Thursday 31 May 2012


Until recently, all I'd ever seen of Thirsk was the small train station; it is one possibility to get to Ripon, taking a bus from there, although it is a lot more convenient getting off the train at Harrogate, with bus services being more frequent and reliable there.

The day after my sister and I had been to Newby Hall, we wanted to do somehing else; we had now visited two stately homes in the space of two days and were ready for a different activity.

Maybe Thirsk is known to some of you as the home of Alf Wight, who became famous under the name of James Herriot, writing about his life as a country vet in Yorkshire from the late 1930s on. He was a vet in real life, and the house where he lived and had his surgery has been turned into a very pleasant museum.
You can find out more about the museum on their website.

For a change, we were allowed to take photos as much as we wanted, and I really took advantage of that permission! No guided tours there (unless you make an appointment, I suppose); instead, visitors wander around the house, garden and into the barn at will. Inside the barn, a half-hour documentary about Alf Wight, his books and the BBC TV series made from it can be watched. The whole place is so nicely set up, looking as if the family has just gone into the next room and would be back any minute.
After our visit at the museum, we walked around Thirsk for a bit. There is the church where Alf Wight got married, and inside, there was a small crafts exhibition going on, with stalls where people were selling hand-knitted dolls (I didn't see any socks) and other such things.
We spent some time in a very cosy book shop and browsed some other shops, but didn't buy anything.
It was very cold and rather windy, otherwise we would have liked to see more of the town; there is, I gather, quite a nice stretch of green along the river, but we were very much ready for the bus when it arrived to take us back into Ripon.

PS: My Mum has added some new socks to her Etsy shop; you can click here to see them.

Tuesday 29 May 2012

More Socks!!!

After several of you said you'd like to see my Mum's lovely hand-knitted socks on Etsy, she has just opened her very first, very own Etsy shop!

You can find the shop here; there is not much in it just yet, because of course my Mum wants to find out how it works at first, and see whether it'll work for her.

Remember how it all began? My Mum wrote this guest post, and we combined that with a giveaway which proved to be rather popular with you, dear readers, even meaning some new readers for me.
And who knows - me telling you here about the socks now being available on Etsy may very well mean some first customers for my Mum! (She does take requests, by the way...)

I am very proud of her, and hope the shop will do really well.

Sunday 27 May 2012

Newby Hall

On the 3rd of May, my sister and I wanted to visit Newby Hall. 
At the Ripon Tourist Information, where so far I've always only met very kind, friendly and helpful people, they told us that although it wasn't that far to walk there (just under five miles), it wasn't a nice way, and we were advised to take the bus to Skelton-on-Ure instead and walk from there. We did that, and made sure to take note of the time the bus would stop there again for us to get back - we didn't really wish to be stuck in Skelton for the night. 
The way from the bus stop to the gates leading on to the Newby Hall estate is not very far. 

The estate itself is HUGE - you walk for about 1 1/2 miles among acres and acres of grassland, with sheep grazing as far as the eye can see. 

If it had been a sunny day with blue skies, this picture would have been the epitome of pastoral bliss in the English countryside, wouldn't it?

We were getting closer now - that's Newby Hall in the distance!

On buying our tickets, the kind people there told us that a tour at the Hall was just about to start, and they rang the house for us to announce two more, showing us which way to run in order to catch the tour. So we hurried along the winding path, catching only glimpses of the beautiful garden on our way, but we knew there'd be plenty of time for that later.
Inside the Hall, just like at Ripley Castle, photography was not allowed, but you can find pictures and information on their website. Once again, this place has been (and still is) inhabited by the same family for a long time; not quite as long as Ripley, but since 1748 is impressive enough, isn't it?

By the way - when we arrived (slightly out of breath) at the Hall, we were told that the current tour had just left, but it was just one lady on her own. The tour guide that had been waiting for us offered to take us on our own personal tour as well - that was very interesting, and of course, unlike when you are in a large group, you get to see more and can ask more questions, which our guide obviously enjoyed. She was a very elegant elderly lady in a navy trouser suit, sporting a Margaret Thatcher hairdo and wearing rather colourful make-up which prompted my sister to remark that she had probably been quite the stunner in her day.

