Just over a week ago I arrived back in the UK for an extended stay. After a few days in London dealing with jetlag and four children (thanks RN!) I headed north to my parent’s house. I have never lived in the house they are in now, but it still has small things, ornaments and nick-nacks that are familiar and make the place feel like home. Of course the first meal was my mother’s meat and potato pie as predicted and wonderful it was too. I really was at home.
Part of the plan for the time here was to head out and about into the countryside – places familiar and places new. We headed north west to the Lake District and North East to the Yorkshire Dales as well as south to the Peak District and the towns of Lancashire, Yorkshire and Derbyshire. I had forgotten just how much I love this part of the world. The countryside is both beautiful and forbidding; stark and soft at the same time and in more ways than I realised it is a part of me that will always thrill, excite and delight, no matter how long I am away.
The weather brought out both the worst and best of the region – torrential rains mixed with clear, cold blue skies. In a heartbeat the scene would change from dank and dripping to majestic and bold. We wrapped up to keep warm in spite of the wind and rain and wandered around castle ruins, stately baroque piles and high moorland country and enjoyed every second of it.
A few pictures below will give a taste of the beauty of the some of the northern counties of England.
The day in the Lakes was cold and the rain fine and persistent, lending a softness to the landscape. We had stopped for lunch in Ambleside and sat undercover at the edge of Windermere enjoying our sandwiches (very British, don’t you know!) when the sun made a valiant attempt at warming this part of the globe. It failed, but for just a brief moment the rain lightened and the colours deepened and the two shots of the lake (above) and the fells were taken.
Most of the boats were not out on the lake, which is no great surprise. However against the blues and greys of the water, fells and rain the boat cover gave a hint of just what could be around the corner if the blue skies could break through. They didn’t so it remained just a hint, nothing more.
Wensleydale is famous for a number of things, cheese being one of them. It is also home to Bolton Castle – a medieval fortress built and still lived in by the Scrope family. From the far side of the dale, in a moment of rare sunshine, the castle stood out clearly. When you see it like this it is a clear reminder of just how difficult it would have been to move through Wensleydale without the eagle eyes of the soldiers on the battlements seeing what you were up to…
It was disappointing that we didn’t get to enter Middleham Castle – the tourist season has not yet started so English Heritage haven’t opened many of their properties – but we did get to walk around the outside. This view is from the ruined east curtain wall, looking towards the keep at the heart of the castle. Much of the structure survives in some form so there is almost certainly going to need to be a revisit to explore this fascinating place in more detail.
Chatsworth probably needs no introduction to period drama film buffs. Used as a location in countless movies the Cavendish family have lived here since 1549 when the formidable (and much married) Bess of Hardwick, Countess of Shrewsbury made this stunning location her home. It was one of the better days with the sun making many varied and valiant attempts to break through the clouds and allowing the warm stones of the west front to shine in it’s beams. Chatsworth is one of the great country houses of Europe and well worth a visit should you be in this part of the world.
If you are, however, remember that in order to create such beauty the 6th Duke of Devonshire demolished the village of Edensor and moved it over the hill, so that it wasn’t in view of the house anymore. Am not sure that the current holder of the title would be allowed such license, but it could make for an interesting news item should he try. As compensation (if you can call it that) the 7th Duke did commission Sir George Gilbert Scott to build a rather splendid replacement church, which can be seen through the mists below.