Surfacing

Stone walls, whitethorn and oak, miles of deep grass. Yorkshire, between Leyburn and Middleham.

Hello, friends and family. I’ve made it to Yorkshire and am midway through my week-long house sit here. I thought this time would be for rest and relaxation, walking and knitting and maybe even sketching. The fact that I’ve not posted until now may give you some indication that’s turned out not to be the case. I’ve spent the past many days worrying, attending to emails and administrative tasks related to the next three upcoming tours. I took one day off, in London, to run around with a wonderful new friend from our recent Knitter’s Tour of British Breeds (Devon, Cornwall and the Cotswolds). But other than that, it’s been work, transitions from here to there, and playing catch up.

The blessed relief of a comfortable place to stay, friendly dog to walk and breaks during which to walk him is hugely important for me right now. And though I’ve not written about any of the tours after my first, in Scotland, I fully intend to in the week ahead (after the weekend though).

I see that I last posted just before the tour in Copenhagen and the Faroe Islands. Goodness. That feels like half a year ago. Since that time, I’ve facilitated that tour, traveled back to the UK and by the next morning was meeting and shepherding people from London (Hello, Paddington Station, where I’ve never been before!) to Bath and engaging in the third tour (Knitter’s Tour of British Breeds) right away. Heather was the lead guide on that one, but logistical complexities kept me in an actively assisting role until a full-on chest cold knocked me out completely. After that, it was simply trying to recover while traveling, still trying to help Heather, teaching a bit and then getting that tour wrapped up and myself here to Yorkshire. All the while, in the background, the questions, emails and changing logistics of the three Ireland trips were appearing on my screen daily. And questions/requests/tasks related to three tours in the fall. In the midst of it all, our administrator finished working with us, so Heather’s task load has gotten heavier and therefore mine as well. Then back to London and transitioning north (Hello, Kings Cross Station. And yes, I saw Platform 9 3/4!)

As I write all this, and look out from Trish and Richard’s observatory (in American: sunroom), it occurs to me that I have good reason to be deeply tired. And also not to have been posting.

Not a bad place for a catch-up and hopefully, some rest. Hamish, my charge, leads by example.

I’ve abandoned the morning – originally slated for further work – in order to bring you all up to date. It feels important to do so. I also want to let you know I’m alive. Things are happening. Good things, impactful things, difficult things, interesting learning experiences. But I don’t have the luxury of reflecting or writing about them. It’s occurred to me that in the past I’ve had one or two tours and a bit of scouting time per seasonal “away”. This time I’m enmeshed in six tours while “away” with really no scouting. It’s an entirely different animal. So please forgive me! Hoping for some more free head space in the days ahead which will allow me to write.

Okay, enough with the apologies. You get it.

So, I’m here in Yorkshire. North Yorkshire, actually and not too distant (in miles or culture) from my 2018 housesit in Myton, just outside York. While the land there was flat and predominantly agricultural – that area is known as the Vale of York – the landscape here is firmly placed in the hills and dales for which Yorkshire is famous. Not even the yard at this house is flat. It slopes steeply toward the house and then drops away below it at the front. Once out the door, I have one short stretch on which I’m walking a few paces of level ground. Then it’s up… or down.

My housesit is in Middleham, a village just outside the town of Leyburn. The medieval center of the village is just as you’d imagine: stone houses up and down the steeply winding cobbled streets. Center square with numerous pubs, a couple of small inns, chippy (fish ‘n’chips) and two or three small shops.

Just above the town stands a great hulk of a ruined castle. It was first built as a motte-and-bailey structure in the 11the century, then later replaced with a massive stone keep. The castle’s most famous resident was Richard III. He was born there and always referred to it as his favorite home. Surprisingly, and unrelatedly, there are numerous, high-end stables tucked in among and between the winding streets. Apparently Middleham is well known as a center for breeding and training racehorses.

A map of the village.
Most walks start here, on the right of way that leads from our street to the churchyard above.
St. Akelda and St. Mary Church, just above the house.
Our path into the village.
From the pub. The main square at Middleham.
Wandering through town. Stone houses, large and small and then occasionally… a stable!
Middleham Castle.

The landscape falls away from the town and stretches into a valley on both sides, then into hills beyond. I’ve walked a bit with Hamish, along the river at its lowest point and up onto the nearby hills. Miles of stone-walled pasture surround us. Maybe I’ll be able to climb one before leaving…

Middleham from the lower fields.
And the view in the other direction. The River Yuze. And Hamish.
Heading up onto the hill above Middleham Castle.
Scattered, abandoned stone buildings. I’m guessing they served as agricultural buildings among the grazing fields – or possibly as homes in earlier, less well-off times.
When I say deep grass, I really mean it.
Occasional stands of trees, planted as wind breaks and wood lots.
Hillside residents. Amazingly, Hamish cares nothing for sheep. Barely looks at them. He only cares about food, the ball, sniffing and sleep. All the working instincts have been bred out of this one. (Apparently he comes from show dog lines rather than working dog stock.)
Occasionally, larger residents.
From the hill, looking up to the high moors beyond. Geese in and among the buttercups.
Lambs on parade.
From one hill to another.
Crossing from field to field, Yorkshire style.

So I leave you here, among these grassy, woolly, wind-blown images. Back to the computer for me. Did I mention: the sky is gray here much of the time? But oh, when that sun comes out… it’s utterly breathtaking. Perhaps later today.

Cheers!

9 comments

  1. Thank you for taking the time to share your experience with us, carving out the time from your multi-trip prep and admin work. So excited to be in Ireland with you and our soon-to-be new friends.

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  2. So glad you’ve recovered and had a bit of respite. Love these images and your travelogue. You make me want to return to Yorkshire!

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  3. Thank you for the tour of Middleham. What a beautiful part of the world.

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  4. As I gaze through the wind and smoke filled haze of the ultra dry New Mexico sky I wonder at the idea of you knee deep in the grey grassy lushness and am glad. Hope the rest is deep and the road is less steep for this next round. We love you and very much appreciate the update and pics. It certainly looks idealic!

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    • It’s very weird to be here, in the land of perpetual rain and foot tall grass and read about what is going on there. Somewhere between smoky New Mexico and damp, chilly Yorkshire there must be a very pleasant middle ground. Right??? 😘

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  5. Glad to read your words and see where you are. Just so different and beautiful. So no leashes required for Hamish then. Stay healthy and curious. XOXOXOX

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  6. Wow, I feel exhausted just reading. I’m so glad you finally got a respite (though your body’s timing at insisting on a ‘rest’ wasn’t the best. The good thing about the grey is that it sets off that beautiful green. Thanks for the missives!

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  7. Suzie – I love this blog site – not only because I love you, but because it is so special to read and see where you are and what you’re doing. And it’s educational and entertaining and in this case, I get to see a Border Collie, herder or not and some interesting looking sheep. It sounds and looks like you did get some R and R and saw some new places. Please continue to travel safe and watch out for the latest – monkey pox, which is creeping around the world, with most new cases in the UK. Auntie Benee and Uncle Terry love you dearly

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