The bus trip to Skelton, the walk (and the sprint on the last few hundred yards) to the Hall and the tour had left us in need of physical sustenance, and so our next stop was the tea room.
They had quite a variety of food and drink on offer, claiming it to be local and (some of it) organic (with matching price-tags...), and we both had sandwiches and this lovely chocolate cake as an extra treat. Believe me, it tasted as good as it looks!

While we had been walking along the pastures between the sheep, my sister had been picking bits of wool off the wire fence (the sheep can get through and wander at will, but it stops people from walking across the grass, and probably some inconsiderate ones would not hesitate to even drive on it or park their car). If you'd really be up to it, you could certainly gather enough wool there to knit a jumper with! (Or at least a pair of socks...)

After our break, we ventured out into the gardens. We could have spent hours and hours there, but we knew we had to get back to Skelton in time for the bus. We did see the whole grounds I think; they are beautiful even at this time of the year when the famous double herbacious borders are still far from the glory you can see on the website.
The column in the right picture is a memorial: In 1869, during a hunt, the fox crossed the river Ure. One of the men went one way to stop the hounds from pursuing the fox, but twelve other men and their horses got on the tiny ferry to cross the river. The ferry had only been intended for four horses at most, and their overloading resulted in six of the men drowning in the river. Apparently, the memorial only commemorates the lost hounds, not the men. And what the callous, cold-blooded Me thought in learning of this disaster was: I just hope the little fox got away safe and sound, and none of the horses drowned.

Of course, these are not all the pictures I took at Newby Hall and gardens. You can see many more on my photobucket album; just click here and then keep clicking "next" for a while :-)

We left the gardens... not through this gate, though.

Walking back to Skelton,  we did not exactly retrace our steps but detoured by the church that you can see further up in this post from a distance.
I don't think I've seen a church with a well in its yard before. What was its purpose? Surely not to draw water for baptisms? The short text about the church on the Newby Hall website makes no mention of the well.
Anyway, we were now back in Skelton and found that we had about half an hour before the bus was to arrive. A nice cup of tea or coffee would have been welcome, and we found a sign outside the tiny village store advertising accordingly. To our not very pleasant surprise, though, the slightly surly lady in the shop showed herself to be unwilling to allow us further inside the house than the shop itself; she obviously was getting ready for closing time (it wasn't 5.00 pm yet) and considered anything more than just selling across the counter too bothersome at this hour. So my sister got a paper cup of tea, not very graciously handed over, and we took this to the bus stop with us where we had no choice but wait - it wasn't feasible to walk around some more, since we really did not want to miss the bus and didn't know the area well enough to judge distances.
This was, in all our week there, the only person we met who was anything less than utterly friendly, welcoming and helpful.

Eventually, the bus took us back to Ripon, and we spent a lovey evening in the company of my sister-in-law and her family as well as their cats, the half-year old twin brothers Ted and Dougal.
(Don't be fooled - they are nowhere near as meek and shy as they look here!)

Does Anyone Know...

...what happens to the pictures on my blog if I delete them from my Picasa album? 

Here is the problem: This morning, I started to write about Newby Hall, and of course have plenty of pictures to illustrate the post. But I can't upload any of them, because apparently I am already using 99% of the storage space on my Picasa album. 

Now, of course I could buy more storage space - but I am unwilling to do that. I also could simply work with links to my photobucket album, but that would mean a post composed of text and links for you to click on, and thus a less nice-looking post and less comfortable looking at the pictures for you. 

So, I am thinking about deleting the oldest pictures on my post, but I won't do that if it means those pictures will completely disappear from the blog.

Does anyone know? 
Your help is much appreciated; I have already been browsing blogger help but couldn't find this information anywhere.

UPDATE: I don't know why, and I certainly have not changed any settings or anything about the pictures, but all of a sudden, blogger has decided to let me upload my pictures again. Ah well, the wonders of modern technology...

Friday 25 May 2012

Post No. 300: Allotment Interlude

It is indeed my 300th post! When I first started this, I had no idea where it was going - all I wanted was to write. And write I did! Learning lots of new things and making many new friends along the way, and that alone is reason enough for me to continue; no "higher meaning" necessary for me :-)

I know, I said in my previous post that I was going to take you to another Stately Home today. But Nan's Farm & Garden Report made me decide otherwise: you'll get an update on the allotment instead.

