Victorian Rock Garden

Across the street from Heather Cottage is an old-fashioned Victorian Rock Garden.

Apparently, when it began, travelers would bring back plant specimens the way we bring back souvenirs, and plant them in their rock gardens. Much of this garden was alpine, the flowers and plants tucked into the rocky hollows. Follow the above link to learn more about its history, which began at the turn of the century.

When the present owners purchased the house, it “came” with the Rock Garden, which was fairly run-down and in bad condition. Angela, one of the owners, has restored it and it is quite interesting. Quite a novelty.

These plantings are amazing–from the street it looks like a small rocky hill, but it has a winding path past a motion-activated waterfall, under a rock bridge, around a few bends until the upper garden is reached.

Looking back to the Yorkshire Hills through the rock bridge.

Dave, enjoying the upper garden.

This area has a little bench, grassy area rimmed with large rocks and plantings. A quiet oasis.

We watched the video about the restoration of the garden and several times Angela says she’s an amateur gardener. I guess in England that means they’re an expert, because in her backyard, on the way to the car and the hen house is this small rock garden, with teensy pond, and array of flowers in complimentary hues. A treasure. She said one time she was back here working, and a Scotsman (complete with kilt) admired her rock garden. She pointed out that the bigger one, the one they’d traveled to see, was across the way. I hope she smiled at that error–I’d be happy with this garden to gaze at.

Aysgarth, Wensleydale, England

Notwithstanding the flowers in the bumper in the previous post, we did drive safely, arriving here on the afternoon of the 4th of July. Our bed and breakfast (Heather Cottage, see next post) is at the bend of the road just before you head on to Hawes, site of Wensleydale Creamery.

Aysgarth is actually about 3 blocks long, with two bends in the road. On one bend was our B&B, and on the other end was the George and Dragon Inn and Restaurant, where we headed for dinner.

We walked in and they to go sit in the pub and have a drink while you decide what to eat. This pub culture was new to us–let’s be real–as non-drinkers all pub culture is new to us. We don’t drink, I said lamely, but we went to a bar stool in the pub area where the evening’s menu was written on a chalkboard. We watched the bartender–always an interesting sight–as we chose what to eat. I selected squid and spinach pasta with salmon and Dave selected roasted chicken. They wrote it on a piece of paper, and impaled it on the hook next to a number–our table number, I supposed. Then the waitress came and got us from the bar and took us to our table.

First was our soup: an amazing tomato soup, but with a sweet taste like they’d added some apple juice to it. (Sorry the photo’s blurry.)

Dave’s chicken was artfully stacked. One of the challenges of eating in a foreign country is trying to match up what you think you are ordering with what they are actually serving. I thought I was ordering a pasta that was colored black with squid ink and colored green with spinach, all with salmon. Wrong.

I actually ordered SQUID and SPINACH and pasta with salmon. Yep, those long tubular shiny things are pieces of squid. “Calamari,” said Dave, trying to be encouraging as I stared at my dish. I cut it up into ribbons, but could still taste the rubbery-ness with the strands of pasta. I managed to eat enough to be respectable, but let’s just say that the salmon was the high point of the meal. I’ve never been a fan of squid.

We walked the two blocks home (about 8 buildings) but the evening was beautiful and a little lane behind the B&B beckoned.

What’s Harper Wath? we wondered. Later, at home I looked it up.

Wath: This surname suffix is said to be derived from the Viking word meaning “ford” or a shallow river crossing. Down the lane and around the bend was a small series of waterfalls and yes, you could have forded it at that point.

However, Dave thinks it led to another signpost that directed across the fields, heading upstream.

On our way back up, we saw these farm trucks moving across the field, then navigate the small opening in the rock wall. We waited while they moved on, then continued home.

We loved this tree, photographing it many times.

Dave braved the midges (and their biting) to get this sunset.

For the final entry in this post, the river and its sounds:

Yorkshire Dales National Park

“We are in serious babe country,” says Dave, looking around.
I was surprised. He usually never mentions the women. And the women in Milan and northern Italy I thought were more provocative. I mention this to him and he says,
“Not babe. Babe,” and makes the sound of a lamb bleating.

Yes, we are in serious Babe country.

These photographs are taken over the next two days while we travel around the Yorkshire Dales National Park–where we’re staying.

This area has many dry stone walls piled in zigzagging rows across green fields, white fluffy clouds (well, today we had them), grazing animals; James Herriot, the man who wrote All Creatures Great and Small lived in this area as well.

Another drive-by photo: I’m snapping as Dave drives from Grassington up the B6160 to Swinithwaite, through the Yorkshire Dales National Park. The scenery is bucolic, enchanting, all the cliches apply here. Okay, I’m finally “into” little English towns and they’re lovely.

We pause at the crest of the hill (perhaps just past Buckden?) because I tell Dave he just has to see this vista.

This photo is just after a rainstorm, the fields vibrant green against the gray-blue sky.

Thistles by the side of the road.

I’d seen this lone tree the day before as we drove and we went back to capture it digitally.

On July 5th, we headed to dinner near Newbiggin, but first drove up towards the summit of where we’d been the day before. The rainstorms had blown through, for the moment.

This is behind our B&B, taken after a rainstorm when everything’s misty and ethereal.

I currently have this photograph as a desktop photo/wallpaper.

Dave liked how the trees grew as a canopy over the road. This is near Aysgarth Falls, or Fells: a series of short waterfalls. We’re used to looking for high waterfalls in the Western U.S., such as the drop in Yosemite, or Bridal Veil Falls in Utah. Here, the waterfalls are more like gentle cascades, with several short drops.

