Southerndown and Newton

Looking east towards Ogmore-by-Sea and Nash Point from Newton, Porthcawl.
©Angela Porter 27 Feb 2020

Today, Liz and I had a jolly day out to the Glamorgan Heritage Coast.

The sun was shining beautifully in clear blue skies with just a few puffy white clouds floating above us. The sunshine was most welcome after what seems like weeks and weeks of wet weather here in South Wales, UK. We both got a full day’s dose of Vitamin D, that’s for sure.

It was also an opportunity for me to use my new Nikon DSLR camera. I’d be the first to admit I don’t consider myself a photographer, but it’s nice to get some snaps to remind myself of days out, and of things that have caught my interest too.

The wind was, however, rather fierce and piercing. Bracing, some would call it. We called it fecking freezing.

We drove the pretty way towards Southerndown, our first planned stop. This route took is through Pontyclun, Cowbridge, and past Llandow.

We made a very sudden stop at Bramble’s Tea Room at Meadowvale Nursery on Cowbridge Road for a second breakfast. I had toast and marmalade with a lovely pot of tea. Liz opted for a toasted teacake with a mug of coffee. The food and tea were freshly made. The people running the cafe were lovely and friendly, the premises lovely and clean. We’ll definitely return another time we’re in that area.

From there, we wended our way to Southerndown. We could see snow on some hills to the north; a lovely contrast with the clear blue, sunny skies and the warmth of the sun beaming in through the car windows.

Looking towards Porthcawl from Southerndown.
©Angela Porter 27 Feb 2020

The car park was really rather busy at Southerndown, but we found a space that was just right for Binky, my lovely little SmartCar. We gathered our cameras and went for a walk towards the beach.

The tide was out far enough to walk on the beach. However, the stormy weather had thrown boulders around and destroyed the end of the walkway onto the sand. We decided we weren’t in the mood for clambering over slippery boulders to get on the sand, so took a walk across the rock ledge.

Boulders and layers of rocks, Southerndown.
©Angela Porter 27 Feb 2020

I’ve always loved Southerndown and the dramatic and fascinating rock strata there. I love the patterns and textures of the rocks. Today wasn’t a day to wander looking for fossils, however. Carboniferous limestone is the dominant rock here and layers of it contain ammonites and belemites, along with fossil molluscs. As a child, I was always fascinated to see them, even the ghostly imprints left by a fossil, the fossil long since either collected or destroyed by the rolling sands and pebbles in the waves.

Looking across to Witch’s Point, Southerndown.
©Angela Porter 27 Feb 2020

The sun was warm when we were out of the wind, but the wind stole away any warmth from the sun and a bit extra from our bodies. Soon we were quite chilled, despite being bundled up. My fingers were feeling quite numb. So, we headed back to the car.

We drove through Ogmore-by-Sea, on to Ewenny, then Porthcawl. We went to Newton and had a lovely walk along the long, sandy beach there.

There were lots of people walking their well-behaved dogs there, making the most of the sunshine, just as Liz and I were. The views were lovely in the midday sunshine. Again, I was fascinated by rocks, and also by the behaviour of some members of the corvid family.

Corvid surveying his kingdom.
©Angela Porter 27 Feb 2020
Interesting rocks…
©Angela Porter 27 Feb 2020
Rock pools at Newton.
©Angela Porter 27 Feb 2020

By now, we were feeling rather windswept and chilly, so we drove into Porthcawl to see if we could find somewhere to park and get something to eat. Not a space to be had!

So, we drove off from Porthcawl. I took a wrong turning at a roundabout which lead us to the Cornelly-s (North and South). Liz made use of Google Maps to find a cafe in North Cornelly – Season’s Cafe – where we had a rather late lunch.

I enjoyed a cheese and onion toastie with some chips, while Liz indulged in fish fingers, peas and chips. Tea for me, coffee for Liz.

After a long, rambling chat, with random interjections and facts and information by me (we did think I should have a blog called ‘The Randomness of Angela’), we decided it was time to head home.

So, we went on a road through the Kenfig Sand Dunes, towards Margam, then on towards Pyle. A brief jaunt eastwards on the M4 , exiting it at Sarn to head towards Bryncethin, and onwards via Gifach Goch, Porth and then to my home once again.

