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Enjoying Britain – West Mersea and Audley End

May 29, 2013 By: Pip Land Category: Enjoying Britain, Personal No Comments →


In May we headed for Essex and visited West Mersea  and Audley End House while based at the Premier Inn, Springfield, Chelmsford.

It was hard to believe that, having grown up in on the northern bank of the Thames that I had never visited West Mersea before. On May 19 we avoided main roads for we wanted to enjoy the country lanes of Esssex. Unlike in North Yorkshire at that time the trees were fully adorned in spring green in shocking contrast to the vivid yellow of the blossoming rapeseed. I still see the latter as an interloper in the British countryside – even if it is now an important cash crop.

At The Strood we were surrounded by mud for it was low tide as we crossed what is one of the few true causeways connecting a community to the British mainland. After a quick look at East Mersea we headed for the Victoria Esplanade at West Mersea with its remarkable long line of beach huts – and were glad to find the Two Sugars seafront cafe where we could sit and watch three sprit sail rigged barges and a yacht race. Sadly it was too hazy to get any good photos of those barges.

We enjoyed a gentle and enervating stroll along the beach, fascinated by the odd shapes created when oysters had glued their shells to those of their neighbours. Like us many others were making the most of some warm sunshine after a cold winter.

Our next stop was the Mersea Island Museum. I had found this originally when searching the internet for information about the Thames sailing barges that my grandfather had been the master of. So I had hoped to find out more by visiting it. This small, independent museum did have lots of interesting information about fishing, oystering, wild fowling and local boat building – but nothing more about those Thames sailing barges. So after an hour or so we went back to the Premier Inn at Springfield in Chelmsford.

On arrival there we were delighted to find there were comfortable seats, a bar and a restaurant near the reception. The staff were exceptionally friendly and very helpful concerning any food allergies and intolerances – so much so that we ate there each evening.

The highlight of our Essex trip should have been our visit to the Jacobean mansion at Audley End near Saffron Walden on the Monday. I had checked the English Heritage website beforehand but there was no warning that the main house would not be fully open at that time. Having made the journey there we did pay the full entrance even if we felt that was a bit much for just a whistle-stop 50 minute tour of the house. Our guides did a good job but it was nothing like having time to stop and browse in the various rooms, and being able to find out more about many of the interesting objects and paintings.

Thankfully there was more to see on the estate including the various gardens, the kitchen, laundry, dairy and the well renovated stables with a very informative exhibition about life on the estate during the 1880s. David was fascinated by the demonstration given by Rebecca Holland, the stable manager, about training horses to not be scared by random moving objects such as plastic bags and umbrellas. He thoroughly appreciated her relationship with the two horses, and theirs with her, as well as her patience and the training techniques she used. And even if we did not have much time in the house he commented: “I did enjoy seeing inside it – and thinking about its history right up to my own time.”

A seat near the stables provided the perfect place to study the house and reflect on that sweep of history which took in the dissolution of the monasteries by Henry VIII, the development of Audley End House into a Jacobean ‘palace’, and how later owners had to downsize it to make it economically viable. During the second world war it became the secret training base for the Polish Section of the Special Operations Executive.

Our routes to and from Audley End again took in some fascinating ancient Essex villages such as Thaxted and Newport. The 15th, 16th and 17th century houses included some wonderful examples of pargetting (external decorated plasterwork) – and many timbered buildings which, have over the years, warped and become wonky or lopsided.

The following day we travelled to Thurne in Norfolk as David’s boat needed some care and attention. On the way David took me to visit Bungay in Suffolk where we saw what was left of Bigod’s Norman castle. Bigod was a 12th century warlord who tried to create his own mini kingdom but was brought to heel and kneel by Henry II. Even more of interest was the Jesters tearoom which we passed en route to the castle. David was delighted that the advert that they made the best hot chocolate proved, for him, to be true.

We enjoyed a gentle stroll around the town where I saw the Butter Cross for the first time and learnt about the legend of the Black Dog. We thought the weather that day wasn’t too bad until we reached Thurne. There the wind was so vicious and cold that it felt as if winter had returned!

Below: More beach huts at West Mersea; and enjoying a view of Audley End House.



Enjoying Britain–Ironbridge

April 25, 2013 By: Pip Land Category: Enjoying Britain, Personal No Comments →



It was David’s turn to choose our destination in April – and he not only picked a fascinating location but also superb bed and breakfast accommodation. As soon as we arrived at the Foundry Masters House (above) in Ironbridge, Shropshire, we were enveloped in the warm and friendly atmosphere created by Dawn and Danny Wood. (See also Enjoying Britain )

Dawn is also a great chef producing wonderful meals even for those of us with food allergies or intolerances. On the Saturday evening we and two others, Kate and Peter, were treated to a feast – and the conversation was so entertaining that we did not leave the dining room until 10.30pm.

On our first evening in Ironbridge we were fortunate to find an empty table at Da Vinci’s cosy little restaurant and so began the weekend with a memorable meal. Walking to and from Da Vinci’s we could enjoy very different views of the Iron Bridge, built in 1779, and from which the town gained its present name.

From the Foundry Masters House it was easy to visit the many museums in and around Ironbridge and we made good use of our annual passes.

