Wednesday, 30 December 2015

Rievaulx Abbey

The last destination to be ticked off The List during our trip to North Yorkshire last September is Rievaulx Abbey.

I know I have already visited Rievaulx Abbey as a child, and it did seem a little familiar. Maybe it was memories of climbing over the maze of ruins and running round all the hiding places that came back to me.

Out of the three Abbeys we visited, this seems to have the most remaining, and the largest site. There was also a visitor centre detailing working lives of the monks of the abbey. This is also maintained by English Heritage (so the corporate membership we have really did pay off on this trip!) Rievaulx is a tiny village near Helmsley in North Yorkshire. Going down the tiny roads, which no doubt are treacherous in bad weather, led us to the first glimpses of the church within the abbey complex. The abbey dates back to 1130 and contains some of the oldest surviving buildings of the Cistercian movement (English Heritage). I understand from the information available that the abbey was a major architectural influence on the monastic church.

We could have easily spent a whole day around Rievaulx Abbey. We took a picnic and spent a good few hours there wandering through the archways, round the walls and along the paths. A good place to explore.

Kirkham Priory

Our trip to North Yorkshire allowed us to visit two other places on The List. The first was Kirkham Priory.

As previously detailed, the house teams at my primary school were named after local abbeys, and Kirkham was my team.

Kirkham Priory is the most familiar to me of the three on The List to visit, with it being on the banks of the River Derwent between Malton and York, and it comes into clear view from the train as it passes through. Having said that, again, it is one of those places that I don't actually recall visiting. I know I must have been there at some point, but if I did, I was probably at an age where I wasn't really paying much attention.

Kirkham Priory is maintained by English Heritage and I was interested to learn that the site was used in the time of Winston Churchill as a testing ground for D-Day operations. Who knew? Clearly not me!
Of the ruins themselves, the most striking and famous is the gatehouse with its intricate carvings. I didn't actually get a decent photo of this though! As the photos show on the English Heritage website, much of the remains are almost like a floor plan, but the size of the priory is still obvious.

The site is open and peaceful, even the passing trains do not interrupt the tranquility. If you are in the area, do visit for a lovely break away from the bustle of York.

Sunday, 18 October 2015

Clifford's Tower

Clifford's Tower. Not a great picture. I refer you to English Heritage to provide excellent photos and comprehensive information about this unique historical site!

This is one of two things ticked off The List on our recent trip to York. For years I've been aware of the tower on the hill in the city centre of York. I've parked near it many times, used it as a point of reference, and at school learnt that this is an excellent example of a motte and bailey. But until last month, I had never been inside.
With the recent discovery of our English Heritage membership, it seemed impolite not to pay a visit while we were walking the Bar Walls.

Admittedly we only paid a fleeting visit. We climbed the hill (steeper than we thought), and then climbed up once again inside. There is a walkway around the top of the tower allowing fabulous views across the city.

Once again, this was a little more scary than I'd hoped. I don't seem to get on too well with heights anymore it seems. So my walk around the top was rather quick while holding on to all the railings available. I only managed a few photos too as I really did want to get back down.

Phew. Back at the bottom.
I won't re-write the information from the guidebook or the English Heritage website, but I was interested to learn that it was the site of the mass suicide and massacre of York’s Jewish community in 1190 and the tower as we see it today was not the original structure on the site. I somehow thought that Clifford's Tower had always been there. Shows what I know! One thing I do know is that it was smaller than I remember and imagined it to be. Then again, I was smaller when I was at school, but it did kind of have an inverted tardis feel (geek!) It always seems to look massive from the car park!

This is another case of acting like a tourist in your own town. Clifford's Tower is a landmark in York, but until now, one that I knew very little about.

York Bar Walls

A few weeks ago we went to stay with my Mum over in North Yorkshire.

We took the opportunity while it was available to have a day out in York ticking a couple of things off The List which, we would not be able to do with a small child. To be fair, we probably could, but stress levels would be so high it would be untrue!

