Saturday, January 31, 2015


Ripon wasn't a planned stop, it was somewhere we found accommodation through Trip Advisor.  We were staying in the Ripon Spa Hotel.  Its glory days had obviously passed - it was a relic of a different time, when holidays meant sitting in the lounge of your hotel, or promenading, or taking the waters at the local Spa.  It rather reminded me of the Hydro Majestic Hotel, which people who are familiar with the Blue Mountains west of Sydney will know.  It was actually a bit of fun staying in such an anachronism.  The staff were very friendly and accommodating.

The Ripon Spa Hotel
The actual spa in Ripon, looking very tired

The first thing they suggested was that after dinner we walk into the Market Place to see the Ripon Hornblower. Daniel Defoe described this market place as 'The finest and most beautiful square that is to be seen of its kind in England'. Well, I think that is a bit of an exaggeration, but it was nice.  In the middle of this square is an obelisk (they call it the market cross) and every night since 886 (without a SINGLE night having been missed in those 1128 years) the horn is blown at each of the four corners of this market cross at exactly 9pm. At the end of the ceremony I was one of those given a lucky wooden penny. More information about this ritual can be found here.

The Ripon Hornblower

Jenny with the Ripon Hornblower

Ripon Town Hall and Market Place

The Market Cross
Alice in Wonderland carvings in the park

More of the carved tree stump

Next morning we decided to do some sightseeing before leaving Ripon.  I wanted to see the workhouse museum, but as it didn't open until 11am, we went to the Cathedral first.

The Cathedral is quite interesting.  It has a Saxon crypt dating from 672, and a misericord in the choir carved with a griffin chasing a rabbit down a hole, thought to have been inspired by Lewis Carroll, whose father was a canon here.

Ripon Cathedral

The Saxon Crypt

Misericord with griffin chasing a rabbit

The screen, with figures of significance in the cathedal's
Then it was time to visit the Workhouse museum. It is housed in the old Ripon workhouse, which dates from 1855 (though the date on the building was 1854, which is when construction started). It was certainly interesting, but when I came out the woman in the shop said 'wasn't it sad'. I can't say I found it sad, as I have known about the workhouses for such a long time that it was no surprise, and any sadness I might have once felt has now just become acceptance of it as part of our history. But is was very interesting to see the sizes of the beds, and to see the rations (well, plastic models of them) laid out, which is easier for me to absorb than just reading that inmates got so much porridge, and so much bread, etc etc.

Ripon Workhouse

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

The Yorkshire Dales

After leaving Nottingham we headed up to West Yorkshire towards the Dales.  Our first stop was to visit East Riddlesden Hall at Keighley (pronounced Keeth-lee, apparently).  While the existing building was built in 1642, it is built on the site of an earlier medieval hall.  Even earlier than that building, the property had been owned by Gospatric and his descendants the Maude family (also known as the de Montalts and Monte Altos) before that branch of the family died off in the male line and the property passed to the Paslews by marriage.  I have been studying the Maude family and Gospatric, so that was what drew me to the site.

Then we drove over high ground and down to Wharfdale. From there were drove as far as we could into Ilkley Moor and naturally had a little sing to ourselves.

View from Ilkley Moor
Next stop was Skipton, where we were spending the night with someone I had been corresponding with for years about the Monte Altos.

Next morning we visited the medieval Skipton Castle. It was remarkably well preserved (or rebuilt?), but it was completely unfurnished, which felt strange, though I suppose is better than furnishing it with something completely anachronistic.

We then set off for a drive over the Dales, crossing the River Wharfe via Buckden Bridge. A little later we stopped alongside the same river to stretch our legs.

Buckden Bridge

The River Wharfe

Our lunch stop was a return to the Wensleydale Creamery ("Cheese Gromit!!!!!") which we had visited back in 1999. It is the only factory to make real Wensleydale cheese.  When we visited before Andy had a five cheese plowman's. This time he was more restrained, choosing Yorkshire Rarebit (i.e. cheese on toast) and then we had a look around the cheesy comestibles. 

