Last weekend me and Mum went on our first trip of the year with our lovely friends from Red Bus Days Out. Usually we know where we’re going, but this time it was another Mystery Trip. All we knew for certain was that there’d be several stops along the way and a commentary on the some of the places we passed through. We thought it might be to our beloved Yorkshire Dales, however, as we were one of the last pick-ups – and when we got to Skipton and turned on to the road to Grassington we knew we were right.
I got really excited then, especially as Mum had come up with an idea that meant I could sit and look out of the window properly, rather than sitting on her knee all the time and struggling to see things.
It was a bit of a struggle to see things at first that day, however, as, although it wasn’t raining, there was low cloud and mist on the hilltops. My mum, who studied foreign languages at school, says that in German the word “Mist” means dung or manure – and there was certainly plenty of that around, too, as it’s the time of year when the farmers start spreading it on their fields to make the grass grow lush later.
Other signs of Spring in this first part of our journey included freshly-made mole-hills in some fields, the first snowdrops in sheltered gardens and the first catkins in the hedgerows. I also noticed that some of the Mrs Sheeps were getting to look a bit fat, but at least I now know that this has nothing to do with how much they ate over Christmas.
Our first brief stop was at Rylstone, a village famous as the home of The Calendar Girls, who were all members of the local branch of the Women’s Institute.
It’s also the setting for William Wordsworth’s poem, The White Doe of Rylstone, about the rising of the North against Elizabeth I in 1569 – though he’s much better known for writing Daffodils.
Although it was difficult to see them that day because of the low clouds, there are two monuments on the hill-tops behind Rylstone. One is the Rylstone Cross which was originally built to celebrate the signing of the Peace of Paris in 1815 which ended the Napoleonic Wars. It’s been rebuilt several times since, however, the latest being in 1995. And the other is the Cracoe War Memorial, built to commemorate the men from that village who lost their lives in World War I.
A little past the village of Cracoe Mum pointed out several low hills sticking up from the valley bottom and, although they were only just visible through the mist, I could see that they looked different from the hills around them.
Mum said that they were known as the Reef Knolls because originally they’d developed as coral reefs in a clear, warm and shallow sea around 300 million years ago when Britain was much nearer to the Equator. (On a cold day in mid-January I found that a bit hard to believe, so I checked it out when we got home and found that she was right!)
The Reef Knolls have individual names, including Kail, Elbolton, Stebden and Skelerton. I said they sounded like something out of a fairy-tale.
Mum said that around 200 years ago a local man had actually claimed to have seen fairies on the path at Elbolton. He said that they’d attacked him, knocked him down, kicked him and spat on him.
He also claimed to have caught a fairy and put it in his pocket to take it home to show his daughter, as he thought she wouldn’t believe him. When he got home, however, his pocket was empty and so his daughter didn’t believe his story anyway – and neither do I!
But in 1888 there was a much more exciting discovery at Elbolton when the Vicar of Embsay decided to explore a pothole, called Navvy Noodle Hole, in the side of the hill. Twenty feet down he discovered the skeletons of three people, sitting with their knees drawn up under their chins as if they were gathered around a fire. Later excavations discovered bones from at least nine more human skeletons, plus bones from bears, reindeer, wolves and other animals. There were also fragments of pottery from the Neolithic and Bronze Ages, showing that the hole had been known about and used for many thousands of years.
As Mum was telling me all that, we were travelling on towards Threshfield and then up Wharfedale, past Kilnsey Crag and on towards Kettlewell, where we made another brief stop by the river. Then it was on to Buckden, an imaginary version of which is the setting for Mum’s forthcoming novel, When Daffodils Bloom.
From Buckden we climbed up the hill to Cray, where the waterfalls were flowing in full spate after all the rain we’ve had so far this winter.
Then we went over Kidstones into the top of Bishopdale, from where we could see Wensleydale spreading out in the distance with just a shaft of sunlight breaking through the clouds and illuminating the castle at Castle Bolton several miles away.
Mum told me that in the sixteenth century Mary, Queen of Scots, was held prisoner there for six months. It’s quite a long story, however, and so, as she says I’ve written enough for today, I’ll tell you more about it in my next post.
Follow my next blog: 72. A MISTY MYSTERY TRIP PART II