The stuff of legend


Today was a Bank Holiday in England and once the torrential rain stopped at lunchtime Sigoth and I ventured out into the spring sunshine, swathed against the elements and blinking in the light like newly hatched chicks. Of course, the obvious destination in these circumstances was some ruined buildings, so we headed for Kirkham Priory.

Scrambling about medieval piles of masonry is a bit of a treat for us. We like the peacefulness of the site, the texture of the stone, the play of shapes and light, the stories in the guide books, the humorous gargoyles and the fresh air. The average ancient monument has a tendency to be in rather decent countryside and the abbeys and priories of Yorkshire, of which there are many, are often in absolutely stunning locations.

Kirkham Priory is next to the railway line so I have a fondness for it based on the fact that whenever I see it on the train heading east I know I am nearly home. Between the railway and the masonry is the River Derwent, the famously perverse waterway that enjoys notoriety for its meandering path away from the sea; it rises in the North Yorkshire Moors, heads towards the coast then swerves away at the last moment before heading inland until it is seduced into the Ouse, swept to the Humber and finally meets its oceanic destiny near Hull. And serve it right too, the cheeky scamp.


At Kirkham there is a pretty bridge and an old level crossing from the days when there was a station, pre-Beeching. Now it’s just an English Heritage ticket office and plenty of buoyant moss underfoot as you clamber up and down the site. The buildings are split level due to the slope of the ground, with the cloister starting at ground level at one end and finishing on the first floor at the other.


The church is sadly diminished but once had a gorgeous Rose Window, which you have to try to imagine as you gaze at the stub of stone that remains.

Once we had finished wandering around we called back in at the ticket office which also operates a small shop, and bought a guide to Wharram Percy. This is a deserted medieval village not too far from Kirkham, and free to enter so long as you don’t mind squelching down a muddy slope about a quarter of a mile, with a number of kissing gates and a field of cows and calves to negotiate before you find yourself on a windy hillside looking at a roofless 18th century church, a mill pond and some lines in the ground representing medieval longhouses. I don’t mind at all, as you might guess.


I know the site fairly well, but it’s always good to visit. Last time I went it was covered in snow; today there were new shoots on the hawthorn all the way down the path. I like a bit of hawthorn. In the pagan tree calendar the rune “Huath” represents May and the hawthorn, which in turn can be interpreted as the symbol of the triple goddess – maiden, mother and crone. At this time of year she gets her Maiden face on, with white blossom and green shoots. The path to the village runs between lines of hawthorn for most of its length, and in the sunshine you walk through a tunnel of green and white, surrounded by birdsong, sheltered from the wind and nurtured by romantic thoughts of Spring, the cycle of life and new beginnings, while wondering if this is what it felt like to return to the village along ancient trackways a thousand years ago. At least you do if you are EBL. You don’t worry about whether the path is the same in fact; it makes sense in a story about life in the Yorkshire Wolds throughout the millennia.

Increasingly fanciful, I wondered if we might appear as ghosts to the people of the past as we flitted between the rooms of their buildings, dressed strangely and clutching demonic devices. Were we the fairy folk of legends, or the devils that haunted good Christians in those days, just as some people claim to see ghosts of Roman soldiers wading along Hadrian’s Wall? Might the glimpses of people from the past in fact be the reflections of their glimpses of us, which they interpreted as things that go bump in the night? Are we in fact the stuff of legend?

I think the sunshine was making me giddy. I’m not used to it at this time of year and the winter has been so very dull.

I hope you are having sunshine and widly romantic daydreams, or at least a good ghost story.





The end of days

Well, perhaps I overstate it when I say “end of days.” However, it is certainly the end of the financial year and our Highways Authority is spending up like tarmac was going out of fashion. The main trunk road to the coast is closed off and traffic being diverted via the road at the end of our village lane. This very same road, now carrying more traffic than anyone would have believed possible, is only semi-open because of roadworks which have closed off one carriageway, and using a traffic light system to control flow. I say “flow” but I mean “stagnant pauses of sufficient duration to calculate pi to a new digit.”

