The Grey Nomad
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The Best Kept Secret of the North
I was invited to visit my two dear friends who had returned to the North of England to be near to their son and grandchildren. Moira was an embroideress, belonging to the Embroiderers Guild as I do.
She, with a team of people from the village, embroidered all of the kneelers in Lympsham church, Somerset,
as well as the altar kneelers which are a work of Art. The designs were hers. A group of us would meet in her old stone cottage every month to embroider. Most of us belonged to the Avalon branch of the Guild, in Glastonbury. It now meets in the village of Ashcott.
They moved to a beautiful stone house, near to Pendle Hill in Lancashire at Barley.
They cleared the stream in the garden, planted flowers, ferns. My first visit was in the month of October. The leaves were thinning and falling in the wind. We walked in the fields above Moira's house; saw the Wensleydale sheep with their horns and rope like fleece, with the backdrop of Pendle Hill.
The hill was purpley brown with heather. There are special High Moor Stiles that have to be climbed.
Barley Post Office served the small community very adequately. In snow time the sheep roam the hills. Farming is still the livelihood of many families as it has been for centuries. The oldest building in Barley is a barn, once a house and barn, situated to the pub side of the stream opposite the gateway to the village post office.
These two friends of mine were great walkers and wanted me to experience this land. They took me to Malham Cove. This fantastic place with its limestone pavements, the little plants growing in the cracks, sheltered from the cold wind. They are expanses of limestone that have been scoured clean of soil by glacier ice. Rainwater has since dissolved the rock. The countryside above Malham has little rivers. It is so clear and clean.
We were eating our picnic on the banks of a river when we saw an otter in the river, head up out of the water, watching us. I love otters.
We walked to Gordale Scar with its great boulders and tumbling waterfalls.
Another day we walked to Janet's Foss at Ingleton, alongside the River Twiss. There was a money tree whose trunk was jammed full of coins the folk had hammered in. On a bridge at Swilla Glen we watched the river swirling and angry, twirling around the boulders in the river. The waterfalls at Beazley were noisy and were high falls. Standing on the bridge at Thornton Force the water splashed upwards in our faces. Pecca Falls had deep pools-some of them like ponds. The long grasses under the trees shone in the October sunshine. The River Dee and Snow Falls sang as they tumbled down the rocks.
There are traditions! Hay Meadows in North Lancashire full of wild flowers. Rich hay meadows have become rare. It was on my second visit in early summer that my friends took me to these beautiful flower meadows with their stone barns.
These barns were put there for people and animals – the snow has been known to reach 6ft in winter and these barns are life saving.
Downham was visited on a circular walk. There are still the remains of the Old Village stocks in Downham. There were masses of ducks in the village. Clitheroe is a lovely small town. It has a communal washing stone bath for washing clothes in the square where the villagers used to do their washing.
I went to Hawes with its rope works and visited the great Wensleydale Cheese Experience- the cheese halls had delicious cheeses for sale. The first real Wensleydale cheese was made by the Cistercean monks who settled there in 1150. Then followed the Dissolution of the Monasteries in the 16th century, which led to farmhouse cheese making. The cheese vats that are used today were installed in 1952.
We walked to Sladburn along the river. We saw osprey; we had lunch in a local pub.
I was intrigued by the 17th century school at Chatburn, it was still in use. We went up to Butter Tubs Pass, North Yorkshire. The pass is a high road in the Dales. The road winds its way North from Simonstone near Hawes towards Thaite-Muker in Swaledale. Between Wensleydale and Swaledale in North Yorkshire the Butter Tubs are a group of fluted limestone potholes, just off the roadside near the summit of the Butter Tubs Pass. These great holes in the ground descend to 80ft or more. Pen-y-Ghent stands guard over this land as you approach it.
Living in Cheshire as I do, means that I am able to explore the North, the mountains and coast of North Wales. I am able to go to Scotland with ease.
the British Isles are little.
I went to the Yorkshire Dales with Alsager U3A (University of the Third Age) in June 2008. A crisp early morning saw us on our way. A group of us travelling up the M5 as far as Junction 32. We turned off the motorway and then the roads became smaller and the scenery wild and beautiful in the Yorkshire National Park. Rivers and streams cascaded down the deep valleys, the villages were built of stone. There was Thorpe with its stately owner occupied house.
Nearer to Hawes the high flat top of Pen-y-Ghent had cloud on its summit, with bands of sunshine streaking down its sides. The scenery became even wilder - great sweeping fells. The barns or stone huts that have saved sheep and peoples lives in wintertime were still there, for there are long weeks of strong winds and snow.
The meadows were full of sweet flowers and grasses. Yellow Buttercup meadows with their stone walls enclosing them in higgly piggly shaped fields. The walls of stones marched up the steep sides of the mountainous hills. There was Clover growing, Moondaisies, patches of blue, wild summer Geraniums, red-brown Dock, Bugle, Queen Anne’s Lace flowering on land that has never been cultivated. Sheep graze these meadows in summer and the early autumn. Cattle were in the home fields. Grasses whisper and bow their heads in the running winds. These are ancient lands; trees (usually Hawthorn) lean in one direction.
Near to many of the villages there are lovely big trees.
Hawes is old, it's cheese creamery famous. Craft people have many shops and outlets. Swaledale sheep with their "rope" like fleeces can brave the winds and cold.
The cascades and waterfalls were shouting their way through Hawes. This is such great walking country.
Inglebourough with its huge caves are there for all to explore. These visits have allowed me to visit areas of great beauty that I didn't know existed.
Sadly Moira has since died. This land will always be associated, for me, with these two friends.
Do try and visit it one day.
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