We arrived in York via the Park and Ride and took a quick walk to the Museum Gardens. This was to be the beginning of our walk round the walls. There is no actual start point of the walls since they circle the city. The "City Walls Trail" follows the path of the walls, with much of the trail being on the walls themselves.
The Friends of York Walls website provides lots of information on the trail, history, events and detail about each section of the walls.
I won't start re-writing all the information we found on the trip, or the detailed info on the above website, but I have to say I was rather impressed (geek!) that there were QR codes on each information point!

The route did take around 2 hours as all the information suggests, but we did take a stop-off at Clifford's Tower. Some of the walls were a bit scary. For me anyway. And just showed that I would not have been able to cope with steering a 3-year-old round there too. Some of the walls were a little too high from the ground to have no barriers, and too narrow when people were coming the other way! Even typing about it now makes me feel a bit uneasy.
The route was marked out with little brass circles, which was very handy for the areas where there were no walls, particularly between Monk Bar and Walmgate Bar.

Along the walls there are several points which offer views of the Minster, and I seem to remember hearing that there are planning laws within the city that prevents high rise developments from overshadowing the spectacle that is the Minster - don't quote me on that - I may have dreamed it, but it seems that you can see the Minster from all over York.
We passed over/around/through the four main bars, or gatehouses. I learned  that there is another that I hadn't really known about before: Fishergate bar. And I also found out what a barbican actually is, and it is not a concert or snooker venue!

Bootham Bar
Monk Bar
Walmgate Bar

Micklegate Bar
Fishergate Bar
At the time we visited there was work happening at Walmgate Bar. After reading local news items about this, we found out that the rear extension was being raised to carry out essential work to prevent risk of collapse. The pictures shown in the York Press were rather worrying, but good to see that such a landmark is in the capable hands of experts.

I went to school in York, so York is familiar to me, but even then there were a couple of areas where the walls were which I was not familiar with. This just strengthens the whole idea behind a few of the things on The List. How often is it that we take the time to notice the history and points of interest in our own locality? I was lucky to go to school in somewhere like York which has all the history right in front of your eyes, but how many times do we walk past something like a brass circle on the floor, or a blue plaque telling us the historical importance of a building somewhere in our neighbourhood or near our workplace?  Perhaps we actually do take the time to notice and take part in local cultural or celebratory events, but we should really take more time to act like a tourist in our own towns, and to see the history and importance of places we take for granted.

Sunday, 9 August 2015

Edale to Hayfield

I took a day off work a couple of weeks ago with the aim to tick another item off The List. Tim was off work, and my brother, John, was able to take the day off too.
John is quite keen to get into hiking/walking again, and has also agreed to accompany me when I attempt the Yorkshire Three Peaks again. (We won't talk about the fact that John has actually completed this challenge already).
So, a quick google, and a study of the map and we were off. I set my gps watch going to record where we went. Not too fused about the speed/pace, but it would be interesting to see the steepness (technically, elevation) of the climb up Grindsbrook Clough leaving Edale. This was a route that Tim and I have done on many occasions, but of course, we've never actually crossed the Kinder plateau to Hayfield.

The Pennine Way starts at Edale, so by default, the whole area is popular with walkers, but this time we were not going anyway near the Pennine Way at Edale anyway. The area also has a lot of walking history, being the site of the Kinder Trespass, which according to Wikipedia contributed to the eventual Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000. It is under this Act that walkers have the "right to roam" on access land - more about this particular access land later.

The first 2 and a half miles covered the steep Grindsbrook Clough. And took us around an hour and a half. If you were to look at the map, the path appears to climb up the clough nicely, crossing the stream in a couple of places. But things were not that simple. Stream? Yes, there was a stream definitely. Path? Well, let's just say, however you can get up, that's the path. It was difficult to judge which side would be best, and we found ourselves following a young spritely lad up the rocks. This was a mistake. We are not really young, or spritely when it comes to scrambling over rocks and through streams/waterfalls.
Any way up
Eventually, after a breather, we did make it to the top. To spectacular view of the route up and across Edale.
 Edale from the top
Doesn't look that steep...