Again, it was wonderful to see the world bathed in the golden light of late winter sun, but this time hills and valleys, rural and built up areas, contrasting so beautifully with the flatter lands of the coast.

What a lovely day we have had!

Catching up on some jolly days out

Well, I’ve had some jolly days out in recent months. However, events have got in the way of me updating this jolly little space on the interwebs.

Worcester – 25 October 2018

Medieval floor tiles at Worcester Cathedral 25 October 2018

Liz and I had a lovely day out to Worcester in chilly weather but with bright sunshine.

Our first stop was to a medical museum based at the hospital in Worcester. Well, we are both retired science teachers! Neither of us took any photos there, but it was an interesting little exhibition with many comments such as ‘They did WHAT with that?’ and ‘How on earth did that fit there?’. Some of the history was very gruesome, and some very sad indeed, particularly around child mortality and so on. The one thing that I think I found the weirdest though were the death masks of prisoners hung at Worcester Gaol.

A long leisurely lunch was had in the Cathedral Cafe, which isn’t in the Cathedral itself but is at 7 Severn Street. The surrounds were lovely and calm and the food was nice too, as were the staff.

Then we just had enough time for a whistle stop look at the Cathedral itself before the parking ticket ran out.

Liz hugging the Romanesque door into the Cathedral

I loved the Cathedral very much. But then I tend to do so with most old ecclesiastical buildings. Lots to look at here, lots of effigies and little side chapels to investigate, and the tomb of a King of England – the infamous King John, Google just told me.

We also crept down to the crypt. Well, not so much crept as made a noisy entrance. I don’t think creeping is something Liz or I do. The crypt is the only part of the Anglo-Saxon cathedral remaining.

It’s definitely a cathedral on my ‘must return to with sketchbook’ list sometime in the future!

I know we drove home via Hereford and then wended our way past the Malverns and on to the Honey Cafe in Bronllys where we stopped for a break. Then, it was back along the lower edge of the Brecon Beacons and we reached this point on our journey just as the sun was turning the grey skies gloriously smoky shades of red. This light was just catching the tops of the mountains and setting them afire. A beautiful autumnal evening journey home.

St Mary’s Kempley – 8 November 2018

Medieval Wall Painting at St Mary’s Kempley

This was a crazy kind of day. First, finding somewhere for my first breakfast and Liz’s second breakfast in the Wye Valley was bonkers. We ended up backtracking to Tintern and having something in the White Monks Tea Room. White Monks because it’s next door to Tintern Abbey and that was a Cistercian abbey until Henry VIII dissolved the abbeys. The Cistercians wore white habits, hence white monks! Once refreshed we decided to head up to Kempley to visit St Mary’s Church.

I’d been there once in gold spring a decade or more before. Kempley is in the Golden Valley and when I first visited the grounds were covered with daffodils, jonquils and narcissi, painting the ground in glorious shades of gold. Not a hint of them in November, however.

We stopped at a curious looking church on our way into Kempley –The Church of St Edward the Confessor. This church was described by Sir John Betjeman as ‘a mini cathedral of the Arts and Crafts Movement’. It’s pretty, and we both had a good mooch around, but then it was on to St Mary’s.

Medieval wall painting at St Mary’s Kempley

St Mary’s is a Grade 1 listed building and is said to have the most complete set of Romanesque frescoes in N Europe. It is a simple Norman church – Romanesque, which is my favourite kind of church architecture.

It was like visiting an old friend and it brought back fond memories of a couple of peaceful hours sitting and drawing while I was doing my A level art over 10 years ago now.

Liz was suitably impressed with it too.

Another medieval wall painting at St Mary’s Kempley

The inside of the church was colder than outside, so we didn’t linger long and were glad to be back in the car which warmed up quickly.

Our journey again took us back towards Hereford and then the Honey Cafe at Bronllys for a pit stop, before driving back in the dark of late autumn.

Aberglasney Gardens – sometime in December 2018

We chose a very, very wild and rainy day to visit Aberglasney for lunch! We broke our journey in Dunvant for a late morning drink and snack. It was raining fair fierce then, but by the time we got to Aberglasney it was an absolute deluge!

