Anniversary Adventure, Part 1:
Gosh - Hubcap and I have been married for eleven years! So to celebrate our wedding anniversary, we treated ourselves to an overnight stay at a country house hotel, and stopped en route to do a little sightseeing in the lovely old North Yorkshire market town of Thirsk.
As the weather was rather damp and dismal, we opted for indoor activities; and being great fans of the All Creatures Great and Small TV series, decided to visit the veterinary surgery made famous by the late J. Alfred Wight, better known as James Herriot, author of the humorous books on which the series is based. The premises he shared with his senior partner Donald Sinclair, (‘Skeldale House’ and ‘Siegfried Farnon’ in his stories), are situated at 23, Kirkgate, and now contain an award-winning visitor attraction, The World of James Herriot (on the left in the streetscape image). The building is largely presented as a time-capsule of a busy vet’s practice and family home of the 1940’s, with period rooms featuring many items originally owned by the Wights - the image below shows the dining room, which doubled up as a waiting room for patients! Much of the house seemed very familiar to us, as children of the 1960’s; our friends and relatives had had similar furnishings, we’d both had identical Ludo and draughts sets to the Wight children, and the packaging of some household products in the kitchen and scullery, like Flash scouring powder and Palmolive soap, were exactly the same as our mums used to buy. We also enjoyed seeing the reproductions of the sets in which the TV programmes were filmed, and the Real James Herriot Room, which contains memorabilia including the Olivetti typewriter Alf used to write what he modestly referred to as his ‘little cat and dog stories.’
It was altogether a fascinating and very nostalgic experience, with plenty to justify the £8.50 entrance fee - especially for Herriot fans - and we rounded it off with a visit to St Mary's parish church at the top of the road, where Alf married Joan ('Helen' in the books) in 1941. Probably built on the site of a Saxon minster, the Perpendicular Gothic building with its impressive 80-foot tower was constructed between 1430 – 80, with only a few blocks of stone in the south aisle remaining from the Norman church which it replaced. A fine building featuring some interesting stained glass, a magnificent original door and some gruesome gargoyles (pictured), St Mary’s is well worth a visit in its own right if you’re passing through Thirsk.
22nd October Anniversary Adventure, Part 2:
From Thirsk (see below) we revisited another of our favourite places, Helmsley, to lunch at The Vinery café and take a soggy stroll around the Walled Garden. As you can see from the pictures, the trees were in full fruit - including the medlar, popular in medieval times, and vulgarly known as 'Dog's Arse' thanks to its strange, rather anal appearance - and the plantings were showing some stunning autumn colour; well worth seeing even in dull, wet weather.
Then we hit the road again for our overnight destination, Dunsley Hall, at the tiny hamlet of Newhom-cum-Dunsley a couple of miles outside Whitby.
The hall has a fascinating history: built in 1900 as a holiday home for the West Hartlepool-born shipping magnate Frederick Haigh Pyman (1856 – 1932) and his twelve children, it clearly reflects Pyman’s maritime passions with its oak panelling carved by ship’s carpenters, (who reputedly went on to work on the RMS Titanic), fabulous stained glass seascape window in the lounge, and fine sea views from the grounds and main rooms.
It's a great value place to stay, with weekday deals of just £99 per person for bed, breakfast and evening meal (plus free sherry on arrival!). We thoroughly enjoyed our three-course dinner and a night in a comfortable ground-floor room in the new extension, with patio doors opening onto a pleasant garden (complete with a friendly neighbour cat, who came for a fuss in the morning); then after a hearty breakfast (full English for me and kippers for Hubcap), we set off for nearby Sandsend via Mulgrave Woods, a working woodland with footpaths accessible to the public at weekends and on Wednesdays. This was a beautiful walk through a litter-free, peaceful environment – and completely sheltered from the biting north-easterly, as we discovered when our path emerged just a few hundred yards from the beach! We didn't quite have the energy to walk on to Whitby, or the inclination to emulate the group of pictured bathers - but we did take a short stroll along the pristine sand to admire the dramatic coastline, and definitely plan to return in rather less bracing conditions to do the three-mile hike to Whitby. An altogether wonderful experience - highly recommended! Meanwhile if you fancy a guided walk of Towton battlefield, do join us on the 28th - see Events for further details.