Naturally when Sigoth and I decided to go into town this morning to look for essential items – such as circular knitting needles and pastries and coffee – we went the back way, through some other villages to avoid the snafu that is the usual route. We had forgotten in our haste and cleverness that the road through the next village was also closed while work is being carried out there.

We took the scenic route. It was several miles out of the way, but it beat going back home and then queuing in traffic.

Tomorrow we are going to York for the Viking Festival to hear Beowulf and to enjoy traditional Scandinavian activities, such as shopping and drinking coffee. We will take the bus, and leave the stress of finding the way to someone else. We would have gone by train but there are no trains running this week. Being half term the railway line to the coast is shut down while they do some work on the bridge over the Ouse in York and thus amputate the East Coast from mainland England.

It’s half term. It’s damp and grey. The families we saw in town were looking the worse for wear, seeking entertainment at reasonable price in a very small market town where the highlight of the town trail is a couple of small rooms forming a Victorian office allegedly responsible for inspiring Dickens to write about Scrooge. It’s not a barrel of laughs for most under-50s.

On the bright side, Vikings!

I hope you have a wonderful weekend and that the weather, transport system and barbarian hordes in your vicinity are kind to you.


WOTW: Baubosking

I was given a calendar of old forgotten words for Christmas, and this was the first one in it. It seemed oddly appropriate in the circumstances, as I shall explain momentarily.


Baubosking is an old Yorkshire dialect term for wandering about instead of staying at home, as in

“Sho war er reeight baubosker.”

“Sho’s awlus bauboskin aboot.”

The reason this has resonance for me at present is that since my mother died just before Christmas, I have felt a tremendous sense of release from worry. I even went into the travel agent the other day to pick up some brochures, because I feel sufficiently free to be able to think about jetting away somewhere foreign. There are so many options: the Taj Mahal; the Northern Lights; the Icelandic volcanoes; the Rockies; the Alhambra; Casablanca….

Then I saw the prices, my dears, and thought again!

So what to do with this lovely, evocative word?

Well, how about this? Some people may remember Rarasaur’s series of Prompts for the Promptless, where she provided an unusual word or phrase to use as a prompt to write a blog. I wondered if anyone out there fancied doing some more, based on some of the words I anticipate discovering as my calendar shrivels the year away?

Assume no constraints of time, money, family, friends or phobias! Are you a baubosker, or a homebody? If you could travel anywhere, where would it be? (I may take notes here.) If you prefer to stay at home, regale me with the joys of that decision. Would you choose the blazing crater of Eyjafjallajökull or the blazing logs of an open fire in the living room? Another country, continent or world? Time and space is yours. Police boxes are optional.

Take me somewhere thrilling, my dears. It is cold, grey, January here and I yearn for something bright and shining.

And wherever you travel or rest, may it be beautiful to you.


Mash up

Yesterday’s post was bleak, so today I thought I would share a local news story with you for fun.

The A64 is the main road from York to Scarborough, passing near Malton on its way. Yesterday a lorry shed a load of instant mash all over the carriageway and chaos ensued. For reasons I do not fully understand I find this very funny.

You can also get a blow by blow account via the North Yorkshire Police twitter feed (@NYorksPolice) including many potato related puns

Happy Sunday


Pretty pretty flowery stuff

Well my dears, Spring has certainly sprung. It was positively balmy here is deepest Yorkshire today and so Sigoth and I ventured out in the afternoon to Castle Howard Arboretum. The Arboretum is linked to Kew and comprises 120 acres of tree-filled landscape including guest trees from around the world. We last visited in the autumn and I wrote about it at the time because the berries were in full, well, berriness, and I was slightly in love with them.

blossom and daffs

Well, today was about sunshine and birdsong and bunnies and blossom. It was so warm we wandered the hillsides for over two hours without coats! Given that over the weekend we had the central heating on all day it was quite a shock to the system. Even the drive over was filled with sparkling light, fields of lambs, and views freckled with flowers and blue, misty hillsides punctuated by blazes of brilliant hawthorn hedges and golden oilseed rape searing the eyeballs as we bowled along the lanes.

