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

IMG_20180924_212208.jpg

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.

dav