On our first day we visited the Victorian Village at Blists Hill. This had its own special features particularly the use of the old pounds, shillings and pence and  the friendly, helpful staff who spoke to all the visitors.

metalworker_twocWe watched Roger Fewtrell (above) preparing to cast iron figurines, saw children learning about how iron was made in the past, and could see the machinery used to lift a cage-full of miners out of the depths of a coal mine. By lunchtime our nostrils were aquiver with the smell of freshly baked bread and also fish and chips fried in beef dripping .

The village is quite compact so it was easy to stroll around and enjoy the shops and visit the various houses with their cast iron fire grates – from the upper class Doctor’s House to the lowly squatter’s cottage. (By the end of the weekend we couldn’t help feeling that there must have been thousands of squatter’s cottages around Ironbridge in the 18th and early 19th centuries.)

We had enough time that afternoon to also visit the Jackfield Tile Museum. We were filled with wonder at how the Victorians and their successors had produced a seemingly endless array of colourful tiles. I was especially enthralled by the murals created for children’s hospital wards.

The following day we first visited the Museum of the Gorge to obtain an overview of how Ironbridge  (or Coalbrookdale as it was known in the 18th century) had been “the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution”. The 12 metre long model of the Gorge in 1796 is exceptional and so informative.

We then went to the Coalbrookdale Museum of Iron and made some surprising discoveries. David, as a Quaker, thought he knew a lot about how the early members of this Society of Friends had influenced the industrial revolution. But he had not realised that the Quaker ironmaster Abraham Darby I had actually helped to start the revolution. He perfected the technique of smelting iron with coal in Coalbrookdale and his company went on to employ 30,000 – 40,000 people!

By the late 18th century the gorge was full of smoke and noise as both sides of the River Severn were heavily industrialised. And that’s why Abraham Darby III was keen to have a bridge built to connect those hives of industry. But he, like his grandfather, died young. And for David and I that led to another interesting fact about which little, it seems, is said in either the Museum of Iron or the Darby Houses. There was one small note about Sarah Darby which led to me searching the internet for more information.

And yet again it was the story of the importance of Quaker women in the 18th and 19th centuries. For Sarah Darby became the head of the Coalbrookdale Company in 1789 when her brother, Abraham Darby III, died. Elizabeth Fry as a teenager witnessed how Sarah and Abraham’s widow, Rebecca, and other female relatives, kept the company going until his sons were old enough to take over. Sarah and Rebecca were founding partners of the Coalbrookdale Bank in 1810.*  Other women in the Darby family became renowned Quaker preachers. (See also The Quaker Inheritance)

After two days in Ironbridge David and I were over-filled with so much fascinating information and things to see. So we will return – not just to Ironbridge but most definitely to the Dawn and Danny’s Foundry Masters House.

* M Dawes & N Selwyn Women Who Made Money: Women Partners in British Private Banks 1752-1906, published as an e-book with Trafford Publishing in November 2012.

Below:  At the Victorian Village – inside the Doctor’s House and visitors enjoying a horse and carriage ride.  At the Museum of Iron – the head of one of the  life-size deerhounds on a 16 cwt cast iron table designed by John Bell for the Paris International Exhibition of 1855. This table is among the remarkable collection of cast iron objects on show at the Museum.The Iron Bridge was also created with cast iron and has withstood many a storm and flood.








Enjoying Britain

March 11, 2013 By: Pip Land Category: Enjoying Britain, Personal No Comments →

David’s birthday in October marked the beginning of our “let’s enjoy Britain” travels. We started by visiting Greenwich that month, and then Edinburgh in January, followed by Chester in March.  There’s definitely a boat theme in our travels!

March 2013 – Chester

We returned to budget travel for the journey to Chester – but this time in David’s “new” diesel cabriolet Smart car. It was far more comfortable than the 11-years-old left-hand drive diesel Smart that he had before!

Our first stop was at the awe-inspiring Anderton Boat Lift. What a remarkable piece of Victorian engineering. And it was good to see that it was again being powered by a hydraulic system.

At Chester it was again a Premier Inn that provided us with comfort on a budget. This one was in Caldy Valley Road and close to the Broughton Heath park and ride bus service. So we had a comfortable drive (free with our bus passes) into the centre of the city with no parking problems. And what a city!

In the Rows – the first-floor half-timbered galleries which have provided space for a second row of shops above street level since the Middle Ages – one scene summed it up so well. A large group of primary school children were having a picnic in two of the alcoves (stallboards) along the Row on the West side of Bridge Street. With their brightly coloured jackets and their snacks they were truly children of the 21st century thoroughly enjoying the amenities provided centuries ago.

After sampling the Rows we headed for Chester Cathedral and were delighted to find that the entrance fee had been replaced with voluntary donations. I thoroughly dislike places of worship charging an entrance fee. So it was encouraging to find that one of the pioneers of such charges had found, after a two-month pilot scheme, that it was more productive to rely on donations.

In the Cathedral we were fascinated by the modern stain glass windows, the mid-19th century Pre-Raphaelite mosaics, the 14th century quire stalls and so much more. Not wanting to carry too much I had only my little Olympus Mu camera and so could not get a good photograph of the Chester Imp. But some of the other medieval sculptured figures were just as intriguing.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA         Two sculptures even looked like a man and his wife – with the wife perched discretely behind him (I needed a long lens to photograph them). After a brief visit to the Roman ampitheatre we made our way back to the bus stop.

