A quick return

Hello, everyone – I’m sorry I’ve not been posting for so long. I’m afraid I got caught up in some stuff, and just didn’t have the inspiration to come and post here. But hopefully this post will mark the beginnings of my return, and to begin with some good news: I passed my driving test last week!

Me with my pass certificate - photo ©Rob Anscombe of Rob's School of Motoring in Whitby.

Me with my pass certificate – photo ©Rob Anscombe of Rob’s School of Motoring in Whitby. [https://www.facebook.com/pages/Robs-School-of-Motoring/320851121370807]

I’m hoping that before too long I’ll get my own car and be able to see and do more things in the moors and beyond. The other good news is that I’ve also got a new phone with a much better camera than my old one, so I’ll be able to bring back better pictures, too! For now though I’ll leave you with this sample of the new photo format – a beautifully stormy sunset photographed a couple of nights ago from my front doorstep:

wm storm sunset

We’ve had some fairly terrible weather up here recently, like the rest of England, but I can’t find it in me to complain if I get views like this out of it…



Places: Castleton [pictures!]

One for those of you who like my photos of Castleton and the surrounding area; while browsing the internet recently, I happened across Doc Brown’s Travel Pictures, a site with hundreds of gorgeous scenery and location photos from around the UK and beyond. There are several pages of photos from my neighbourhood, and I just had to share:

Castleton village and surrounding area

Castleton area in the snow – I’ve yet to see it like this as this winter was nothing like so severe as this one, but I’m almost looking forward to it now!

Do browse around the site and have a look at the rest of the photos too. I’m going to be here for quite a few tea breaks to come, myself…

Places: Church of St Michael and St George, Castleton

In any English village, you can usually guarantee the presence of two establishments at minimum: a pub and a church. Castleton is no exception, and indeed boasts two pubs, the Downe Arms in the village centre and the Eskdale Inn out by the railway station. Church-wise, though, it’s surprisingly impoverished. There’s the Wesleyan Chapel, which keeps the neighbourhood supplied with coffee mornings and musical interludes, but there’s only one traditional-style parish church.

That one church, though, is worth a visit. So a few days ago, during a brief break in the foggy weather of the last two weeks, that’s precisely what I did. Welcome to the parish church of St Michael and St George, Castleton:

Church of St Michael and St George, Castleton

Daffodils and silver birch outside the church

To find St Michael and St George’s, you go downhill from Castleton’s centre, following the road signs for Danby; the church is on your left as you head out of the village, set back amid trees, daffodils and a thick carpet of green grass. It was built in the 1920s to honour the fallen of WWI, consecrated on 28 July 1926, and replaced an older “tin tabernacle” – a prefabricated, corrugated-iron church that dated back to 1863. Architecturally it’s plain by comparison with the glory of many older English parish churches, with almost nothing in the way of stained glass or ornamental stonework. The porch is a small, unassuming entrance, given an extra rustic touch by the broken wooden rake that hangs in one corner:

The church porch

Wooden rake

A rake in the rafters.

It does also contain this tiny stained-glass window, the only one in the church, which is partially assembled from fragments of what looks like a much older window:

Stained-glass window

Stained-glass window detail

Detail of the window; below the shield with the three lions of England, fragments of older, broken stained glass can be seen.

I don’t know but I’m guessing these pieces might be all that remains of a previous church, either on the same site or close by. If I ever find out more I’ll let you know!

There are two other significant piece of ornamentation inside, though. First is the beautiful reredos or painted panel behind the altar, featuring the church’s two patron saints with their respective dragons:

Altar and reredos

Second, there are the oak pews, panelling and fittings, made by a renowned craftsman who was himself a native of the Moors: Robert “Mouseman” Thompson, of Kilburn. Thompson’s nickname came from his trademark: a little wooden mouse that he would carve somewhere on the pieces he made. His work was in high demand and can be found all over the North – his workshop is still in business to this day – and I have fond memories of hunting under tables and along wainscoting for Thompson mice in the library of my own alma mater, Bradford Girls’ Grammar School. St Michael and St George purports to have a total of ten mice:

Card listing the church's carved mice

These cute laminated cards are provided in the church to guide would-be mouse hunters.

I didn’t come close to finding them all, but here are a couple that I did:

Mouse on wood panelling

This mouse is on a panel just to the right of the organist’s seat.

Mouse on wooden pew

This one is on one of the pews.

I also took this shot of the lectern base, which shows the beautiful rough-chiselling technique that’s also characteristic of Thompson’s work:

Base of the lectern

The organ and pulpit show the same simple yet graceful style:

View of the organ pipes

The pulpit

I also noticed, hanging in a corner of the narthex (the area at the western end of the nave), this: a Cradle Roll, showing the births and baptisms for the parish. This one covers a range of dates in the first half of the 1940s:

Cradle Roll

And on the way out, if you’re looking carefully, there’s one final mouse:

Church gate and mouse

Squeak squeak…

Places: Danby and the Moors Centre

It’s funny how sometimes life does you a favour. I’d been planning to go to Whitby yesterday, but I overslept and missed my train. When I did wake up, I checked my email only to find that the friend I’d been planning to meet wouldn’t be available anyway, so I’d have had a wasted trip!