We sheltered in the cafe there and had a lovely long and leisurely lunch while the rain passed over, and then we took a little stroll around the gardens and into the orchid ‘house’ before a good browse around the shop and a drive home through country lanes and lots of different terrain – rolling hills, highland marshes/bogs and the mountains of the Brecon Beacons. We passed through Myddfai, somewhere I wanted to visit since reading the books of the Physicians of Myddfai a long time ago. They were medieval doctors to a King of Wales. Then we headed towards Llanddeusant, Trecastle, Sennybridge and home.

Along the homeward bound journey we saw loads of buzzards and more than a couple of red kites. These birds always fill us with a sense of awe, especially when they choose to glide down low above the car as we pass by.

We were home not long before dusk, not tarrying on the way back.

RSPB Newport Wetlands – 25 January 2019

RSPB Newport Wetlands

Today, I had a little trip out by myself. Yesterday I’d had quite an emotionally draining day after giving an anti-stigma talk as a Champion for Time to Change Wales to a group of police officers from the South Wales Police.

I woke up still headachy and tired and by mid morning I knew I needed some fresh air, a walk and a change of scenery and the one place on my mind was the RSPB Newport Wetlands.

I’ve visited here a number of times before, but not for a couple of years. As it’s familiar to me, I knew I’d have no problem actually getting out and taking a walk there.

It’s been such a mild day, temperature wise. The sun was out and though I was carrying a coat I didn’t even put it on once!

Yes, the sun was out, but the skies were also filled with bands of leaden, dark clouds. When the sun struck the tall, sere marsh grasses they positively glowed against the sky! Very dramatic, even for someone who’s not a photographer, like me.

It was lovely to just walk in the fresh air. There was a constant background low drone with clanks and clangs of industry, but overlaying this were the pleading cries of gulls, the raucous caws of members of the corvid family, and the noisy tweets and whistles of the little songbirds gathered in large numbers in hedges. There was also the rustle of dry leaves in the breeze.

Lots of things caught my eye on my walk and photographs were taken as references for later on. One thing I do want to do this evening, while the colours are fresh in my mind, is to create a color palette, or a series of colour palettes, for the different things I saw, particularly the dramatic colour combinations.

I enjoyed watching mallards and coots bobbing in the water. I think I also saw a heron, though it could’ve been a stork, at the end of the pond you can see from the cafe at the visitor’s centre.

Yes, I had a lovely mug of tea and a nice open sandwich there, writing up my thoughts in my journal and watching the ducks go by!

Looking towards Nash Lighthouse

I didn’t walk towards the lighthouse at Nash this time; there are plenty of little walks for me to explore here, and no doubt I’ll settle on my favourite ones. I expect they’ll change as the seasons change too. I think my next visit there will be a walk to the Lighthouse though, and a look down to the shores of the Severn Estuary. Not far from there is Goldcliff where footprints of prehistoric (mesolithic) humans have been found preserved in the mud.

Fungi festooned log

I like nature in winter – it has an architectural quality. It’s the time of year when I can see the underlying structure of the world without leaves and so on in the way. I get to see things that usually lie hidden, and that includes colours and textures.

Despite it still being very much winter, even though today was a mild 13ºC, there’s still signs of spring ready to wake the world up. There’s still signs of life continuing.

Final words … for now

I don’t think I’ve covered all the little trips out in the past few months, but I have covered the ones of some interest. I do know these won’t be my last, that’s for sure. As the days lengthen and grow warmer then the desire to venture forth tends to grow too. Today was one of those days, bright with the promise of spring and the warmer days to come.

Stokesay Castle and the drive home

Stokesay 03Yesterday I had to say goodbye to the Dales to make the long journey back home to Wales.

Liz decided that we’d travel back to Stokesay Castle in Shropshire as quickly as we could so that we didn’t get stuck in the crazy traffic on the motorways around the Manchester area.

The skies were clear with puffy clouds floating in them. The sun was warm through the glass of the car, but the wind was still a tad parky.

We made good time as I annoyed Liz a little with an app I’d newly downloaded onto my phone – iGeology 3D. It helped me to answer the questions I had about the underlying geology of the different landscapes we passed as we left the Dales and carried on home.