My parents' allotment has often been the subject of my blog posts, for instance here, and since it is quite an important part of our family life, I think it is only fitting that it becomes once again the topic for my "jubilee" post. (What's the 300 in jubilee terms anyway? I know 25 is silver, 50 is gold, 60 is diamond... but 300?)

Last week on Saturday, my Mum and I set out for the first time this year to do "our" walk; we like to take the train to the small town near the even smaller town (some would call it a village) where the allotment is close by, and walk from there. Depending on how often we stop for breaks, to enjoy the scenery, have sip of water or take pictures, it takes us between 1 and 1 1/2 hours.
As you can see, the weather was just right! This is looking back down the hill towards the small town where we got off the train. We were sitting on a bench in the sun here, having a snack and some water; it was lunchtime, after all.

I have already showed you the walk as such, but not this wonderfully enchanted little old building in the village:
We were wondering what is was originally used for, some kind of storage, obviously, but what exactly?

The next pictures are all from the allotment; you can see how nicely my parents (mainly my Dad) are keeping it all:
There are new goldfish in the tiny pond (the old ones didn't make it through the extreme cold period in January/February, I'm afraid; or maybe they had simply reached the end of their natural lives anyway, they'd been in there for years) and some other things have changed since I've seen the garden last. Can you spot me reflected in the golden glass ball?

The afternoon was still very beautiful, and after resting for a while (of course with coffee and home-made cake), I wanted to walk again. The woods are so beautiful at this time of the year, and this is where the shady figure went:
I heard a cuckoo and many other birds, some of which I was able to identify, but by no means all of them - never mind, their song was lovely also without knowing their names.
The way back to the allotment from where I was always seems a bit longer - maybe that is because of the path leading mainly uphill?
Anyway, it wasn't far from here; the compact-looking row of trees and hedges in the left half of the picture show the edge of where the allotments are.

It had been a very good way to spend a Saturday, and I hope there will be many more like this over the coming months.

Thursday 24 May 2012

Day Three: Three Times Ripley

Why three times? Well, there is Ripley, the village. There is Ripley Castle, and Ripley gardens. That makes three, doesn't it?

It was where we chose to go with Aunt J and Uncle B on the 2nd of May, wich was the 3rd day of our holiday in England (I obviously feel like playing with numbers a bit today).

So many times I'd been past Ripley on the bus that goes from Ripon to Harrogate and back, but never actually been there, so it was about time to explore the place.
Had it been warmer, we would have walked there, but since it was cold enough for us to be wearing padded winter coats and woolly socks (yes, mine were the hand-knitted pair of birthday socks shown here), we went in J and B's car.

Ripley itself is a small village, with most of what you can see today having been built in 1825 to look like a village the then owner of the place had seen on his travels in France (Alsace). I have been to this region of France myself many times, but I don't find Ripley looking particularly French - it is very picturesque, and especially the village store makes it look like a typical English village, don't you think?

But on to the castle now.

Most remarkable about Ripley Castle is that it has been owned and inhabited (and still is) by the same family for over 700 years! Can you imagine your folks having stayed in the same place for such a long time, and your feet still treading the same ground as so many of your direct ancestors have done? Let me borrow this quote from the website:
Our history is one of political, military, religious and social turbulence, of plague and persecution, of renaissance, enlightenment and industrial revolution. It is a tale of romance, courage, loyalty and recklessness. There is no final chapter because we are still here, still enjoying the adventure.

This quite nicely sums it up, and the castle is certainly worth visiting. We took the tour (no pictures allowed to be taken inside), and then had a walk around the extensive grounds before we explored the gardens.
There was so much to see, and I took so many pictures - I really had to stop myself from putting them all on here, but you can look at them in my photobucket album; simply click here and then keep clicking "next" for a while :-)

Let me end this post with a picture Aunt J took and which we all love - it looks like something you'd find on an artsy postcard or calendar, doesn't it?
We had been sneaking about in the greenhouse and ended up in a spot where I think we were not supposed to be, and J came across this row of tea mugs, belonging to the gardeners, who were all out in the gardens doing their work.

There'll be another Stately Home to visit tomorrow, but for today, I think I have given you more than enough to look at!