But since it was definitely too good a day to spend indoors, I decided instead to go out for a walk to Danby, Castleton’s next-door village, to visit the Moors National Park Centre there. While there is a bridleway covering part of the distance, after a winter as wet as this one has been I wasn’t sure it would have dried out yet so I took the shorter of the two available road routes, along the bottom of Esk Dale. It’s no more than a mile or so from Castleton to Danby village, though the road is steep in places and since there’s no pavement you have to keep your wits about you – there are some awkward blind bends where cars can come up on you very suddenly. Still, in glorious spring sunshine it’s a joy to walk:

Esk Dale

View over Esk Dale.

Ash tree

Huge ash tree in the sun just outside Castleton.

Danby village

The approach to Danby village from the west.

The Moors Centre is another half-mile beyond Danby itself. The North York Moors National Park’s flagship visitor centre, it has a permanent exhibition of Moors nature and wildlife, a gift shop, and the Woolly Sheep tea room (whose amazing butterscotch cake has to be eaten to be believed), all housed in a converted row of beautiful old buildings:

The Moors Centre

The Moors Centre.

It’s also home to the “Inspired by…” gallery, which hosts a regularly changing programme of work by local Moors artists in all kinds of media. This month’s exhibitors included artist blacksmith David Stephenson (http://davidstephenson.org.uk/) and landscape painter Sue Slack (http://www.sueslack.co.uk/) in the main gallery, while a side room contained a set of remarkable photographs by Charles Twist (http://www.citiesandparks.com/The_Moors.html). For this exhibition Charles made use of vintage camera equipment and lenses, with the result that his photos of the high moors are eerie, sepia-tinted things that could have come from a hundred years ago rather than today. I found them especially evocative as I love the moors at their most foreboding, and Charles definitely captures that side of their nature perfectly. For copyright reasons you aren’t allowed to take photographs in the gallery itself, but please do take a look at the links to see what I was browsing through!

I did, however, snatch a picture through the glass roof of the gallery’s side corridor when a brief summer squall hit while I was inside. It was actually a surprisingly lovely experience, even though it only lasted a couple of minutes; the sound of the rain on the gallery’s roof made it feel almost like being in a tent, and there’s a sense of primitive magic about looking up to see rain falling on you and then stopping only a couple of feet above your head:

Rain on glass roof

Rain on the roof.

My next port of call was the permanent Moors exhibit, which offers simple info boards about the animals, plants, and life of the Moors, various interactive exhibits for the kids, and a selection of stuffed animals:

Stuffed otter and hare.

Stuffed otter and hare.

Carved wooden birds

Particularly enchanting were these carved wooden curlew, meadow pipit and golden plover, who had little motion sensors in their backs: stroke them, and they would play recordings of their songs for you.

Stuffed pipistrelle bat

Stuffed pipistrelle bat – like the ones which roost in the Centre itself.

I went back out via the gift shop, stopping to pick up a pack of Kendal Mint Cake. Not actually a Moors delicacy but a Lake District one, this mint and sugar confectionary is sold all over the North and is hugely popular as walker’s trail rations – so much so, in fact, that a batch of it went all the way to the summit of Mount Everest, in the pockets of Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay on the first ever successful ascent of the mountain in 1953. And indeed Romney’s, who supplied the Everest expedition, are still making the stuff today:

Romney's Kendal mint cake

Romney’s Kendal Mint Cake.

Back in Danby, I stopped off for a quick drink in the Duke of Wellington; a classic English rural pub, complete with Land Rover on the forecourt and a selection of antlers on the walls. In this case the antlers were more interesting than usual, though, as the set over the fire in the front room belonged to an elk shot in 1996 by the royal hunt of King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden:

Elk antlers

The royal elk.

Window view

The view from my seat in the “Duke”.

The Duke of Wellington pub

The Duke of Wellington – exterior.

As I was the only person in there, it didn’t take too long for me to end up chatting with the barman, who it turned out was also a former Castleton resident (this is another lovely thing about the Moors, everyone invariably turns out to be from somewhere relevant and to know someone you’ve already met), for half an hour or so before walking back home. Not bad for a completely accidental day out, even if the weather was on the turn as I got back:

Clouds over Castleton

Clouds gathering over Castleton.

Next time I go this way, though, I’m planning something a little more challenging: a hike to the top of nearby Beacon Hill to visit Danby Beacon. Stay tuned…

Beacon Hill road

The road not taken (this time): the lonely and windswept way up to the Beacon.