Fish and Follies in Yorkshire

It is always good to get away for a break, be it a couple of days, a week or a long summer holiday. Because both our businesses are very seasonal we wanted to fit in a visit to David's parents in Yorkshire and our annual February weekend away, it then ended up we were away two weekends in a row! Not that I'm complaining now. Visiting York and Yorkshire is always good, as they are one of my favourite places and areas to visit. We set off south on a snowy afternoon with blue skies, making the first part of the journey very picturesque but by the time we'd reached Moffat and the borders the snow was confined to the very tops of the hills and a few miles south there was none at all. 

Snow at Abingdon

In Penrith we have two places we really like, and try to stop at one or the other when we are passing. It's only a few weeks since we were at The Brunswick Yard (see their Facebook page here or their website here) so we went to our other favourite Larch Cottage Nursery. I love this nursery, it's different and Quirky and has kept it's unique character as it's grown over the years. Their great website is here and they do mail order. I've been visiting it since not long after they opened and you can also read about my recent previous visits here or here. It was bitterly cold as we wandered around, it's amazing how you look at a place in a different way when you have a similar business! I managed to find two plants I was looking for, Salix melanostachys with it's fabulous red and black catkins and Salix 'Golden Ness', a new one to me but with gold stems which I want to put in a little planting combination in the nursery which is floating around in my head at the moment. I was impressed and envious at how much tidying they have got done already, perhaps they have had more favourable weather than us.

Larch cottage Nursery, looking down to the vegetable garden

The rest of our journey was painless, over the A66 and down to Thirsk where we stopped for dinner at the Black Lion. We stopped here a couple of years ago on the way to David's parents and were impressed with the food then, we weren't disappointed this time either. Each dish was well presented, the food was lovely and the service great too. Having stuffed ourselves, we headed onto to York where it was lovely to see Adam and Sylvia again and catch up with all the news. 

Main course at the Black Lion, Thirsk

Sunday as forecast was wet and cold, we had contemplated various things to do under cover and on David's recommendation of previous visits with his kids we went to the The Deep aquarium in Hull. Just over an hours drive saw us on the waterfront of the Humber in drizzle, standing in a huge long queue. I guess everyone else had had the same idea of what to do on a cold wet Sunday. It transpired the wait was also exasperated by a new ticketing machine. Once in we spent a fascinating couple of hours wandering around. The place is huge and very well laid out with great exhibits and lots of information boards, talks by staff and interactive events through the day. Being the big kid that I am I hung around the touching pool for the next session and got to touch a star fish and sea urchin (two things ticked off my bucket list). 

Touching a sea urchin
Touching a star fish

Part of the huge tank which fills the centre of the The Deep

Bright corals for Clown fish

Amazing jelly fish

Impressive manta rays in the large tank

The shallow reef tank

Outside in the gloom
Sharky on the river front

We had a nice lunch in the cafe at the top of the building but there were no views to be had today with the windows covered in rain and low cloud sitting just above the river. On the way back to York we stopped at an antiques place we'd spotted on the way to Hull. it turned out the be a treasure trove and we'll definitely be back next time. We spotted lots of things that would be fun to have or would be useful at the nursery, but nothing that we really needed, until we were about to leave and I wandered into a corner at the side and found under some other stuff just the barrow we've been trying to find online for the nursery. We've been put off by the high prices being asked, but this one was so cheap! It was meant to be, so now we have the barrow we wanted and for a fraction of the price, result.

I did think this might be fun at the nursery, I
could cycle around selling plants

On Monday afternoon after a lazy morning and lunch we set of home via Hackfall woods just south of Masham in Yorkshire. I'd read about it in a magazine recently and knowing we were going to be in the area we made a plan to go. High above the River Ure is the ancient woodland of Hackfall wood. A lovely place for a walk at any time of year there is more to Hackfall than first meets the eye. A glimpse through the trees of a ruin perched on the cliffs above the river gives you a first idea that this might be an intriguing and dare I say quirky place to walk.