We made good time and Liz stopped for a bacon butty at a little caff in a layby; I think it was called Lone Johns or Long Johns, but I could be very long. She really enjoyed her butty. I enjoyed my mug of tea and a little piece of ginger cake.

Stokesay 01
Then it was on to Stokesay Castle for a break from driving. We headed to the tea room there for a comfort break and a drink and something light to eat. Liz had a chocolate pudding and I had a rather nice bowl of tomato and basil soup. Once refreshed (and I finished an an angel wrap I’d started knitting on Thursday with yarn I’d bought in Settle) we visited the castle.

We had to go into the gift shop to get our admission, and we had a wander around. Liz spotted a cuddly raven, which of course had to be added to my little collection of things of a ravenly nature. Anyone who knows me knows I have a bit of a passion for corvids, ravens especially. So, to add a second cuddly raven to my little collection was something I was happy to do, as well as contributing a little more to the coffers of English Heritage.

Stokesay 02The castle was nice, a bit modern for my liking, though the textures and patterns in the many carvings caught my attention for sure, as did the lovely flowers and foliage in the gardens.

I baulked at going up a narrow, dark flight of uneven steps to the top of the tower, however. My panic attack in a narrow and short entrance and increasingly narrow corridor/tunnel at Forbidden Corner was still very much with me, so I went and explored the flowers instead.

Liz said, ‘ I couldn’t believe it; we stop at a castle and you’re more interested in taking photos of plants than looking at the castle’.

Stokesay 05I’d looked at the castle. I’d taken lots of reference pictures to use to inspire my kind of art in the fulness of time. But I like plants as well!

Stokesay 04We looked at the church next door to the castle, which was nice too, a lovely arch on the way in.  Well, I think it’s lovely and interesting, but then I do like a nice well rounded arch! I like pointy ones too, and the more ornate tracery filled gothic arches as well, but there’s nowt quite like a sturdy, well-rounded arch.

After a wander around the graveyard (I find them rather interesting too, especially the older they are and the changes in fashions in the style of gravestones and the kind of information people put on them – these say more about the living left behind on the Earth than they do about the dead) it was time to continue our journey along the Welsh Marches then across towards the Brecon Beacons.

We stopped at the Honey Cafe in Bronllys. This is a lovely place for a stop, and it’s somewhere you can get tea and piece of cake until 9pm at night. We didn’t have cake this time, in fact, I didn’t have much cake this week at all! We did have a bowl of thick cut chips and one of curly fries to share between us as well as a big pot of tea.

It was nice to break up the long journey home this way. I think we were both tired from our busy days in the Dales and the journey home felt longer than it really was.

After leaving Honey Cafe, it was down towards Brecon, to Storey Arms, Merthyr Tydfil and finally back to Pontypridd at around 7pm. After dropping me home with my luggage, Liz made her way to her home too.

I really enjoyed my week away. I did miss spending time wielding pens and pencils and having to make do with my poor photography skills to try to capture glimpses of things that caught my attention on our travels. I have a lot more photos than I’ve shared so far. Before I share any more, however, I need help from Liz to help me name the places I’ve taken photos of!

I do want to go back there, maybe in the Spring when the new leaves are just beginning to show. I’d like to go back to Fountains Abbey with my sketchbook in hand and an ample supply of pens and pencils. I’d also like to visit Rievaulx, Ripon Abbey and other places of both man-made and natural beauty and interest.

I know that as our days were so busy as Liz wanted to show me as much as she could of her favourite places and things I’d find interesting, I often felt very much a sense of sensory overload where time was needed to just sit and let my mind digest and organise it all before adding more to it.

I’m an introvert, even if those who think they know me think I’m an extrovert. I have a very well practiced mask of an extrovert nature which developed to allow me to be noticed in a family of rampant extroverts.

Being an introvert a lot goes on internally and it can take a long while before I can make sense of emotions or experiences; writing is a way that I can do this, once I have had that time and space.

Having said that, I laughed a lot and there were a lot of vocalised, enthusiastic expressions of ‘oooh’ and ‘wow! look at that!’ and variations on the theme (sometimes with a sweary word or two in exclamation added in).