After lunch it was more driving around, and then we spent the night in Ripon.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015


Most of our time in Nottingham was spent visitiing friends, but we did visit Ye Olde Tripe to Jerusalem, which (along with other pubs) claims to be the oldest Pub in England. It is  built up against, and burrows into, the sandstone rocks that Nottingham Castle is built upon.

Lounge encased in the sandstone

The Cursed Galleon - Legend says that all who clean it will
meet a mysterious death

Saturday, January 3, 2015


We only had one day to go sightseeing in Norfolk, and much of that was allocated to looking at the villages in which Andy's ancestors had lived. We did, however, go to the seaside (Cromer) for lunch, as Cromer crab had been recommended (for Andy - I don't eat seafood). After a Cromer crab panini for Andy and a slice of Gala pie (a kind of pork pie with a hard boiled egg inside) for me, he decided he was still hungry.  So when we walked past a vendor of cockles, mussels,  prawns, etc, he decided to have some cockles. He said that he thought he used to have them as a child, and would like some again. He started eating his cup full of little molluscs, and seemed to be enjoying them, but after a while (because the cup seemed to contain an infinite amount of cockles, like some magical, constantly refilling cup) he started feeling he'd had more than enough, and thought that it may have been winkles, not cockles, he'd had in his youth. The remainder of the afternoon he spent worrying that they might have been "off", and thinking that he might feel a bit off himself, but I think the reality was simply that it was too much of an unfamiliar food.

Cromer pier

The villages (and more importantly,  the churches and churchyards) we visited were Wood Dalling, Heydon, Saxthorpe, Corpusty and Fakenham.  In none of them could I find any gravestones for his family members - no doubt they were too poor to have been able to afford headstones. But even if there had been any in Fakenham I would have been out of luck. It is one of those places where the pesky headstones have all been removed to make space for people to use for leisure. A small number of them have been arranged against one boundary wall, but none of them included any names of interest. I also found a municipal cemetery in Fakenham,  but all the graves in it appeared to be too recent to be of interest.

Headstones stacked against the wall covered in ivy

Headstones used as a bench support
Heydon was our favourite of the villages. It was a glorious day and the only thing that was missing was a game of cricket being played on the village green. It was so picturesque that Andy kept expecting a dead body and Inspector Barnaby to turn up!

Tea-shop in Heydon

Heydon pub

Friday, January 2, 2015

Back in England

We arrived back in England and had to head straight down to Reading to give Andy a chance to catch up on what had been going on with his staff and meet up with a number of them.  While he was working I took the opportunity to go to the National Archives at Kew (when they were open) and do some of my own sightseeing.

We also took advantage of the chance to visit some lovely country pubs for dinner.

The Tally Ho in Eversley - one of the good finds
On the Sunday we took one of Andy's Indian employees sightseeing.  It was her first trip to England, so she was keen to see some of the countryside on a limited budget.

Poppies galore

Wildflowers by the road
One of the things on her bucket list was Stonehenge.  For those who haven't visited Stonehenge for some time you now have to drive to a visitors' centre about a mile west of the monument, pay £7 to park (though that is refunded off the entrance fee if you actually decide to go in), pay £14.90 per person, then wait for ages for transport to the monument (unless you want to walk) and then you are still not allowed close to the stones themselves. It was also incredibly crowded.  I don't know if that was purely because it was the Sunday before midsummer, but it was certainly the case that the place was full of "Druids".

We contented ourselves with looking around the visitors' centre, which has some interesting recreations of huts of the time etc. We then found a secret spot from where (courtesy of a telephoto lens) we could see the stones.  Our overseas visitor was satisfied with that.

Interior of Stone age hut

We then found somewhere to have the obligatory pub lunch and then headed off towards the Cotswolds.  
Getting the drinks in

Shaded lanes in the Cotswolds
After driving around for a while we stopped at Bibury and got out to explore.  Our Indian guest was very impressed, particularly with the gardens.

River Colne going through Bibury

Finally, it was a stop for a cream tea in Burford.

Note the crooked window

The next day I took myself for a drive down the A4, stopping at antique stores and having a nice time.

Kennet and Avon canal

Silbury Hill