The following day we had a leisurely wander in the warm sunshine around the well laid-out and informative National Waterways Museum at Ellesmere Port. David was particularly fascinated by some of the good design features and the ropework on the leisure boat Amaryllis. That afternoon it was so warm we had the soft-top roof down on the car. Winter returned the next day, however, and so our visit to the servants’ quarters of Erddig Hall got off to a cold start. We were too early in the year for the full tour – so we will have to return sometime.

Our thanks to the chef at the Brewers Fayre next door to the Premier Inn on the Sunday and Monday who helped me find meals I could eat, and assured David that no shellfish had been fried in the fryer used for the chips. It’s not often these days that David can order chips. We also had great pizzas at the Piccolino in Pepper Street.

Below – left- the Anderton boat lift; right – one of the houses in Bridge Street, with the Row running above the white fronted shop.






January 2013 – Edinburgh

David organised this as my birthday treat but I almost wrecked it by lifting a heavy object some days before and setting off muscle spasms in my back. Thankfully the spasms stopped the day before we went north – and David got his Mercedes 320 Cabriolet out of storage to provide me with a very comfortable ride. Otherwise we would have gone in his very economic Smart diesel. The heated seats in his Mercedes were blissful!

Yet again we had chosen a Premier Inn that had a free car park and easy access to local transport. This one was at Leith waterfront and was yet again well-run, friendly and as comfortable as ever. It was just a short walk away from a bus stop where we caught the Majestic tour bus.

We had intended to walk around the centre of Edinburgh a lot more but it was very cold and I didn’t want that back muscle to go into spasm again. So, after a very interesting visit to the Camera Obscura we headed back to the bus stop. Thanks to the Edinburgh Tour and the Majestic Tour we got an excellent overview of this historic town even if we sat downstairs where we were protected from the wind and rain.

The following day we visited the Royal Yacht Britannia. It provided an intriguing insight into the lives of the members of the British Royal family – from the way it once provided them with a special way to escape from the public spotlight to the juxtaposition of their luxurious quarters on the upper deck with those of the crew down below. But even if the crew quarters were cramped it was obvious that most of those who served on the Britannia saw it as a very special honour. For David the highlights were that gleaming engine room and the Royal barge. We also had a great view of one of Antony Gormley’s waterside statues.

For those with food allergies and food intolerances we couldn’t fault either the restaurant on the Britannia, the Brewers Fayre at the Premier Inn, nor Prezzo at Pier Place in Leith. But the best meal of all was definitely at Prezzo. They prepared for me an excellent pizza with extra virgin oil, buffalo mozzarella, pineapple and ham. We have found that the chefs at Italian restaurants are amazingly creative when told they can’t use any cow’s milk products or tomatoes on my pizzas! Before heading home I bought some excellent fresh fish from Loch Fyne Fishmongers at Leith.

Below –   left:  Antony Gormley’s statue dwarfed by a departing ship; right: Edinburgh castle soars above our bus; and underneath – that beautiful Royal barge.


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA         OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA         October 2012 – Greenwich

For a comfortable bed at economy prices we feel that little can beat the Premier Inns. For David’s birthday treat we booked in at their Inn at Rainham, Kent. This provided us with the opportunity to see some of my family, including my mother (now in her 90’s) and the chance to visit Greenwich.

We left the car at the Premier Inn and made good use of our concessionary bus passes by going by bus to Chatham train station. It was a memorable day thanks to visits to the National Maritime Museum, the Cutty Sark, and then the river ferry to the South Bank in London for supper at the Giraffe restaurant – one of David’s favourites.

At the museum I especially enjoyed the exhibition about the East India Company and Asia as it connected so well with all the research I have done about the first girls’ schools in India and China. David was fascinated by the front rudder on Miss England III. This was designed and built by Hubert Scott-Paine in 1933 and a year later set a world record of 110.1mph for a single engine boat.

We were both impressed by the Cutty Sark. David remarked: “That was wonderful. They made a good job of the restoration.” Below – looking up at Miss England III (left) and the Cutty Sark.


Aysgarth church – a personal view

January 12, 2013 By: Pip Land Category: Enjoying Britain, In Wensleydale, Personal No Comments →

This is my own very personal view of Aysgarth churchSt Andrew’s, Aysgarth – after many years of sitting in pews, assisting with events there and just spending time contemplating the gifts that have been made to it over the years that make it a special place in Wensleydale.


I often wonder what it feels like having one’s nose squashed against a stone column since 1866. That was the year when the Victorian makeover of Aysgarth church was completed and during which someone added a series of carved heads to look down upon us. Were those stone heads bought “off the shelf” or did they have any local folks in mind?

The wonderful East window bequeathed to the church in memory of William and Ann Robinson and some of their children evokes very different thoughts. I often use that window to meditate on the joy of having a personal relationship with Jesus Christ which depends so much upon the sacrifice he made on the cross. The Robinson family also gifted to the church the altar and reredos beneath the window. The latter is a magnificent piece of 19th century craftsmanship in Caen stone portraying Leonardo da Vinci’s Last Supper.