But, there’s a lot more going on inside me than I acknowledge outwardly.

It took me to write a blog about my experience of the Coldstones Cut to recognise what it was that had been internalised.

So, in the coming days or weeks. I’ll be adding blogs about my Yorkshire Dales break – and it’s a lot easier now I have my home superfast fibre internet connection rather than the intermittent, unstable wifi connection at the Devonshire Arms Inn or elsewhere this week.

I’d like to say that my stay at the Devonshire Arms Inn at Cracoe was lovely. The staff were fab, and their triple cooked chips and onion rings were divine! I rather enjoyed my meal there on my last evening, with Liz and Jack for company.

Last, but not least, I’d like to say thank you to Liz for doing the driving, putting up with my ambling pace, my achy joints and my weirdly silly outlooks on life and for indulging me with trips to Fountains Abbey and Settle and Coldstones Cut. I look forward to more shared trips in the future, day or a little longer in length.

Some more travels oop t’Dales today

Ribblesdale 01
Ribblehead viaduct with a very moody sky over the fell in the distance.

Today’s journeys around t’Dales included a trip to Ribblehead Viaduct. It’s amazing piece of construction; the photo doesn’t do it’s immensity justice. As we were there, the cloud descended over the peak in the distance, which I can’t remember the name of now. Very atmospheric. The wind was fiercely blowing along the valley floor and through those arches. Sheep were wisely sheltering from the relentless wind.

Funniest thing of the day was wondering if there should be road signs warning of low flying sheep, with the sheep with resigned expressions on their faces; expressions that suggest the thought is ‘Oh no, here we go again’. Made me giggle at least!

Before Ribblesdale we visited a shop in Skipton known as The Coffee Exchange. Liz stocked up on coffee, I on various teas – South African Rift Breakfast tea, Irish Breakfast tea and a deliciously spicy smelling Winter blend.

After Ribblehead, we stopped at Heather’s tearoom for a light lunch on the way back towards Settle for a wander around and a stop at a yarn shop so we could both pick up some knitting yarn.

Next, was a drive to see Malham Cove and a stop for more tea (coffee for Liz), before going on a journey to see the limestone pavement above Malham Cove. Spectacular scenery and finding a source of geological maps is important to me. We drove past lumpy bumpy drumlin landscape on the way to and from Ribblesdale.

After Settle it was a trip to a Farm Shop to have a look-see and I have a selection of chutneys to enjoy when I get home.

Tonight, Liz, Jack (the farmer who owns the site where her caravan is situated) and I are going to be having dinner at the Devonshire Arms.

It’s been a fantastic couple of days here in the Yorkshire Dales. Tomorrow it’s the long journey back home to South Wales with a lot more stuff than we came up with for sure.

I really want to return at some point; there’s so much to see and experience.

On my return, I will post more information about our trips; I can’t remember the names of places or the routes we took, but Liz has said she’ll help me sort that out.

Forbidden Corner

Forbidden Corner 01Yesterday, before another drive around t’Dales, we spent a fun couple of hours at Forbidden Corner.

I howled and giggled with laughter as we explored the curious, fantastical, humorous creation.

We saw dragons, ravens, boars, bears, mice, cats, Legionnaires, Greek gods, fountains, towers, a creepy mausoleum that was a hoot to travel through, and more!

When we thought we’d seen it all, we went to the cafe for some much needed tea and lunch. I had a delicious felafal burger (no bun, thank you) chips and salad. Liz had fish and chips.

It’s all brilliantly done; there’s a surprise around most corners, some of which can result in a bit of a soaking, but not too much.I had to look up, down, left and right to see everything, and even then we missed a couple of things.

The views from the towers across the landscape are lovely, and, like at the Coldstones Cut, the view you get is managed by the buildings.

I’m not going to post anymore pictures; I’d not want to spoil the experience for you, the surprises. If you’re visiting the Yorkshire Dales, this is a lovely way to spend a few hours.

Should I return, I think I’d try to take a couple more breaks from exploring Forbidden Corner to prevent sensory overload, but then, as I’ve said, the cafe is lovely and perfect for a break, whether it be for a pot of tea, a snack, or a full meal.