We decided to carry on towards Crowden Tower, near which the path would fork off and we'd go across Kinder Scout.
A quick check of the compass confirmed, once again, that it wasn't necessarily the most obvious path we should take. At this point on the map there are around 5 routes to take, and aligning the map to North confirmed the direction we should take. I always have to do this at the top of Grindsbrook Clough. I should really know the route, but I might lose all sense of direction and end up walking the wrong way.
A quick point to make here. Since doing the Duke of Edinburgh's award scheme while at School and sixth form, I have loved maps and compasses. I am proud of the fact that I can read on Ordnance Survey map (and hate maps that are illustrative rather than accurate), and with a bit of thought, can still walk on a bearing. If this was our first time in the area, and without a compass I don't doubt even at this point we would have gone wrong. There are a number of tracks leading off in all directions, marked on the map, but not as public rights of way. Also, this is now access land, so over time, there may well appear to be even more tracks leading off in all directions. I would never go on a big walk (big, meaning involving walking boots!) without a compass, and most certainly not without an Ordnance Survey map. Up here on this terrain, you could end up in real trouble if you do end up mis-placed.

Crowden Tower

Anyway, it was a public footpath that we were to follow, for the next few miles anyway, and off we went. With kind-of knowing the area, when we got to Crowden Tower we stopped for lunch in a sheltered area. The view was amazing, in fact, I felt like we were sitting in a spot that was a little too hairy, with a steep drop.
Lunch stop
At this point, if you didn't have a map, you wouldn't notice anything different in the route, but the path leading towards The Woolpacks is not listed as a public right of way. It is simply a "track". But this is the route most people take when out for the day from Edale.

We double backed to the waterfall area where were knew the footpath forked off. This is where it started to go wrong. We followed what we thought was the path by the side of the stream/waterfall in the valley, but gradually the path dies away, as did any sign of the stream. The map showed the area was full of streams/brooks all leading towards the ridge where the Woolpacks and Crowden Tower are so it was rather difficult to pinpoint any given trickle of water we came across. After negotiating the thigh-high grass, and ups and downs, we knew we were mis-placed. At this point we could still see the rocks, so if things did get worse, we'd just turnaround. I started re-assessing the map. Had we actually left the main route at the correct point? Yes of course, we hadn't passed any other waterfalls or valleys. Was that in fact Crowden Tower, or had we eaten lunch as some other random rock formation? Nope. That was Crowden Tower. We then resorted to the geocaching app! Kind of a glorified compass really but which also points you to the nearest geocache.
The plan then was to head in the same direction (towards a geocache on the correct path) for a little while longer. The terrain at this point was wet and wild. Bogs, grass, and heather. There were quite a few small dams built to manage the bogs, but actually going in the right direction was not easy at all. The dams and resulting bogs were very much a hindrance.

I checked the compass and to my complete shock, North was where I expected South to be and I normally have quite a good sense of direction. This, once again, proved to me that a compass is an invaluable piece of kit.
A quick survey of what we could see and a check on various mobile apps, and we made the decision to head west. We couldn't really tell how far we'd come from Crowden Tower given all the twists and turns we'd made. This way we'd either hit the path we were supposed to be on, or hit the Pennine way.

Eventually as luck would have it, we found a path. Or was it a stream? But we followed it. A very short time later, we found a cairn in the middle of the path/stream. Therefore, all the evidence suggested, this was a path.
Cairn in the path/stream
We followed this for a little while, then as if by magic we spotted another walker joining the path from the right. So that's where we were supposed to be!
We followed this to the magnificent Kinder Gates (didn't get the geocache), which were like nothing I'd ever seen before. Kind of like something from a Star Trek set in the sunshine - or maybe that's just me.

Kinder Gates

The path was then obvious all the way to Kinder Downfall where we met the Pennine Way.

It was at this point where we took a check on the time. We'd have to step up the pace to be back in time for the nursery pick up, so we motored along. The lunch we'd saved for later, still rattling round in the rucksack.

Pennine Way
There were a lot of walkers on this stretch of the Pennine Way, and the views a long here were spectacular, although we didn't want to take too much time taking photos. The grey clouds of the morning has disappeared revealing a lovely summer sky.