Alongside there are some fascinating examples of medieval craftsmanship. For me there is a lot of fun in the medieval carving – even if it was intended to scare people into heaven. There are those naughty little imps (or devils) peering out from the 16th century beam above the vestry door. The beam, inscribed to Abbot Adam Sedber of Jervaulx, is said to commemorate the rebuilding of St Andrew’s in 1536.


The Abbot was executed in London the following year for participating in the Pilgrimage of Grace against Henry VIII – a rebellion aimed in part at saving the smaller monasteries like that at Jervaulx from dissolution.

Soon after the Abbot’s death the rector and parishioners of St Andrew’s, which had very close links with Jervaulx Abbey, decided to bring the beautifully carved rood screen to Aysgarth. It is said that 20 strong men carried it on their shoulders across Witton moor to Aysgarth – the same moor where the Abbot hid when trying to evade being caught up in the Pilgrimage of Grace.

At first the Jervaulx Screen served as a rood screen between the nave and the chancel at St Andrew’s. When the church was being rebuilt between 1864 and 1866 the screen  was restored, painted and gilded at the expense of the church’s present patrons, Trinity College, Cambridge.

The Vicar’s Stall, at the western end of the Screen, was also brought from Jervaulx Abbey. The intricate carvings on the bench ends include a little monkey beside an intriguing mystical animal and a medieval depiction of a lion. What did these mean to the Abbot when he sat in such a grand seat? Below  – that lion – and  the monkey with mystical animal.






























For me one of the highlights on a Sunday is listening to Richard Wilkinson playing the organ when the worship service is over. “It’s a wonderful instrument and it is a joy and a privilege to play it,” Richard told me. It was built by Abbot of Leeds and installed at St Andrew’s in mid 1880.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA In the early 20th century there were further gifts to the church but none more soulful than the font in the baptistry. Mrs Jane Winn of West Burton had the font created in memory of three of her children who died in infancy. Baptisms are no longer held at that one as the 18th century font has been brought back into use.

Mrs Winn’s husband had donated the clock in the tower to the church in 1904 and, after the 1st World War, paid for the Memorial Gates. All those from the parish who died as a result of wars since 1914 are commemorated inside the church, including Capt Philip Guy who was killed in a helicopter crash on the first day of the Iraq War in 2003. The memorials to those who died in the 18th and 19th centuries were re-installed in 1866.

The Winns belonged to the gentry of Wensleydale – but another of the church benefactors of the early 20th century certainly didn’t start life in that social class. That one was born in West Witton in 1859, the illegitimate son of a house servant, Elizabeth Graham. After his birth she returned to working for Francis Sayer in Aysgarth. When her employer died her son added his father’s surname to his and became known as Frank Sayer Graham.

He did eventually inherit his father’s estate and used it to build in Aysgarth a state of the art Edwardian house (Heather Cottage) which embraced the Arts and Crafts movement of the time and a fascinating Edwardian rock garden. He also developed a successful business which included exporting live grouse from Scotland to the German Kaiser and silver grey rabbit furs from the warren at Lady Hill in Wensleydale to pre-revolution Russia.

pulpit_detailThe love of his life was his first wife, Mary. When she died in December 1911, aged just 45, he had a magnificent new pulpit in carved Austrian oak created for the church in her memory. One of the panels depicts Jesus with a blind man (John 9:5). The man’s mother is shown watching her son being healed. I often wonder if Frank Sayer Graham had anything to do with her being included. Was he remembering his mother?

The gifts to the church include several beautiful and evocative stain glass windows, but that is another story.

If you visit St Andrew’s you can purchase both Barry Thornton’s essay and the illustrated Visitor’s Guide. And there is a copy of Marian and John Kirby’s Aysgarth Church, Odd bits of its history and Some of its people, in the local history section of the Dales Countryside Museum at Hawes.

For details of services at St Andrew’s and at other churches in mid Wensleydale see Penhill Benefice.

The space at the Eastern end of the nave was extended in 2007 and this has made it possible to hold regular cafe churches there. It is also a great performance area which, with the superb acoustics in the church, makes this a great place to hold concerts and recitals. See Wensleydale Concert Series


A Walk from Aysgarth

March 07, 2012 By: Pip Land Category: Enjoying Britain, In Wensleydale, Personal No Comments →

It takes just 10 to 15 minutes to walk across the fields from the  eastern  end of Aysgarth to Aysgarth church and Aysgarth Falls.  This walk begins at the bottom of the lane below the Methodist chapel. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Last spring those two lambs had jumped  over onto the footpath which at that point runs between a hedge and that drystone wall. Above – trying to get back to mum. 

At the next stile on the way to the church it is possible to see both Bear Park and Carperby to the north (below). Bear Park was originally owned by Marrick Priory in Swaledale and the present house was built in the 17th century.


As you approach the church you can see a large building to the right which was once known as the Palmer Flatt hotel because it was built on the site of a medieval hospice for pilgrims or “palmers”. This is being completely refurbished by the new owners and should be open by early summer if not before and will be known as the Aysgarth Falls Hotel. The car park at The Falls is also visible, as well as (to the right) the large building which now houses a book store. This was the original home of Aysgarth preparatory school  and in 1881  there were 81 scholars. By 1891, however, the school had moved to its present site at Newton le Willows. In the 1920s and 1930s the building was part of a TB sanatorium and later served the area as a YHA hostel.