Oop and down t’dales

Drive Around 05
A view towards Malham Tarn

Yesterday and today we’ve spent the afternoons driving around different dales in the Yorkshire Dales. Liz will know and remember much better than I where we’ve been on our journeys.

What I do remember is how the landscape changes from one dale to the next, all determined by the underlying geology.

I particularly loved the parts of the Dales we visited yesterday where the limestone protrudes in blocks, making the landscape incredibly craggy.

I also love the gentler landscape with smooth hills that are terraced.

There’s the steep-sided, V-shaped river carved valleys, as well as the wide bottomed U-shaped valleys that are glacier carved.

So much variation literally over the hill to the next Dale.

I was fascinated by the dry stone walls; so different to ones I’m familiar with in Wales. I love the chunkier blocks that are used, especially when there’s a matt whiteish lichen and dark green, lush moss on the grey limestone stone.

Of course there’s sheep everywhere, lots of different breeds with the Swaledale with its curly horns being most prevalent.

We’ve seen an number of birds – red kites, grouse, pheasants, kestral, maybe a sparrowhawk and a shrike, though we have to check up on those two. Oh, and a cormorant taking flight from a stream.

A visit was payed to a nice tea room near some waterfalls – Liz will remind me of the name of the place.

We also wandered around and into a church or two, including a church that had the most darling little mice carved on some of the pews.

Forbidden Corner was also visited, but more about that in a separate blog.


Fabulous Fountains Abbey

Fountains Abbey 03

After Coldstones Cut, we wended our way towards Fountains Abbey, which is near Ripon.

We stopped for refreshments and a comfort break at The Old Bridge Tearoom in Pately Bridge. Yorkshire Tea was definitely needed by myself, while Liz required a cafetiere of coffee and a warm plain scone with butter. I did have a slice of toasted fruit bread, which was nice, but I just nibbled as I was still quite full from breakfast at the Devonshire Arms.

After a suitable amount of time, we made our way to Fountains Abbey which is a place I’ve wanted to visit for many years now, ever since I discovered my love of old abbeys, churches, cathedrals and so on, particularly those with Romanesque architecture.

On arrival I joined the National Trust, something I’d been planning to do for a goodly while now, and so my entrance fee was covered. We were both shocked to find out that the fee was £15 just for Liz. That’s just under a quarter of the annual individual membership fee for the NT.  The ticket is valid for one day, but on looking at the site map of the Abbey and the surrounding Studley Royal gardens and so on we realised that there’s no way we’d manage to cover much in the day, especially as it was now well past noon. And that’s not taking into account how I like to take my time viewing the architecture.

I loved my time with the ruins. They have a story to tell in the different styles of architecture evident. From the early Romanesque to early Gothic and beyond.

I love Romanesque. It’s so solid, so honest, so ‘here to stay’. Here, the Romanesque isn’t ornate like it is in the Herefordshire school of Romanesque architecture, which has geometric designs in arches, wonderful sculptures of people and beasts, naive but honest and charming – the best the mason could do. At Fountains, the column capitals, the columns and arches around doors are devoid of such ornamentation, save for a few relatively simple decorations.

Both styles are beautiful in their own ways; Fountains in it’s simple sturdy elegance, the Herefordshire School and similar in their wonderful ornateness.

The Gothic was mostly early here, pointy window and door arches and not a lot of ornamentation. Some windows showed signs of tracery being present at sometime. This simplicity is, though, perfectly in keeping with the more austere ideals of the Cistercians who built the abbey.

There was evidence of water management with arches and bridges over a stream; the stream ran under the Abbey at one point.

The setting for the building at the bottom of a lush, green valley, sheltered from the bracing wind, was lovely indeed.

I had a fascinating time wandering, looking, pondering, taking photos. Most of my photos really are just for reference for me – either as memory joggers or for inspiration for arty things. I’m no photographer, but I will share some of my better images at the end of my words.

Liz made a very good and forceful point about our visit (other than the cost of entry to the site and the impossibility of getting value for money in one day). That was the total lack of information about the Abbey, it’s features, history, function and so on. Other people said the same too.

