parents were non too pleased and my Mother was on her and Bruce’s side.   I remember the wedding as I was one of the bridesmaids.  Bruce gave me a watch, a prized possession at the time.  They had two children, my cousins Sasha and Katty and soon moved to Cyprus.  They returned to England in the 80’s where Zuka still lives (in Bolton) sad now that Bruce has passed away and that her children also live far away, Sasha in Germany and dearest Katty in New Zealand.  So you can see how important her visit was.  She arrived mid morning bearing a cooked chicken and some lovely white roses.  We soon put together a meal and later we left Eladio having a siesta to go off shopping together and to have some quality girly cousin time as we desperately needed to catch up.  Zuka took me to a shoppers’ paradise in nearby Colne (Lancashire) where she used to live, to a place called BoundaryMill.  Here I bought a fashionable shocking pink handbag which will go perfectly with the pink gloves from Clapham.  I also bought things for the girls at the M+S outlet. 


The reunion with my cousin Zuka was lovely.

I drove back with a heavy heart as I was going to have to say goodbye to Zuka again.  There were tears in our eyes as we parted.  I have made her promise she will come and see us before the end of the year.  I really hope she does and I know my Father would be delighted as we all would to host her in our house for some quality family time.

When Zuka left, I had to get changed quickly as we had yet another engagement.  We were expected for dinner at Phil and Kathryn’s, yet at 6pm again, in Keighley.  We were to be joined by Kathy’s lively and talkative sister Liz, her smiling husband Adrian and their bright and delightful 11 year old daughter Libby.  Phil and Kathryn live in a lovely Yorkshire stone house just off a golf course and it has great views.  Kathryn is very lucky in that her husband is a first class chef.  Magical smells were coming from his old fashioned kitchen whilst we were enjoying champagne and too many nuts in the garden.  Dinner was served, including homemade bread by Phil, in their new dining room and it was superb.  The first course was a seafood platter and the second was lamb with all sorts of tantalizing vegetables.  The dessert was the pièce de  résistance and I can’t remember the name of it but know it was made of vanilla ice cream, amoretto cherries and coffee.  Wow it was good. We had a splendid evening telling each other how we had met and they were most interested in my having married a catholic priest I suppose because they are catholic girls.  We also met the girls’ Father, Brian, a lovely 80 year old with a strong Yorkshire accent who had been a shoe repairer all his life but who, more importantly, grows roses for shows where he seems to win at nearly all of them, to the chagrin of his competitors.  We heard he was a habitual judge of rose competitions at the Great Yorkshire Show where we will be going next week but that unfortunately he won’t be there this year. We have agreed to go for a walk with them on Tuesday afternoon by the canal in Gargrave and to meet again on Saturday for another walk and a barbecue (if Phil’s cooking I’m coming!) and even better, as I mentioned above, Liz and Kathy will be taking me to the big M+S next Sunday, the day before we leave.  There were also promises of coming to see us in Spain which I hope will really happen.  All in all, once again, a great night was had by all.


Dinner at Phil and Kathy's was one of the highlights of this week
It’s amazing to think that one whole week in Yorkshire has passed already and that next Sunday at this time we will be packing our suitcases.  However, in between, there is much to look forward to.  But let me tell you all about that in next week’s blog post.

Meanwhile, take care.  All the best, from my beloved Yorkshire

Masha

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