Even though it’s school holidays at present the Arboretum was not over-run with people. We strolled in and started with a wander around the lake before heading up to the woods and sandy hillside where the rabbits live. We sat for a while soaking up the sun and listening to the birds before making our way back to the boggier, clay area. Somewhere in the midst of all this arboreal loveliness there is also a newly constructed cruck house.


It’s a useful shelter if it is raining, with a wooden bench around the wall, carefully sculpted to caress the weary buttocks. The hollowed out depressions are generously proportioned for the more substantial posterior; at least I can only assume so because I had plenty of space and am hardly wispy. It wasn’t the place to linger today though, with free vitamin D being distributed outside. However the plaque giving further information was worth a quick scan, informing us that cruck houses came about in the medieval period because they rain out of large trees. In Shakespeare’s day it was a hanging offence to cut down the largest trees, which meant that poor people were stumped (geddit) for building materials until they swiftly realised they could use the trees by rivers, which tended to grow on an angle. They cut them down, split them in half along their length and had a pair of matched wooden frames. Because these were so valuable, people would dig them up and take them with them if they moved, and allegedly this is the source of the saying “to up sticks” meaning to move home.

After that, all the sun and plant life went to our heads and we were drunk on the gorgeousness of the universe and the moistness of the home-made fruit cake in the cafe. So we went to the plant centre and bought some aquilegia for the garden. Well, it would have been rude not to.

How are the seasons treating you these days?


The tourist season opens


Welcome back on board everyone! I hope you had a good break at the services, and are feeling ready for the next exciting adventure on our itinerary, which is where we are about to arrive. Our next stop will be the Village! I am very excited to introduce you to this particular destination as it’s one of my personal favourites. This is the part of the tour where we enable you to experience authentic rural Yorkshire, but before you leave the coach let me just pass on a few tips about how to enjoy your visit

As you may know, the local population in this part of the Island of the Mighty has a reputation for being a little gruff. The natives may appear a little grim, but are in fact mostly harmless.

Also the language spoken around this area is quite different from elsewhere in the country and you may be a little confused if approached by a native. If in doubt simply nod slowly and say “Aye!” drawing the syllables out as long as possible. That’s “aye” to rhyme with “pie”, not “aye” to rhyme with “pay”.

There are also a number of temporary inhabitants in the area attracted by seasonal work over the summer months. Generally they are exotics from Eastern Europe, visiting for the summer months to pay for college, but may come only from as far away as Middlesbrough. For those of you not familiar with the geography involved, Eastern Europe is on the continental mainland, and Middlesbrough is the other side of the Moors. Both are effectively foreign by local definition. In fact, anyone not born and raised in the Village is defined as foreign, even if they come from the next village along the lane less than two miles away. .

The Village itself comprises a church, a pub, and a village hall, renowned for its indoor bowls team and the monthly quizzes penned by a local inhabitant referred to only as “EBL”. Unfortunately you will not be able to meet EBL because she has an international fanbase to manage and can’t spare time for our coach party today.

castlehowardThis is where she lives though and if you use a telephoto lens to peer intrusively through her windows you may catch her working at her computer. Just make sure she does not catch you. Not after the incident with the coach party in March…but let’s not dwell on sad memories. We’re here to have a great day out!

The church will be of interest to those history buffs among you. The foundation stones are robbed out Saxon gravestones with parts of their original inscriptions still showing at ground level, although they are thankfully eroding since being uncovered some years back and so will no longer bring pagan shame to this house of God. The church was refurbished as recently as a hundred years ago and has some very interesting wood carvings inside.