I never considered it. My reading and research on such things over the last decade and more has my head filled with some knowledge and understanding. Not dates, but I can vaguely decode the timeline of construction and spot changes made and so on. I also enjoy the aesthetics and have my artists eye on when visiting, so it’s not just about the history. However, when pointed out to me I get her point, and how that lack of information panels or even a decent information sheet given out after you’ve parted with £15. We did get an information sheet, which was a map of the huge site.

After viewing most of the Abbey, it was time for another comfort break and then to find some tea and vittles. We wandered back to the ‘restaurant’ and were sorely disappointed.  The menu was totally uninspiring to us both and so we turned around and left.

I can’t remember whether it was before or after the restaurant that we paid a visit to the gift shop as I wanted a book about the history of the Abbey, and I managed to get a decent one that wasn’t the tourist guide. Yes, there was a fairly good guide to the Abbey and Studley Royal on sale for £5.

I had wanted to go and see William Burges’ church in the grounds, but between aching hips and knees and a need for tea we decided to go in search of lunch elsewhere, maybe returning when refreshed to visit the church. As it turns out, we didn’t return. Not today. I would like to on another visit to the Yorkshire Dales at some point in time, but we’ll see on that.

One further observation is that the way the National Trust promotes it’s sites seems to be ‘a day out walking, picnicking’ rather than on sharing information about the history of the site in a way that is available to all and will pique people’s interest in it, satisfy their curiosity at the time they are curious and have questions about something with the Abbey.

I get that a focus on a nice day or hour or two walk out with a bit of lunch/tea appeals to a lot more people than perhaps the history does. However, the lack of information to those who are more curious about history puts people off returning.

The emphasis on enjoying the surroundings, walking, picnicking, eating/drinking is very evident in their handbook. The National Trust is in charge of taking care of natural environments deemed beautiful and in need of looking after for the enjoyment of visitors.

And that’s fine and well. It really is.

However, Fountains Abbey is the best preserved Abbey in the UK. It’s importance in terms of the history of the Cistercian order and medieval life is such that it is a World Heritage Site. World Heritage. With not a lot of information about why, or the building or the history of it while walking around and able to have the information about the parts of the building, their dates, function, what they were likely to have looked like. Some parts were labelled with their name, such as the cellarium, the undercroft, the lavatorium, and so on. But only some.  As far as I could tell, there weren’t any audio guides you could borrow to guide you around the Abbey.

However, the gloss of the visit was roughly removed for Liz, whereas I was in a happy place wandering around drinking in the architectural wonder and being a bit of a detective on the phases of building.

Here’s a couple more images of things that caught my attention at the Abbey.

Bracing (some call it feckin’ freezin’) walk to the Coldstones Cut

Coldstones Cut 05
Liz at the East end of the central corridor of the Coldstones Cut

We woke this morning to a frost with hazy golden autumn light flooding the world and showing beautifully the glory of the Dales. The views from the road from Cracoe to Coldstones Cut were absolutely splendiferous.

The walk up to the art installation called Coldstones Cut was rather bracing, to say the very least. The wind was very strong with a high wind-chill factor. It certainly helped to blow away the cobwebs left in our heads by a night’s sleep. The path to the Cut was quite steep in places, well for one who’s not all that fit such as I, Angela.

The first thing I saw of this installation was the beginning (or end) of a long, straight, open-roofed and open ended corridor that runs E to W. The corridor was huge and made me feel quite small. It was high, solid, sturdy and built of big blocks of sparkly limestone from the Coldstones Quarry.

These walls seemed to force my attention along them, towards the West. Each step taken opened the view up a little more. Taking that final step out of the corridor magically revealed the amazing views all around from the South, to the West and then to the North. With this step, there was a sense of liberation from the oppressive nature of those towering, heavy limestone walls; a sense of relief from the suspense of being able to see the whole view, a kind of enlightenment, maybe.

The same experience was repeated when walking towards the East.

This corridor is the only part of the Coldstones Cut. At the centre of the corridor there is a raised red dome, and leading away towards the North and South are two more corridors that  curve away from this dome.

The curving walls, as massive as the central corridor, obscured my view of the landscape and only afforded a narrow view of the sky directly overhead. As I walked along this uphill spiral path, more and more sky became visible, then a tiny sliver of the most distant hills, then more and more until one step took me onto a circular viewing platform. The sky was fully open to my view now and I could turn around in a circle to see the landscape in all directions revealed to me.