As you enter the field directly below the hotel it is possible, from the fence on the left, to look down on the River Ure (below).


Or you can go up the path towards the hotel to get a better view of Bolton Castle across the river to the north east. bolton_castle


















The footpath across that field takes you to Church Bank road and on the other side is what may be the largest churchyard in the country. You can take time to visit Aysgarth Church (St Andrew’s) which is open every day or turn left just inside the main gates onto a path which takes you to the northern exit from the churchyard. Descend the steps to reach Yore Mill.

This began life in the late 18th century as a cotton mill  and over the next two centuries was used to produce worsted, to grind corn and then flour (see Yore Mill). There was a school in a room in the mill complex in the early 19th century run by John Drummond, a noted mathematician. In the census for 1891 there were nine households listed at the mill complex, ranging from a clerk in holy orders living in one of the small cottages to the corn miller with his wife and six children. Today the mill is used to generate some electricity for the National Grid and the once derelict cottages behind the gift shop are being renovated.

The old middens (toilets) for the cottages by the mill race are by the river just before the bridge. There is an excellent gift shop on the right. For refreshments there is a choice for there is the restaurant at The Falls (by the car park opposite Aysgarth Falls Hotel) ,the tea room at the Yorkshire Dales National Park car park on the northern approach, or the tea shop by the bridge

The bridge was built in the 16th century  for pack horses and was only nine feet wide. It was rebuilt in the 18th century when the turnpike roads were made. Do be careful crossing the bridge as there is no footpath and is just wide enough for two cars! At the other side turn left through the gate to the Upper Falls. In this parkland meetings and galas were held which, in the mid 20th century, included the Aysgarth annual show with sports, fancy dress and tea tents. Across the river are the remains of lead mining and a bit higher up the river is Aysgarth Mill where electricity was generated for the village in the mid 20th century.

Back at the road take the footpath on the left through the woods to the National Park car park where there are toilets and the information centre in which there is an exhibition about how the falls came into being and the wildlife of the area. Outside the information centre there is a mosaic made by local children. For more photos (all copyright Pip Land) see Aysgarth Falls.

Aysgarth Reflections

January 14, 2012 By: Pip Land Category: Enjoying Britain, In Wensleydale, Personal No Comments →

Most people come to Aysgarth because they want to visit those famous falls. The village, a bit further west of Aysgarth Falls doesn’t look at first as if it has much to offer the tourist – even if it does have some excellent accommodation and food available.

It does now have a beautifully maintained Edwardian rock garden at the west end. When I first came to the village it was almost impossible to move around in the rock garden as it was so full of brambles and nettles. Thankfully Peter and Angela Jauneika found sufficient funding to be able to restore it and it was opened to the public in April 2003. Below: The exterior of the rock garden in early 2002 and how it looked after restoration.  And inside the garden before and after.



























From the gateway to the rock garden it is possible to look out across Wensleydale and down what is known locally as Jammy Hill. I have always been fascinated by the painting of James Thompson which hangs in the institute. It shows him at work as a cobbler and clog maker. His home overlooked the hill that now is remembered by his name. In 1891 there were two shoemakers in Aysgarth as well as a butcher, two grocery shops and a postmaster.

The village could still boast a general store with post office and a cheese and wine shop at the end of the 1990s. But then we had what I called the “cheese and wine war” when the owner of the general store decided to go into competition with the shop next door.  Not surprisingly that didn’t help either shop and within a few years both had closed. One has been replaced with an excellent teashop. Below – our cheese and wine wars in the summer of 1998.


James Thompson lived next door to Frank Graham, the illegitimate son of a housekeeper, who had finally come into his inheritance from the Aysgarth landowner who had fathered him. It was Frank Sayer Graham who had the rock garden built as well as his Arts and Crafts inspired house opposite (Heather House). From Jammy Hill one drumlin (a hill created when the glaziers receded at the end of the Ice Age) stands out. The old Douglas Firs on top of it gave Lady Hill at very distinctive shape for many years. It will take time for the young Douglas Firs to be so misshapen. When Frank Graham owned Lady Hill it was an enclosed warren where he bred silver-grey rabbits. In the early 20th century he was still exporting the black furs from the young rabbits to Russia.

He became a major benefactor of St Andrew’s church at Aysgarth in the first decades of the 20th century.  The Anglican church had remained a central feature of village life even though the Dale had witnessed the great spiritual revivals of the 17th Century when the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) opened its first meeting houses and the 18th Century when many responded to John Wesley’s preaching and became Methodists.  There are still two Quaker houses west of the rock garden and the Society of Friend’s burial yard behind them. As there are only a few gravestones at the south end the Wensleydale and Swaledale Monthly Meeting Trusts gave permission for the children of the village to play football in the burial yard.

Opposite the village green and what remains of the village stocks is Hamilton’s Tea Room which offers homemade food each day except on Tuesdays. Or you can walk a bit further east to the George and Dragon.  (All photographs are copyright Pip Land)

You’re Joking!

January 04, 2012 By: Pip Land Category: Personal No Comments →

Sami, the Yorkshire Terrier, was always ready to go for a walk but even for her there were limits. Just see the look she gave me when I tried out a lamb’s waterproof jacket on her!  Raq proved to be far more laid back when, with old age, he needed to wear knickers. Raq died on June 26, 2012.



