My daughter lives within a short train ride of the small medieval city of York, so that was one of our first excursions. I read up on York before my trip. It was originally a Roman fort city, then conquered by the Vikings and finally the Normans. There is plenty of evidence of the Roman presence in the walls and towers. Sarcophagi were unearthed below the train station recently and moved to the museum grounds. This tower is Roman half way up- it's stones are smaller and rounder. The smooth, upper part with windows for archers is Norman. Sadly the Vikings built with wood so very little remains from their reign in northern England.
The Normans built the York Minster Cathedral. We wandered through the narrow streets on our way to see it. It towers over the city but the city crowds closely around it.
This was my first experience seeing a European Cathedral and I was smitten. There is rarely such a sense of the human hand on such a large building. I kept thinking of sand castles. It towers over the city in its own ethereal atmosphere. I caught a glimpse of it on our second visit to the city in the evening just as the daylight was almost gone. Its towers were just a little lighter blue than the sky. Minutes later they had disappeared into the dark. In the sunlight earlier in the day they were honey colored with distinct shadows in all the crevices around the statuary. I had never really thought about the possibility of cathedrals falling or that one day they would be gone. It turns out many of the towers have collapsed. York Minster has had major renovations recently to strengthen the underground support for its tower. Not like pyramids which were built to last forever with the most stable design possible, the cathedrals were built to soar, hoisting stone as high as possible and walling with glass. They are built in harm's way.
The next day we headed down the steep cobblestone street and out of town. Our destination, a little town in the Dales named Muker. Driving over little stone bridges and past hillsides covered with sheep brought back memories when I was growing up of reading about James Herriot, the vet who practiced here in the 1920's. Muker consisted of a handful of gray stone buildings. Like the gray stone walls that crisscrossed the hills they gave the landscape a somber mood matched by some foreboding clouds. The weather had changed... as usual.
We stopped in a wool store and fingered some beautiful sweaters before setting off on our five or six mile hike to reach an even smaller village, Keld. The shopkeeper directed us to walk up the hill through the village, then across the fields to the trail along the river.
It feels strange to us to walk through private land. The cows and sheep stare at us with concern but throughout England trails crisscross pasture land. Handy little turnstiles of all sorts help us traverse stone walls and fences. Of course at this point I imagine I have long skirts and I'm a Jane Austen heroine walking over to visit a neighbor. It rained but it was wild and wonderful and we made it there and back!
This shows the elevation of the hills we were walking past. They call waterfalls "force". Seems like an appropriate name for them.
Last October I flew out to visit my daughter and her husband in their new home in Yorkshire, England for a couple weeks. Amy and I decided to take a little trip on our own. Peter took me out to practice driving several times in preparation for our expedition. It was really challenging because it has been years since I've driven stick shift and you have to shift on the left, naturally since you are sitting on the right. And driving on the left. Oh my! Did I mention roundabouts? And one lane roads with two way traffic? We set off on a rare sunny day with reservations for a guesthouse in Richmond on the edge of the Dales. We made a stop at a wildlife refuge to do a little birding. There were large shallow ponds that attracted flocks of the prized lapwings mingling with golden plovers. The lapwing is an elegant bird, with a feather on his head, white and black tuxedo tucked under his wing- only visible in flight. When they all startle up a flock of lapwing is a striking sight.
We walked along the edge of ponds near a quarry, through pastures of sheep, edged with bushes loaded with berries shining in the sunlight. We were not accustomed to how cheerful the landscape looks on a sunny day. Walking through a little woods we noticed slender little birds with long tails. Their chests were a soft cinnamon color, their backs bluish gray. It was the only place we saw long tailed tits. We ate our lunch on a picnic table then set out for Richmond. I had done well so far driving but was feeling anxious about the small, unfamiliar hill town. Hills and stick shifts... All went well until we tried to find a parking space for our guesthouse. The narrow cobblestone lane with parking spaces all filled led up a steep hill, up and around the corner where we came to a wall. There was nothing to do but attempt a three point turn on a hill. It was scary but I did it! Our room was cozy- heavy wooden beams, a window seat, micro bathroom, a tray under a chair to put hiking boots on. This was a resting place for people walking the coast to coast trail. The row of houses were built in the 1700's- it was a Georgian town, but the owner said the house had originally been built in 1400. Our host gave us a flask of milk for our tea and homemade fudge- balm to our jangled nerves. We caught our breath and then set out to explore Richmond in the little bit of daylight left. We walked up to the Norman castle that dominated the town, built in 1,000 to conquer and control the rebellious region. From gray stone towers we looked down on the town directly below, a ring of market buildings and church. They looked like toy blocks. From the walls to the south we had a view of the Swale River below and the rolling hills. We wandered around the grounds, found a little chapel in the stone wall, a hidden garden outside the wall. When the light was gone we headed back down to the town to look for dinner.