The grotto, Hackfall Woods

It is infact the remains of a Georgian pleasure garden, created by William Aislabie, a local land owner who lived at Studley Royal in nearby Ripon. he would bring his guests here to walk among the follies and cascades he built and have lunch in the banqueting hall, while taking in the impressive views over the river to the Vale of York. There are several walks detailed in the brochures you can pick up at the car park, depending on ability and time, you can choose how much of the footsteps of the 18th century visitors you want to follow. 

Me and the dug in the Rustic temple

The meander paths take you up fern covered slopes, past waterfalls, along ancient woodland lined paths and across stepping stones in the many streams that criss cross the paths. From every folly you get a glimpse of another one, or back to one you visited already. There have been vistas opened up through the woods in the not too distant past to some of the follies and the fountain in Fountain pond has recently been renovated. We took the path that takes you down to the river first, the grassy field was very slippy after all the rain but we were suitable clothed as usual and of course Bracken made light work of the whole thing. Following the path along the river we then headed up again, past a waterfall cascading  into the river and on upwards until we reached the grotto. Made of local tufa it gives you a view up to the top of the cliff where Mowbray Point, the banqueting hall perches. From here a short walk brings you to The rustic temple with it's view of the Forty Foot Falls and the fountain pond. 

Paying no attention as usual

Many of these buildings were roofed and had windows and doors at one point but they are now preserved as they are with work done to slow down the decay. Next on the walk is Fishers Hall, a many windowed folly that sits out slightly over the river with views up and down the river. Some of the wooden frames are still in place, hanging on. There are plenty of ferns growing very well, in fact I don't think I've ever seen such enthusiastic Aspleniums! Hackfall is an SSSI due to the ground plants and ancient roots. There are 202 different mosses and lichens and many mammals and birds and the rare lemon slug and two rare soldier flies!

Fishers Hall

Aspleniums growing well in the woods of Hackfall

After Fisher Hall the path leads ever upwards, through the ancient woodland and along side a tumbling stream, lined with more ferns and many mosses. At a cross roads we turned left and headed over the great big blocks of stepping stones across the stream. Bracken was not impressed. 

Crossing the stepping stones

From here it was a short, sharp climb to Mowbray Castle, a mock ruin of a castle, sitting grandly on the top of the cliff. From here there were views over the surrounding fields behind or out over the valley to the front. The winter sun bathed the bare branches of the trees in the river valley and on beyond Ripon to the Vale of York beyond. I'd like to see Hackfall in the autumn, it must be stunning with the leaf colour. 

Mowbray Castle

Inside the mock ruin

The view to the field beyond

From the castle we retraced out steps back down hill, across the stepping stones and along the top path to Mowbray Point. Not for the faint hearted or those that don't like heights the path hugs the very top of the cliff, although there is a fence, I don't think it would do much to hold a body back. From the veranda at the front of the banqueting hall we were again treated to the views south and east.

The view from the banqueting hall
We could see most of the follies we'd already visited from this vantage point, giving us an idea of how the pleasure gardens must have looked to visitors nearly 300 years ago. We meandered back along the cliff top path until we reached the field and back to the car. I think Hackfall would be worth a visit at any time of years and you can visit their website here

Alders in the carpark at Hackfall

Having been in the woodland it was fairly sheltered, but we knew the next storm was brewing, Henry, Harry? I forget, so we were prepared for a blustery journey over the A66. It had been closed to high sided vehicles by the time we were on it, though there were still plenty lorries using it. But not the two we saw blown over. One on its side at the edge of the road and another completely over on it's roof! We were glad to get down to the lower levels of Appleby and Penrith where we were treated to a cloud phenomenon I have never seen before, Nacreous Clouds. 

I will leave you with some photos I managed to get from the car, it was an amazing sight.

The storm begins

Nacreous clouds near Penrith

Nacreous Clouds near Penrith

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