A Yorkshire sojourn between lockdowns!
By David Vaughan
In September 2020 the first lockdown had lasted about 5 months and then the Prime Minister, aided by Mr Whitty and his slides, told us that we were permitted to travel and to mix with other people, provided that we had undergone a negative test 24 hours before travelling, kept a minimum of a metre apart and wore masks at all times. We could go into pubs and restaurants with the tables set well apart and could take our masks off to eat or drink! Having had a summer where all the outdoor events that I normally attend had been cancelled, some for the first time since the second World war, I decided to take advantage of this slackening of the rules and took off on a camping holiday to Yorkshire.
Being a confirmed railway enthusiast, I visited the famous Ribblehead viaduct the 24 arches of which span a valley near Chapel-le-dale in the Yorkshire Dales National Park. I was also lucky enough to be able to join a special excursion train from Skipton to Appleby. All the seats had Perspex divisions between them and only alternate rows were used in order to maintain separation. Once seated we were able to remove masks to enjoy afternoon tea and take in the superb views of the moors.
A drive through the Dales National Park, with frequent stops to admire the views, was made easier by the fact that there was much less traffic on the roads than would have been the case in an ordinary late summer.
I stayed near Skipton and enjoyed a tour of its castle and a street market where people were out enjoying themselves, masks were in evidence but social distancing was largely ignored, which did not seem to matter as it was all outdoors and folk were not jostling each other anyway.
At the end of the trip I decided to pay a return visit to Bolton Abbey, a spot I had visited many years previously in my old rear engined Skoda!
The grounds of the Abbey were
quite busy with families enjoying the September sunshine and glad to be able to
take their children out after a school holiday spent mostly indoors, but it was
still relatively empty and very peaceful. The Abbey itself was locked, as sadly
most churches were at this time, but as I tried the doors I noticed several
prayers had been pinned to them. This one prayer really caught my attention as
it seemed to sum up so many of the feelings we were encountering and the
general effect that this dreadful pandemic was having on us all.
Although the pandemic is still with us, and likely to rear its ugly head in some form in future, it is largely treated as something thankfully behind us, even if it lurks beneath the surface and cases are still being recorded.
With all the economic and political uncertainty, wars and natural disasters that are going on around us I think that this lovely prayer is still very relevant and I thought I would like to share it with you.
us good Lord
Under the shadow of your mercy
In this time of uncertainty and distress.
Sustain and support the anxious and tearful,
And lift up all those who are brought low;
That we may rejoice in your comfort
Knowing that nothing can separate us
From your love in Jesus Christ our Lord
I recently spent a week staying with good friends in Whitehaven, once a busy port on the west coast of Cumbria and not too far from the Northern lakes of the Lake District. I went by train via Carlisle as I was recovering from a bout of illness and did not fancy the 6- or 7-hour car drive. Neither did I hire a car whilst there as my main objective was to rest, and my friend’s house, overlooking Ennerdale, was peaceful and had a nice garden. So it was that I visited the Lake District but did not go to any of the lakes!
Folk who know me also know that I have an interest in industrial history and particularly anything driven by steam, so I decided to pay a visit to a favourite spot of mine near the village of Boot in the beautiful valley of Eskdale. Boot has a lovely old working watermill in the village, recently fully restored and open to the public. For me the only way to visit the area was by steam train, in this case by the ‘Ravenglass and Eskdale Railway’, a narrow gauge heritage line once used to transport iron ore and granite from the hills around Eskdale to the main railway line at Ravenglass, in itself an interesting place to visit with some substantial Roman remains, and a pretty main street leading to the Estuary of the river Esk.
Ravenglass is easily reached via a short train journey from Whitehaven. The narrow gauge steam line runs from a station next to the main line to Barrow-in -Furness, and from there you board the little train known in local parlance as the Laal (Little) Ratty, to take you on a scenic ride, through rock cuttings and wooded hills, to Dalegarth. The narrow-bodied carriages can be a bit cramped and, especially in October as this was, you need to be dressed warmly, although some carriages are enclosed. I chose to ride in an open coach to make the most of the passing scenery.
