On the last day in February me and Mum – and our lovely friends from Red Bus Days Out – went on a trip through our beloved Yorkshire Dales to Farfield Mill and Sedbergh. Our journey took us along the A65 through Gargrave and Hellifield, Clapham and Ingleton, then through Cowan Bridge where we passed what was the school Charlotte and Emily Bronte attended, which Charlotte used as the model for Lowood School in Jane Eyre.
Along the way I was surprised at the number of big trees that had been blown down over the winter. It made me glad it was a calm day for our trip, because, if the wind could do that to a big tree, what might it do to a little bear like me?
I was also surprised at the number of lambs we saw in the fields as we travelled along. All of them were lovely and most were either plain white or white with black faces and knees. But some were almost black all over, except for a white triangle on their faces, from their nose to their eyes. They were really cute (and when we got home we Googled them and found they were called Zwart Bles sheep, which is a bit hard to say, but is Dutch for Black Blaze, whch describes them well).
Just before Kirkby Lonsdale we turned right to follow the A683 up Barbondale where the countryside is much wilder and the roads are much quieter – which is a Good Thing as they are very narrow in places.
Narrowest of all is Middleton Bridge over the river Rawthey. It dates back to a time when vehicles were much smaller and so a modern coach completely fills it, making it impossible to see any of the bridge from the windows.
It feels almost like you’re flying and some people seemed a little bit scared at that. But I’m a little bear who’s been to the top of the Eiffel Tower twice and I thought it was great.
Soon after that we reached Farfield Mill, which was our first stop of the day. Built in 1836 by Joseph Dover, the four-storey mill at the side of the river Clough first started work in 1837.
Joseph died two years later, but his two sons carried on the business which remained in the family for 100 years. Wool was spun into yarn at the mill, whose machinery was originally driven by a large wooden waterwheel. Much of this yarn was also woven into cloth on the premises, but some was supplied to handloom weavers in the locality and some was also sent to the hand-knitters in the area, who made stockings to supplement their income.
Trade gradually declined from the 1950s and by the 1990s the mill stood empty and in danger of demolition, Fortunately a local group was able to take it over and not only saved the building, but also made it into a fascinating crafts and exhibition centre, where many artists and craftworkers have their workshops. One floor is dedicated to the history of the mill and includes the story of William Stainton who worked there from the age of eight. until he was ninety four. There is also an exhibition relating to the local Rough Fell breed of sheep – whose wool is mainly used for carpet-making – and a documentary film about them in the present day.
The highlight, however, is the Coat of Many Colours, made by students at local schools and colleges. Each student thought up a design and then sewed it onto a small square of cloth, then added something that meant something to them personally. The squares were all then sewn together to make the coat which you can see in the picture.
After that we just had time for a cup of tea, a sandwich and a large piece of delicious carrot cake, before we got back on the bus for the short drive into Sedbergh for the afternoon. I’ve written enough for today, however, so I’ll tell you about that in my next post.
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