After around a mile of walking on the ridge, we started the decent down. At the time, this did not feel at steep as the way up, but the gps watch and Strava beg to differ. After a while John started suffering with jelly knees on the way down and had to slow the pace.
We headed down William Clough and came out at Kinder Reservoir, after once again making decisions about when and how to cross the stream when the map said to only cross it a couple of times.

Kinder Reservoir, and the ridge above we'd just walked

At the bottom there was still a steady down hill section. John was happier, but did make a comment about was this how being old feels.
I turned off the gps within the last mile as the battery was threatening to cut out (clearly I can't do any runs which last more than 5 hours - but actually, why would I???)
During the last mile I was quite happy to feel that I still had plenty of energy. If I could change into my trainers, I could have run that last mile. But with comparatively heavy walking boots, and a large blister which technically ceased to be a blister at about mile 3, it was safe to say I was done in and needed a good sit down.

We arrived back at John's car after nearly 10 miles, which a great sense of achievement, and curiosity about that path at Crowden Tower, and where it actually was.

After studying the route on Strava after it was uploaded, I was shocked about what happened on Kinder Scout once more. It seems that we actually crossed over our path, but with no idea at the time. Yet another reminder that the countryside should not be taken lightly and preparation as well as the right equipment are essential for a "big" walk of this kind. I won't say that without a compass we'd still be up there, but we may have had to turn back to Edale.

I think I would do the walk again, maybe as a training walk for the biggy (Yorkshire Three Peaks).

Sunday, 19 July 2015

There's no greater competition than yourself

I did it. I did a half marathon. This was originally on The List with a question mark as I really didn't know if it would be achievable. But it was, and I did it.

It took a few long runs in preparation, and a training plan which Tim drew up which worked with his shifts. I did think, on a number of occasions, while out on the longer runs, that it had been a mistake to sign up. But I got through the training runs and just about the day itself.
My friend Hayley (above), who, as I type, is currently cycling around Bolton on IronManUK, ran too but as part of her training for IronMan. She had offered words of wisdom throughout the training and build up, including running 11 miles instead of 10 as my final long run - just so my head knew that on the day it was only 2 miles "home". She stayed to cheer me over the finish line.

I ran it all, (I did not come here to walk!) but a bit slower than I'd hoped, but it was rather warm on the day - with no wind at all! Maybe I've now got the bug. Shall I do another one, to aim to complete at the pace of my training runs? Shall I do more 10k runs in the hope that I will one day get under an hour?

As I heard someone say once, "There's no greater competition than yourself".

Saturday, 4 July 2015


A couple of months ago we had an amazing seasonal lunch at the wonderful Northcote. I had given Tim a gift voucher for his birthday so we went along to spend it.

This was our third visit, having previously experienced a gourmet night bed and breakfast and also another seasonal lunch. We actually got engaged at Northcote.

The beauty about the seasonal lunches on offer is that you get to experience the superb cooking of the local quality ingredients, but at a more accessible price for most people. The menu is different to the evening menu, but is no way limited, and the knowledgeable staff can answer any question if you have any concerns or queries about the menu.

Since our last visit the restaurant and bar have been refurbished to a very high standard. We had canapes in the bar area as we looked over the menu.

The meal we chose was superb and highlights for me were the new season broccoli starter and the milk crisps which came with desert.  We had a refreshing cocktail and coffee outside which came with the famous mini Eccles cakes which you also get at the River Valley Inns. We also watched one of the chefs take a tour group - possibly from the cookery school around the gardens. We understand that the gardens are recognised by the Soil Association as one of the best organic restaurant gardens as we were able to speak with the gardener on one of our previous trips.

And so, this is now officially ticked off The List. I have another restaurant on the list to visit, but that will take a little bit more organisation because of its locality to us. I do think that if you are thinking of going to a Michelin starred (or similar) establishment but feel it is beyond your reach, take a look at what is available at lunch times. The prices may be more accessible, and it could help wishing become reality regarding some of the best restaurants around.