Aysgarth Falls

January 04, 2012 By: Pip Land Category: In Wensleydale, Personal No Comments →


When the River Ure is in full spate I can hear the roar of the water over Aysgarth Falls from my home. But it is not easy to get a good photograph of the water storming over the Upper Falls for often it is still raining hard or there is not enough daylight. I struck lucky during the first week in January even if I almost got blown away as I took photographs from the bridge. The rain held off and the sun broke through for a few minutes and I snapped away until my fingers were too cold. I then headed for home only to find, at the top of Church Bank, that there had been a hailstorm and the A684 had a treacherous icy mantle.

I certainly would not have dared to try and take any photographs from under that bridge – as I had done in the summer of 1995. There were even flowers growing among the rocks in the river bed during the drought that year.


There was just a sad trickle of water flowing over the Lower Falls that year – as compared with four years later. I particularly love visiting the Lower Falls when there is a gentle cascade of water rippling over the limestone shelving as in May 2011.
















A dramatic Mercedes year

November 22, 2011 By: Pip Land Category: NE Mercedes-Benz Club, Personal No Comments →


A sad ending for a very special lady! On Sunday, July 17, David and I were on our way to the classic car rally at Newby Hall and looking forward to meeting our Mercedes-Benz club friends when we were hit by another car. Thankfully David, who is an observer/trainer with the Northallerton branch of the Institute of Advanced Motorists, had spotted the danger and taken evasive action otherwise we, and the other driver, would have been very badly hurt. Even so we were very badly battered and bruised and both cars have been written off.

The Mercedes 280SL had been David’s pride and joy for many years and been a very enjoyable car to drive, especially in summer with the top down. We are very grateful to those who helped us that Sunday – including the doctor who came with the Great North Air Ambulance who even gave Raq, David’s elderly blind dog, a check up before handing him over to the capable hands of our friend Margaret. Our thanks also to the staff of  Lowes Breakdown and Recovery Ltd at Brompton on Swale who were so helpful whenever we visited their storage yard to collect items from the SL afterwards.  Below: That lovely lady before July 17.




Comments after the “crash”:  “What a pity for the old lady but she was clearly made of stern stuff  and saved you from far worse!” and “Gosh – what a good advert for the strength of Mercedes cars!”  Below: The crash created an interesting piece of wheel sculpture! OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Before the crash David had two Mercedes – the 280SL and 300SE. Afterwards he went to Gasoline Alley at Bingley – a place we had spotted when on our canal holiday in October 2010 – and traded in the 300SE for a Mercedes 124 320E Cabriolet. He does love convertibles but didn’t feel he could ever replace the 280SL he had lost. So we went to the RAF Leeming Families Day on July 30 in the Cabriolet. For two battered and bruised people it was a very comfortable car. And it was great to meet up with many of the friends we had missed seeing on July 17.


Skipton to Saltaire by Narrow Boat

November 02, 2010 By: Pip Land Category: Personal No Comments →

David decided to celebrate the beginning of his 70th year in style by booking a four-day cruise on a narrow boat from Skipton to Saltaire and back. We warned our friends, Jim and Sue, that it would be a working holiday and they rose to the occasion magnificently. Sue took care of most of the catering while Jim thoroughly enjoyed himself working locks and swing bridges.  (Photo – David, on left, and Jim being briefed  at Skipton on how to operate the narrow boat. For full gallery of photos click on this picture.) 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA         Starting from Skipton meant we could do the basic shopping at a supermarket and also buy some great pork pies in the town. Both Sue and Jim had been on narrow boat cruises before and voted the Skipton to Saltaire route as the best they have ever been on, not just for the famous five- and three-rise locks at Bingley, but because of the mixture of natural scenic beauty and industrial architecture.

Jim very aptly compared living on a narrow boat to a game of chess where each move had to be carefully planned. Our first problem was finding a safe place for Raq, David’s blind elderly dog, especially when we were loading the Pennine Cruiser boat Leyburn. David was initially shocked that I had made Raq cosy in the heads (toilets) but at least his cocker spaniel was safe from our trampling feet. Later we made a bed for him in a corner of the fore cabin.

hirst_lock Unlike Sue and Jim’s Monty Raq wasn’t up to walking for hours along the towpaths. But he did enjoy getting out for a while each day to sniff all those interesting smells left by other dogs. Sadly many owners hadn’t cleared up after them so one of the problems along the towpaths was dog mess. (Right – Jim, Sue and Monty at Hirst lock.)

At Silsden where we moored on the first night we found another problem – an over officious guard in the shape of a white duck. At regular intervals throughout the night it and its feathered platoon loudly quacked their way up and down that stretch of the canal. And when guard duties were over it led its followers onto the patio of a house and made sure the poor owner had plenty to clean up when she came home from work.

When Sue and Jim took Monty for a walk early that morning at Silsden they came back dripping as it was raining so hard. So Jim put his full waterproofs on ready for opening and shutting all those swing bridges. Thankfully the weather improved and for most of our journey to and from Saltaire the sun shone and we could enjoy all the brilliant autumn colours.