Aysgarth Falls
From a local tour book: “Aysgarth Falls are a breathtaking triple drop waterfall, carved out by the River Ure as it flows through the Wensleydale countryside.”

Grassington, Wharfedale, England

July 4th–Happy Independence Day

To celebrate properly, we decided that we should sing Our Country ‘Tis of Thee as we drove along small country roads. The tune is based on the English melody God Save the Queen. Fitting, we thought. We really owe a great debt to being of English lineage; when I say “we” I mean three of us: the USA, and both Dave and I.

We left Fountains Abbey, and drove down a yellow road. I should explain. On the maps there are blue motorways (like an American freeway), green highways (some divided, most only two healthy-sized lanes with side shoulders), red roads (two lanes sometimes with a dashed line showing division). After that come the yellow roads, which have NO shoulders, no dashed lines, but are wide enough for two cars. And sometimes a farmer’s tractor and a car. The last one, which we went on for about 100 feet and quickly turned around are known, according to my niece Jessica, as the “white roads of death.” Well-marked maps clearly state that they are less than “4 metres wide.” That’s less than two car widths.

Dave did pretty well. Only occasionally did I say, “a little close over here.” When we arrived at our destination one night we did find a tuft of flowers in our bumper, yet no finger dents in the door handle from the grip of death. I practiced zen-like deep breathing. Just kidding–Dave was fairly good at this by now.

So, we headed on the yellow road to Grassington. Lots of websites raved about this little town. I frankly just wasn’t in the groove yet for little English towns. I guess my head was still in little Italian town mode. There wasn’t much there, really, but we did find the toffee shop where we purchased some goodies for the drive.

A wonderful shade of green, on a door in a rock wall.

Loved the horse shoes over the door. For a long time, we hung a four-leaf clover over our front door. I finally gave it back to Matthew (who had found it), but I like to think that this brought us luck.

Finally, I’m getting in the mood for rock walls, green fields and small gray building-towns. But as we stride by, I notice they are hungering after Southern California beach.

I had begun my search for Whitby Jet in York, fixating on this type of “stone” as it was from the area. (If you want to know about it, watch Persuasion with Gwyneth Paltrow–in one scene she is shown in Hammond’s shop in Whitby with a lovely carved black brooch on her coat. Below are some earrings.)

We toyed with the idea of driving to Whitby, but couldn’t execute (too tired). The prices in York at Hammond’s shop, already steep, seemed too high with the exchange rate of two dollars to a pound. So I passed on a necklace there. I wondered if I could find Whitby Jet in the netherlands, maybe at a jewelry or at antiques shop.

In Grassington, I visited with a woman in a jewelry shop about Whitby Jet. She said it should sound like plastic when you tap it against you teeth. If it sounds “sharp” then it’s French Jet, and is made of glass. I asked her if she had any for sale, and she didn’t. But she did bring out her collection of jet bracelets that she’d picked up at auctions. With her permission, I tapped the stones of one bracelet against my teeth–yep, sounded like plastic. She wouldn’t sell any of her bracelets, and there was no other in the shop. Although Dave and I looked for it after that, it was not to be found.

Couldn’t resist taking a picture of this sign–Humped Zebra Crossing–which meant the stripes painted on the speed bump on the road, not the lady waiting on the bench.

York Minster

York Minster is England’s largest medieval cathedral, complete with stained glass windows, lovely wooden carved choir seats and Gothic everythings. It also has the Semaphore Saints, but more on that later.

We approached the cathedral from the side, and could see the massive bell towers.

This is the south transept entrance, where they shake you down. No, I didn’t mean that exactly, but the cathedral does exact an entrance fee. Luckily we’re readers of Rick Steves and knew to wait until the evening song service: Evensong, when they don’t charge you to go to church.
The first church on this site was a wooden chapel built around 627, and after that was a Roman basilica, followed by a church built by St. Wilfred (which was destroyed during William the Conqueror’s reign). I’m getting all this from my guide book, which goes on to detail the first Norman church, which we saw fragments of when we took the tour of the undercroft. This present building dates from 1220 and took about 200-plus years to complete.

They ushered us for Evensong, and we sat in the carved choir seats. The choir filed in: men on one side, young women (ages 17 down to about 7, I guess) on the opposing side. Listening to the organ, sited atop the choir screen, and the voices of the choir was a subliminal experience. I enjoyed the topic of the evening prayers: first, for those who are judges in the land, and secondly, those who are victims of knife crimes. The prayer’s specificity really made me think about these two sub-groups of society. Usually we bless the “poor and afflicted,” and leave it at that. But during the prayer I did think about judges, and the difficulties they must face. I am less familiar with knife crimes, but did feel blessed that I am less familiar.

After the last notes of the organ faded away, we were allowed to walk around the cathedral and take photos. This is of the choir area.

If I looked directly overhead, these angels were in the carved wood of the seat.

The ceiling of the cathedral is wood, painted to look like stone.

Stained glass window.

View from the choir area to the back of the church. The large rose window in the choir area is under reconstruction, so we couldn’t see it.

This window is known as the Five Sisters Window, with sections over 15 meters high. It is the minster’s oldest complete window, dating from around 1250 AD.

The organ pipes are painted decoratively.

From the back of the nave, looking toward the organ and the choir screen.

The choir screen depicts the 15 kings from William I to Henry VI, and they all have wonderful and wild hair.

The Semaphore Saints. It’s a sculpture from 2006, and is at the very back of the church. On the last chair, they’ve left a chart so the viewer can figure out what they’re saying. I didn’t, but did enjoy them.

Detail of screen.

Outside, looking up…

…and up…

…and up…

And up again!