Hello everybody – and thank you for joining me again to read about my latest Big Adventure with my lovely friends from Red Bus Days Out. I’m sorry it’s taken me so long, especially as things seemed to be going so well last time I wrote to you, but unfortunately all the humans in our household got struck down by An Enormous Cold and have spent much of the last three weeks coughing, spluttering, sneezing, blowing their noses, croaking like frogs when they tried to talk, plus moaning and whimpering – none of which helps a little bear to concentrate on his writing. In fact, it got so bad that me and my brothers had to threaten to pack our bags and go live in the woods for the summer if they didn’t start getting better soon. But that’s enough of my excuses. Now I’ll tell you about my trip…
We set out on March 19th, three days after the big rainstorm that I told you about in my last post. By that time the rain that had fallen in the upper dales was on its way downstream and as we crossed over the rivers Aire, Wharfe and Nidd, they were all struggling to flow where they were supposed to and not escape into the surrounding fields, where there were already plenty of puddles and areas of standing water.
Luckily the roads were dry and we made good progress as the Satnav directed us through the village of Nidd, round the outskirts of Knaresborough and on to Great Ouseburn, where some roadworks had made the road so narrow that we all had to breathe in so that the coach could get through.
After that, the Satnav told us to cut some miles off our journey by going over the Aldwark Toll Bridge which links the villages of Little Ouseburn and Alne. But, though the Satnav said yes, the man on the bridge said no, because we were too heavy. I thought that was a bit rude as I only weigh two ounces (57 grams) in my best hat and scarf, but Mum said it wasn’t us personally – it was the coach and even if we all got off and walked across it wouldn’t be able to follow us.
She then went on to tell me that she’d driven over it many years ago when she had a Mini and it had felt like driving over the bridge in the story of the Three Billy Goats Gruff because the deck was made of planks of wood and sounded really rickety.
I wondered if that meant there was also a troll living underneath and so, while the bridgemaster was telling our driver another route to Beningbrough Hall, I sneaked off and went for a quick look, hoping to see someone like my friend Trygve who came home with me from Bergen on our last trip to Norway.
I was out of luck that day, however, but Mum soon cheered me up by telling me some of the history of the bridge, which was built by John Thompson in 1772. Before that date, he’d run a ferry service across the river, which saved a journey of 25 miles between the two villages. But the ferry could only operate when the weather was good and that meant he often didn’t make any money. As he was a Yorkshireman, this didn’t suit him and so he decided to ride to London and ask Parliament for permission to build a bridge instead, on condition he could collect all the tolls from it for himself.
This bridge lasted until the late 19th century when it was reputedly damaged by an iceberg and had to be rebuilt in 1887. This really caught my imagination as I know polar bears like sailing about on icebergs and I thought that, if they’d got this far, then they might have jumped off and their descendants might still be living in the woods nearby.
I got quite excited, then Mum said that it was very unlikely, though there are some polar bears at the Yorkshire Wildlife Park near Doncaster, which we hope to visit one day.
She also said that it never gets cold enough in Yorkshire for icebergs to form. Instead they start off from above the Arctic Circle – which is where polar bears live and where they would climb on board – and to reach the Aldwark Bridge they would then have to sail south down the North Atlantic, turn left into the English Channel, left again into the North Sea, then left into the Humber Estuary, up the river Ouse and finally into the river Ure, by which time the iceberg would struggle to be as big as an ice-cube and the polar bears would have fallen off long since.
That was nearly as disappointing as not seeing the troll, but after a very impressive three-point-turn in a very small space, we were back on the road again and on our way to Beningbrough Hall.
I’ll tell you about that next week, however, as I want to write about Easter and its Yorkshire connections next, while it’s still topical.
Follow my next blog: 29. EASTER’S YORKSHIRE CONNECTIONS