On our second day we made a successful and memorable descent of the locks at Bingley thanks to the lock keepers – Barry at the five-rise and John at the three-rise. That night we moored at Shipley and then went back to Saltaire the following morning. What a fascinating place! David and I will definitely return to visit the 1853 Gallery at Salts Mill and to study Titus Salt’s model village. And we did find a bakery which sold curd tarts. As Sue said – how could they visit Yorkshire and not buy some of those.

By the time we left Saltaire Raq had become quite demanding about his morning sniffawalk. He wasn’t that interested in keeping up with the boat – there were far more important things to do!

On our way back we were grateful for the help of Nick the lock keeper at the two-rise lock at Dowley Gate. It took longer to go up the three-rise and five-rise locks with this operation being carefully co-ordinated by Barry and John as there were three other boats besides ours. By late afternoon we had reached Riddlesden which meant that the following morning Jim, Sue and Monty had a delightful walk in the grounds of East Riddlesden Hall.

On our last full day of gentle cruising Sue made sure she was back on board with Monty before we reached “cow shit bridge”. This swing bridge near Skipton allows a farmer to move his cows from his fields to the milking parlour (see photos below).  For Jim it was not an easy task moving that bridge! There was a sense of power, however, at the road bridges that had flashing lights and barriers!

Those road bridges reminded us, along with the roar of traffic along the main road to Bradford, that even if we were cruising along at two- to four-miles an hour we were not so far away from the hurly burly of the modern world. But it was nice for a while to live in a slower universe more like that when these remarkable canals were built in the 18th and 19th centuries. Long may they continue to exist and be available to those like us who want to escape for a while. (Copy and photographs copyright of Pip Land).


Jim tried to close the bridges quickly so that he caused as little trouble for motorists and other road users. Below – What a lovely sight the cows made when crossing the bridge – but the view was not soOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA         OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA         great for Jim!

Monty may have been sad to leave the boat after all those great long walks. But Raq was delighted to get back to his home comforts!


A Yorkshire Terrier memorial

May 13, 2010 By: Pip Land Category: In Wensleydale, Personal No Comments →

sami_running sami_rosette














“She was such a big character in such a small package,” commented one friend about Sami. Just a few days before she died and even though she was not well she still enjoyed a good run across the fields. When younger she even won that rosette for being the fastest in a race for small dogs at the Wensleydale Agricultural Show in Leyburn. I am in no hurry to replace her because Sami was such a special little Yorkshire Terrier, with a big heart, large expressive eyes, and a great companion.


The first Yorkshire Terrier we had was Tommy (left) way back in 1987. The idea was that he would be a good companion for my son, Eddie, as we travelled the world with the UN agency that his dad, Tony, worked for. So Tommy travelled with us to Quetta in Pakistan to become part of the expatriate community there. When we moved to Peshawer Eddie and I had the fun of travelling on the “milk run flight” which stopped at such old British outposts as Fort Sandeman. Tommy, however, was not so impressed and howled every time the turbo prop Fokker F27 Friendship came into land and took off. But at least the crew let us take him out of the luggage area at the back of the cabin so that he could have a walk (and a pee) at each of those small airfields overlooked by the Hindu Kush.

Sadly Eddie and I had to leave Tommy behind when we settled in Wensleydale in 1990. A few years later when Tony and Tommy were in Geneva Eddie and I collected the little dog and went on a fascinating train tour of Switzerland which included visiting Jungfraujoch . And, of course, Tommy, left his blessing…. Yes, he had a pee at the highest point he could reach.

zac Back in England Eddie felt lost without a dog so we went to the National Canine Defence League in Leeds and fell in love with a cross bred dog called Zac (left). And then in 1997 Tony decided he wanted another Yorkshire Terrier. He asked Eddie and I to find him a bitch and to house train her for him. So that’s when Sami came into our lives. She was called Sami because the elderly lady that had her thought she was a boy – so we just added an ‘i’ to Sam. What surprised us was how quickly Sami became top dog and very much part of our family. So Tony gave her to Eddie as a birthday present and went looking for another puppy. This time we made sure that the new dog, Tina, went to Switzerland as quickly as possible – and I thought that was that. A few years later, however, United Nations High Commission for Refugees sent Tony to places like Sarajevo and Kosovo and he couldn’t take Tina. Rather than see her left in kennels for months on end Eddie begged me to let her come and join us in Wensleydale. Having three dogs was fine all the time we could walk through the fields but it became a nightmare when that was not possible during the foot and mouth epidemic. If anyone had made a video of me tangled up in dog leads they could have sold the film to You’ve Been Framed.

But one by one our dogs died. Zac went first with acute haemophilia. Tina developed mammalian tumours but with good care she continued enjoying life until she died in 2006. Below: Tina as a puppy; and Tina (left) with Sami.