After a journey of about 45 minutes during which the locomotive puffs and pants its way up fairly steep gradients and round some tightly curved bends in the track you arrive at Dalegarth station. Here you can take in the view and have a warming coffee or lunch in the cafe on the station. From here one can chose one of three suggested riverside walks with the aid of a handy booklet, complete with maps, available from the station gift shop.
I elected to take walk number two that takes you via Stanley Gill Beck to Gill Force, and St Catherine’s church, via a delightful path called ‘Anne’s walk’ and back via the equally delightful path called ‘Parsons Passage’. It is a circular walk said to take the walker about two hours. I took longer than this as I stopped often to admire the views, take pictures, or simply to pause and listen to the river Esk as it tumbles over the rocks at Gill Force.
My favourite spot on this walk is a seat on a patch of grassy land between St Catherine’s churchyard and the river. There are stepping stones here across the shallow but fast flowing river if you are brave enough to cross. But I just sat and drank in the tranquillity of a mid-October afternoon with some welcome sunshine and the sound of the birds and the river for company. I have visited this spot on several occasions in the past. The church is a simply built stone structure with a plain but charming interior containing a simple altar and old wooden pews. Centuries of local farmers, miners and other village residents have worshipped in this church and one can imagine it on a Sunday filled with the sounds of voices singing hymns in the local dialect and enjoying a welcome break from their daily toil. I am pleased to say that it is still used and kept in good order. Next to the main door there is a memorial to an airman of WW2, a local man who was founder of the Lakeland Dialect Society. It is inscribed with a poem he wrote before his death in action three years later. It is a moving testimony and reflects the stoic attitude of a Christian with a strong faith and trust in his maker. The inscription reads:
If I should pass beyond man’s thoughts grieve not
For He who plans the patterns of the stars,
Who sets each leaf on every tree and bush,
knows of my course
He will my destiny be life ,
That life I seek--- and, if death
Then death is but a gate to truth,
Wider than all the sky and more immense
Than all the universe.
Sitting on the seat hard against the dry-stone wall that encompasses the Churchyard I was reminded of verses from Psalm 23. He makes me lie down in green pastures, He leads me beside still waters and restores my soul. I was reluctant to leave this tranquil spot but I heard the whistle of the steam engine as it echoed off the hills on its climb to Dalegarth and I returned to the station just in time for my return trip to Ravenglass.
If you are ever in this part of the Lake District, even if you are not a steam train fan, I can recommend a trip on “Laal Ratty” and a visit to Dalegarth and Boot mill, with a walk along the river Esk and perhaps a picnic lunch. Go and see the little church of St Catherine and, if it is free, have a rest on my favourite seat.
David Vaughan November 2023
By David Vaughan
Swallows and Swifts lining up on telephone wires
Like a row of commas on lined paper
Queuing up for a winter sun holiday
Late afternoon sunshine gilt edging the cloud banks
Berries of red and yellow decorating the hedgerows
Inviting birds and squirrels to a garden party
Bonfire smoke, freshly turned earth and other sensual scents
That come and go on a fresh, nose-nuzzling autumn breeze
A carpet of golden leaves that even King Midas could not create
Laid, deep pile, for our feet to carelessly swish through
The trees dressed up in bright colours
Party clothes of red, gold and bronze
Their branches swaying and singing to the rhythm of the wind
Enjoying a final fling before going to sleep for the winter
Spider’s webs in the garden festooned with jewels of dew
Like products from the nimble hands of lace makers
White mists in the reed beds and valleys
Like dry ice at a pop concert
Golden furrows behind the tractor and the plough
Straight lines pointing their way to next year’s harvest
The cry of seagulls following the harrow
Recalling memories of summers beside the sea
The raucous rook with ragged, flapping coat winging to his roost
A warning of winter yet to come
David Vaughan November 2023