I could see the natural landscape of the Yorkshire Dales, where the Vale of York lay just over a ridge of hills. I could see the manmade landscape of the quarry, a huge hole in the Earth, revealing the secrets of what lies beneath our feet.

And that’s what it felt like, exploring this installation – it revealed ‘truths’ to me in each compass direction, but also above and below.

Walking back down the path to the car I realised that the path on the way up, if I’d not stopped and looked around, also served to obscure my view of the world around me. Walking downhill allowed me to see what was around me, just as the experiences in the Coldstones Cut had opened my views, my perspectives, my mind.

I couldn’t express this in spoken words. It’s taken much of the day and a chance to slow my thinking down, spend time with my experiences and type out my thoughts to get these impressions out. I have the feeling that there’s more there, floating through the depths of my subconscious.

I really recommend a visit to this installation. I’m sure that different people have different experiences at this place. The creator(s) of this artwork, this installation have done a very, very clever job.

Here are some more photos that I took this morning.

Coldstones Cut 04
The altitude of Coldstones Cut

Coldstones Cut 01
A view across the quarry from one of the viewing platforms. It looks like ancient Egyptian remains in the desert, doesn’t it?


Dominoes down t’pub


Serious stuff going on here! I played a couple of rounds. The pot at the end of the night was a massive 50p.

Lots of chatter and catch up going on as play continued in a quaintly Yorkshire pub – The Fountains in Linton, who supplied them with a plate of sandwiches partway through the evening.

A lovely way to spend an evening with lovely people. Thank you Jack, Barbara and Tedfor letting us join in.  You did mostly trounce us southerners, however one of us managed to win the ‘boxing’ game and walked away with the 50p.


Oop in t’Dales we are!

We made it!

Five hours of driving through changing scenery, from the mountains of the Brecon Beacons to the flat land in Cheshire. Onward through the gentle rolling hills of Lancashire and up into the Pennines and the Yorkshire Dales.

A journey that was filled with much random conversation, laughter and tractors! Yes there were plenty of tractors of all colours and sizes; well it is potato harvesting season!

We joked we really ought to do a podcast of our butterfly minded conversations as there’s no way we’ll remember much of it ourselves. This is rather good news to us as we can do the whole conversation again tomorrow and it’ll still seem fresh.

On the way we stopped for a nice lunch at Stokesay Castle. We’re planning to stop there on our way back later in the week and we’ll get some photos then.

The next leg of our journey had us rushing as much as we could (tractors and slow drivers permitting) to get to a lovely cafe Liz knows at West Marton. Sadly, we didn’t make it in time, but it’s on the go to list for later in the week. Liz reports they do a fantastic bowl of chips. And nice cake.

We did get to a farm shop on the outskirts of Skipton called Keelham’s. We were disappointed that the caff had shut for the day but the downstairs restaurant was open.

A lovely bowl of thrice cooked chips was delivered for us to share, followed by coffee and walnut cake. Oh, and a gallon of Yorkshire tea! The chips were gorgeous, hot, crispy and freshly cooked. The cake was nice enough. The service was excellent.

The tea was very welcome indeed after a couple of hours on the road dodging tractors!

I’m now settled in at the Devonshire Arms in Cracoe, Liz has sorted her caravan out for her stay. Shortly we’re off to play dominoes after Liz has invited us along to the local gathering of domino regulars down t’pub.

I couldn’t have had a warmer welcome at the Devonshire Arms from Phil.

And an apology. We didn’t get any photos on our journey; not easy to take from a motoring Freelander! However some of the things we did see on our way included:

  • buzzards
  • a field with several red kites feasting behind the plough
  • a heron coming into land that flew right in front of the car’s windscreen
  • lovely old medieval ‘black and white’ buildings
  • charming churches
  • duckpond, complete with happily floating ducks
  • stacks of freshly baked bread going round and round in tall windows of a commercial bakery
  • a baby bunny nibbling grass
  • brown spotted sheepies (the lamb was so cute)
  • potatoes – loads and loads of potatoes in huge trailers behind enormous tractors!

We’ll let you know later how much we lose at dominoes tonight!