Two deaths, two lives

October 22, 2008 By: Pip Land Category: Personal No Comments →

JillNeillB Jill Neill, 10th March 1958 – 13th October 2008

For me October 20 2008 will be one of those days I will never forget. I knew that as soon as it was announced that Jill Neill’s funeral was to be held that day.
But not long after that celebration of her life I sat watching another friend, Mike Lyth, try to explain to the world’s media why Gayle Williams had chosen to work – and therefore die – in Afghanistan.
I couldn’t help thinking about the strong similarities between Jill and Gayle. Both were committed Christians who didn’t force their faith on others but lived it. Both, as Jill’s partner, Derran Sewell said at her funeral, had gone from a good world to a better one. And how could we know that? Because they knew Jesus as their friend and saviour.
In the last few weeks Jill’s friends had watched her bravely face the monster of cancer which was eating away her life. And yet, even though there were many bad times, her spirit rose above it all. For she knew Jesus was walking with her and would be there when she crossed over. For a great obituary about her see the Northern Echo Northern Echo/Popular journalist dies.
These days in Britain it is not easy to talk about one’s faith in Jesus and “Evangelical” has become a dirty word. Yet in the way she faced death Jill revealed the hidden treasures of her faith and was a true witness. And in her death Gayle was too.
Those of us who have been involved in aid and relief work among Afghans have been very aware that it was a dangerous path to walk no matter what one’s faith (or even lack of it). For aid and relief work in a war torn country like Afghanistan stand for power and influence. The various factions will kill to stop the poorest being helped by others – because they want that power for themselves.
And so Gayle’s desire to share God’s love with the poor and disabled in Afghanistan led her into that better world with Jesus.
The problem, as those of us at Jill’s funeral were so aware, will be how to live without those who have left us behind. We, the bereaved, can only pray and encourage each other. And we can pray for those like Mike Lyth and the other leaders of aid groups in Afghanistan, who need so much wisdom now as to how to help the poorest of the poor in that country.

The Gambian Connection

September 11, 2008 By: Pip Land Category: Personal No Comments →

Malc&Dave Dr Malcolm Garner and David Pointon have, for several years, spent a lot of time in the Gambia: Malcolm’s objective is to help children who have impaired hearing and David’s is to work with the Gambian Organisation of the Visually Impaired (Govi). Govi is the only organisation in that country working for the promotion of equal rights and full participation for visually impaired people.

In January 2004 Malcolm and David drove a four-wheeled drive diesel Mitsubishi minibus overland to the Gambia and for over two years it served as the school bus at the Govi Resource Centre near Banjul. That Resource Centre provides the only school for the blind in the Gambia.

(Above) David and Malcolm (right) on arrival in the Gambia in 2004.


DesertDrivingb The Mitsubishi “Mitsi” being driven through the desert to the Gambia. A romantic view of what was a very tough drive. When the Dales Team took two new school buses to the Gambia in November 2006 the new road through Mauritania was open and so there was no desert driving like this.


It was in April 2006 that David introduced me to the idea of helping blind children in the Gambia. By then he had visited that country several times to help at the school for the blind as well as to deliver Mitsi. By 2006 Mitsi needed replacing and David had begun to dream of taking something bigger and better. I wrote a feature for the Darlington and Stockton Times  about his dream and within a few months the Dales Team had formed.


WithMrsDavies1b The team consisted of David, myself, Ken Nicholas, Donna Parker and Hazel Townesend from Wensleydale; Ray Wright from Arkengarthdale; Charles and Elaine Wood from nearby Richmond; and Frank Whitfield from East Cowton near Darlington. By September three of the team (David, Charles and Ray) were able to travel to Germany to buy two Mercedes minibuses – a Sprinter and an MB100 as, for the Gambia, we needed left-hand drive vehicles. David likes Mercedes anyway, and the parts and expertise for them are easily available in that part of Africa.

(Above) When 100-years-old Kathleen Davies (who now lives in Bainbridge) heard about our adventure she decided to knit teddies for the children. Here she is with Ken. By the Sprinter are, from the left, Donna, Hazel, Pip, David and Ray.

As a team we raised over £13,000 for this project which included what we put in the kitty to cover our travel expenses. We left England on November 23 and reached Banjul on December 11 after a fascinating journey which had taken us through Morocco, Mauritania and Senegal.  In Morocco all of us especially enjoyed our short visit to Marrakech and the drive through the Atlas Mountains.


(Above) One of Ken’s great photographs from the journey – this was taken on the drive through the Atlas Mountains. Later he took the sun roof out of  Rosie the MB100 so that he could photograph our descent to the desert. The ability to get out through that hole in the roof proved very useful on the ferry across the River Gambia as there was so little space between vehicles that we couldn’t open the doors. That hole also provided Donna and myself and great vantage point (below)

G O V I ..... 1030


G O V I ..... 1032

The most memorable moment for all of us was arriving at the school and receiving such a warm, wonderful welcome from the staff and students. We not only delivered the new school buses but also equipment like computers, a printer and a computer driven embosser. David made sure that these were soon “up and running”.

DPSCamera_0116 (Right) School children exploring their new school bus.

But for these two vehicles so many would not be able to go to school. Even so there are many others, scattered throughout the Gambia, who cannot access this facility. It is estimated that there are over 300 visually impaired children on the north bank of the River Gambia beyond the reach of the school buses.


That is why David latest dream is to work with the Gambian teachers’ training college to train all teachers so that they can help the visually and hearing impaired children in main stream schools. Mitsi has been repaired and both David and Malcolm use it when working in the Gambia. David hopes that in 2009 it will be possible to find a suitable left-hand drive vehicle which can be equipped to provide a support facility for teachers in main stream schools. And so the fund raising continues through the Friends of Govi (UK). David has been a trustee of this UK charity since the late 1990s.  See Friends of Govi for more information.