Life in the Village is pretty hectic as anyone will tell you. The post office is available until 1pm on Mondays and Tuesdays, and as if that wasn’t enough the fish and chip van calls every Wednesday evening at 7.30 for up to 15 minutes. Although the Library van has been cancelled due to savage government cutbacks, leaving a number of elderly housebound inhabitants without recourse to the printed word and utterly dependant on daytime television for mental stimulation, the locals are not down-hearted. Oh no! They hold a bingo night every month as well as the quiz I mentioned earlier, and a barbecue every August whether it rains or not.

Another popular local activity is going to the pub. There is a traditional pub in the Village, as is required by law for any English settlement with more than two households comprising at least one adult of drinking age (for the purposes of the law, “drinking age” is 14 and above). If you decide to visit this particular establishment I must caution you not to offer to buy Dennis a drink. He has been dead for two years but still consumes copious amounts of beer and wins the raffle at the quiz at least every other month. The police are becoming concerned that he is disturbing the other lads in the lock-up if they have to pick him up for being drunk and disembodied, while regional healthcare professionals have noted a marked decrease in drunkenness amongst the population with whom he has shared a cell for the night. Hearsay evidence claims that they “don’t want to spend another night with that weirdo again”. Fortunately Dennis takes such comments in his stride and speaks ill of no one.

At certain times of the year you might be lucky enough to observe the local hunt in full colours, meandering about aimlessly in the middle of the road now that they can’t harass foxes. We are not expecting to see them today, but you will see the racehorses exercising on the Gallops if you follow the lane down there. Racing is part of the lifeblood of this community and racehorses will hold up traffic and trample small children with perfect immunity in this dedicated constituency. Apparently this is the kind of attitude that makes the locals proud to be British.

Finally, do not be alarmed by that man over there with the writhing trousers. He has a ferret named Sheila who lives in his pocket and gets a bit lively if she hears a coach arrive. She will bite, but only if you are prepared to pay for it. It is recommended as an authentic part of the Yorkshire Village Experience but costs are not included in the price of this trip. However you can get a 10% discount by quoting the code “Ah’m not fram rownd ‘ere” when paying her human.

Please enjoy your visit and be back at the coach by 4 pm as we have to get back to the hotel in time for the evening entertainment. Tonight the local schoolchildren will be putting on a series of humorous sketches including “The Four Yorkshiremen” in original dialect. Thank you.



On Saturday I took the train to Leeds to see my female Offspring and spend a day together. I was pleased to do this for a number of reasons: firstly, to spend a day together; secondly, I have not had enough energy to do any such thing for a long time so it was great to be able to even think of doing it; thirdly, Leeds has some marvellous shops and I was looking forward to investigating the markets for wool and Waterstones for books. Inevitably I was mugged by literature but I resisted the overtures of the yarn, enticing and entangling though it was, by reminding myself sternly that I already have at least three bags full of wool (yes sir!) waiting to be knitted up into jumpers. I did compromise and buy a pattern though.

It was the journey itself that stayed in my mind though. I try and listen to music while I am travelling on order to relax and to drown out the wittering that goes on among the other travellers. I really don’t need to hear all about what she said to him or he said to her, or why it’s not fair that stuff happens. On Saturday there was a particularly loud and slightly creepy old bloke across the aisle from me, chatting up young women. He would start off fairly innocuously by asking them where they were going and showing a genial interest, then telling them he was off to see trams somewhere or other, thus appearing harmlessly eccentric. Everyone loves a harmless eccentric. It always ended up with him asking if they liked leather though, which amused everyone concerned. He really was pretty harmless.

So I played my music and turned it up a little and watched the scenery slide by outside. It was bright and sunny, and the stretch of track we were travelling over wound its way through the Howardian Hills and into the Vale of York, then on to Leeds through some rather attractive countryside. Really it’s one of the nicest routes there is. It’s not quite the Ribble Valley Viaduct but it’s a good second, especially around Kirkham Abbey.

