To my great embarrassment, me and my mum nearly missed this early evening trip at the end of June to hear the Yorkshire Shepherdess, Amanda Owen, talking about her life and her latest book. This was because she’d booked it really early to be sure of getting a seat and it had then slipped to the back of her mind. As a result, she’d promised to help me write the last of my three posts about our earlier visit to the Yorkshire Dales that afternoon and, as this took longer than we’d expected – because I’d quite a lot to say! – we began to run out of time.
Our destination was the King’s Hall in Ilkley, which Mum thought it might be a bit posh and so she decided to get dressed up for the occasion, instead of wearing her usual trousers and T-shirt. She’d got a fabulous new skirt and top and quickly pulled all the labels off them, before making tea (or perhaps I should say dinner, seeing as we’re being posh). Because we were in a hurry, this was smoked bacon and fried tomatoes in a large breadcake, but she’d only time to eat half of it before she’d to get changed into her lovely new outfit and set off.
Still being a bit hungry – and not one to waste good food – she then took the other half of the sandwich with her and ate it as we hurtled along the street to the pick-up point, where we were meeting our lovely friends from Red Bus Days Out. Sometimes she has no sense of dignity and I was a bit anxious in case (1) she fell over and squashed me as she tried to run in her high-heeled shoes
or (2) somebody saw her stuffing her face in the street. (At the school Mum went to many years ago, being seen eating outside whilst wearing school uniform was considered both unladylike and rude and was punishable by detention and lines. In those days, the latter had nothing to do with illegal drugs, but involved writing the same sentence over and over – maybe 100 times – under the supervision of a teacher and was a totally pointless and mind-numbing exercise.)
Fortunately we reached our pick-up point without being seen or having a mishap and soon we were on the short journey across to Ilkley on a perfect late June evening. The air was crystal clear and, as we climbed over from Airedale into Wharfedale, we could see for miles, up into the dales around Bolton Abbey one way and onto the famous Ilkley Moor in the opposite direction. Traffic was light and we reached our destination with plenty of time to spare.
Though we’ve been to Ilkley many times in the past, this was our first visit to the King’s Hall – or the King’s Hall and Winter Gardens to give it its full title – and we were really impressed. Both were built in the early 20th century, with the King’s Hall being first and the Winter Gardens following in 1914. The main entrance is now through the Winter Gardens, which is a large hall with a glass-canopied roof, a balcony, a great dance-floor and lots of pretty lights, and not a series of outdoor flower-beds covered in artificial snow, as I’d expected.
Because we were early, the doors to the theatre in the King’s Hall were still closed and so we stood and talked with our friends for a few minutes. As we were doing so, however, a member of the Winter Gardens’ staff came up to us and discreetly beckoned me and Mum to one side. I thought it was because she’d recognised me as the Internationally-Famous Bear-faced Blogger and wanted my autograph, but instead she’d come to tell Mum that she hadn’t quite managed to cut all the labels off her new clothes and there was still a bright red one dangling about six inches below the hem of her skirt…
After that embarrassment Mum had to sit down and have a glass of wine, then at last the doors to the theatre were opened and we were on our way in.
I expected Amanda Owen to be the only one speaking – as Mum is when she gives a talk – but instead there was also someone else on stage, asking her questions, so it was almost like listening in to a conversation between friends. This made it very interesting and, as the evening went on, we learnt how Amanda became a shepherdess and how she met her husband, Clive, and moved to his home at Ravenseat, which must be one of the most remote farms in the Yorkshire dales.
There they have around 2000 acres of land on which they keep around 1000 Mrs Sheeps (which Amanda called “yows”) and a few Mr Rams (which Amanda called “tups”). They also have cows, ponies, hens, sheepdogs and terriers, and an additional income from making tea and scones for walkers on the Coast-to-coast path which passes through their land, plus bed-and-breakfast visitors. Add to this nine children and you can see that Amanda has plenty to talk and write about.
She kept us entertained for almost two hours and, all the time she was talking, pictures of life at Ravenseat were being projected onto a screen at the back of the stage.
Both me and Mum were captivated by what she had to say and afterwards we bought her latest book and thoroughly enjoyed reading it. But I have to admit to being a little disappointed.
Because she’s known as The Yorkshire Shepherdess, I thought she might have brought some of her Mrs Sheeps along with her and I might get to stroke one. I even had this vision of her standing in the farmyard with all 1000 of them in front of her that morning and pointing her finger and saying, “I’ll take ewe and ewe and ewe!” (I know, it’s a terrible joke!) But Mum said it would have been a bit difficult as Mrs Sheeps aren’t really suited to being on stage and would probably have escaped and run riot in the audience and made an unpleasant mess on the floor.
I had to be happy with that as an answer and, as it was still daylight when we left the theatre, at least I saw lots of other Mrs Sheeps in the fields as we made the short journey back home. And, as I’m not as shy as I used to be, I was able to get out of Mum’s handbag and entertain those friends who don’t have computers or smart phones and so have never seen my blog.
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