(I began writing this on Friday last: please bear with me.)
“Where?!”, I hear you chorus.Well, I thought the same. It is a small settlement to the west of Thirsk, North Yorkshire. Why am I here? It’s a long story, but suffice to say the place I am staying in was available at short notice, thanks to the remarkable efforts of Nadia at Hoseasons. And it is a delight! If you want a base for exploring this wonderful county, you could do much worse.
Okay, so what does Thirsk have going for it? Perhaps the most obvious thing is the race course, or perhaps that was my perception, as I enjoy a day at the races now and then. I had wondered if my travels would coincide with a nearby meet. Sadly, for me, there was a meet on Friday, the day I arrived, but I had things to do. And, guess what, the next meet is tomorrow and Saturday, when I will be moving on.
On the news a few minutes ago was a piece about the actor Robert Hardy, who has died. Robert Hardy was a fine actor, whose most recent fame was in the Harry Potter movies, but most people of my generation first saw him as the lead character Siegfried Farnon in All Creatures Great and Small. He was also a keen bowman and I recall he featured in a TV documentary about the efficacy of the English longbow, which was crucial in, for example, the battle of Agincourt, when the outnumbered English Army, led by Henry V, defeated the French. Allez les Rouges!
I digress. James Herriot, the vet in question, was one of Thirsk’s most famous sons, perhaps because of the TV series. Another famous son was Thomas Lord, who was born in the town in 1755. “Who?!”, again. Well, he moved to London and a field that he owned, as all followers of Test Match Special will know, became the home of cricket, the famous test match ground Lord’s.
Well, here it is:-
Thirsk is a bit out on a limb for me, but York is easily reached and I went there on shopping trip. Most people associate York with the Minster. Sure enough there were people trying to get that all-encompassing portrait shot, but with the Sun perched on the top of a tower, their chances were slim. It is still a magnificent building, though.
It was only on the return train journey, that I realised that I ought to have visited, for old time’s sake, the Roman column next to the Minster. I went there with planning school and one of our lecturers explained that, as a somewhat green graduate, his firm worked on under-pinning. Five large lumps of more or less barrel-shaped stone were discovered and said lecturer was given the task of overseeing their reassembly into a Roman column. The next edition of the Architects’ Journal lauded this as a magnificent achievement and said lecturer was pleased as Punch. However, the next edition featured a letter explaining that the stones were in the wrong order; essentially it was upside-down!
Another place worth visiting in York is the National Railway Museum, which is free to enter, and, as it is next to the mainline station, I had a quick wander. The star is undoubtedly Mallard, but there are lots of other things to see that say something about how our parents and grandparents got around and the things they would see as they did so.
But there are all sorts of hidden delights. One of my favourites is the intimate, meticulously tended, walled garden of the Treasurer’s House. Such a peaceful spot right in the middle of the city.
As it happens I contracted some sort of cough-cold and needed a rest while I coughed and spluttered for England. All week.
I’m on the move again tomorrow.
Well, here I am at Widbrook, just to the east of Bradford-on-Avon, Wiltshire. This stretch of the Kennet & Avon Canal is a delight and the town itself has some fine buildings and a splendid park, of which more later. Boat-hunting continues tomorrow.