The train runs past Kirkham Abbey between York and Malton

The train runs past Kirkham Abbey between York and Malton

With the music playing it felt like I was in a film, in the establishing shots at the beginning. Here was EBL living in Yorkshire, which looked rather pleasant and had a peaceful background track to make you feel calm and probably to lull you into a false sense of security. I watch too many murderous television programmes to assume we were in for a heart-warming tale of everyday folk. It amused me to work out who in the carriage were the undercover policemen (almost certainly the creepy bloke, but who else?). I thought back to the Due South episode on the train of singing Mounties (All the Queen’s Horses, S2:E14, in case you were interested) and wondered if a handsome young Canadian was about to appear with a guitar and start off a round of “Scarborough Fair”. I hoped he wouldn’t be the one that was killed. Then I hoped I wasn’t either.

Outside the scenery continued unabated. I decided to pay it a bit more attention as no Mounties were forthcoming.

Unabated scenery sans Mounties. This was taken on a sunnier day than Saturday

It was one of those days when the clouds were in layers. Do you know what I mean? There were some that were very low and dark and rather wispy. Just above them was some which were a bit more grey but substantial, then above those there were the big boys, full of rain and menace. There weren’t enough of them to imply definite rain, just enough to suggest it was a strong possibility at some point in the not-too-distant future. I regretted not bringing an umbrella then remembered it was pretty windy and revised my regrets to not bringing my hat.

The layers of cloud made me think of the Earth wearing veils, like Salome, and dancing her dance, not for the head of the Baptist, but for the sheer joy of being a living biosphere in a thinly populated universe. Around the Sun she weaves, inflaming the star to greater heat no doubt, and keeping our home warm and bright and growing. It’s a careful balance she maintains, keeping her orbit in that Goldilocks Zone of not too hot and not too cold, so I hope she finds the joy of the dance is as endless and sustaining as we find the light of the Sun.

By the time the train wheezed into Leeds it was much more dull and chilly outside, and I was already working out which was the nearest good coffee shop to the station. Female Offspring was waiting at the barriers and we set off for coffee, croissants and retail mayhem. The creepy guy was not far behind me, but we lost him in the crowds. I hope he had a good day too.

How was your weekend?





I like trees. So I don’t understand why I have never visited the Yorkshire Arboretum before.

However, EBL is not an entity to let history stand in her way and without further ado Sigoth and I hied ourselves thither recently to investigate.


The Yorkshire Arboretum is not far from EBL Towers, at Castle Howard (that’s “Brideshead” to non-locals). It is set in 120 acres of land by Castle Howard, half the site being clay and the other half sandy soil. This part of the world has interesting geology, being on the edge of Lake Pickering, a glacial run off from the Ice Age which only drained a few thousand years ago.

berry collectionIn any case, this variety of soil (much of which clay was transported liberally around the grounds on our boots) means that there is an astonishing variety of trees to look at. We saw all sorts of berries on various Sorbus: red, white, orange, pink. So pretty.


We also met trees with pink or white trunks, adding a little variety to shades of brown and grey. Sometimes the neutrals need to spice it up a bit!


Now, I don’t know what you read as a child but I was a devotee of the Narnia stories, and the proud owner of a boxed set of all seven books. One of the things I learned from those stories (apart from the fact that Evil means “always winter and never Christmas”, too  much Turkish Delight is not good for you either physically or morally, and especially when served en sleigh, and that hiding in wardrobes does not always guarantee the appearance of a portal to a magical world) – apart from those things which are of course true, I learned that trees have spirits. I even learned they are called dryads. I was particularly honoured to meet one at the Arboretum.

yorkshire dryad

The café was a welcome finale to our wanderings. I really can’t understand why we have never been before!

May you wander happily where it pleases you, and wipe the mud from your boots with contentment in your hearts.