GLW1509 : A Wensleydale Trio

Monday 20th October 2015

This is a bit of a misfit.  It is not really the record of a Great Little Walk but of several Great Tiny Explorations celebrating our 44th wedding anniversary which had had to be postponed by 11 days.  I had long wanted to visit Middleham in Wensleydale, mainly because I remember driving through and being curious about what looked to be the ruins of a rather large castle. But also because Wensleydale is a nice part of the country to visit.

So I booked us into the Blue Lion at East Witton, a picture postcard village just a few miles to the... now which direction was it?  As a further clue, as seems plausible, if the name Middleham is the corruption of the name Middle Witton, you will know exactly which side.  Call my bluff?

The high rating of the Blue Lion is well deserved.  It is very old and its decor reflects the fact but neither in a twee way or in a run-down fashion.  Neither sheek antique nor shabby old.

Importantly it was clean, the food was good, the staff were friendly and the bed comfortable.

An evening stroll round the old village was pleasant but not particularly worthy of record.

Jervaux, on the other hand, is worthy of record. Dating from 1146, it, or what is left of it, was a Cistercian Abbey laid waste by Henry 8th.  Sufficient remains that when coupled with the guidebook and a strong imagination you can get a good idea of what was what and why.

Sadly, I can't enthuse about its café.  It would be unkind (and obviously untrue) to suggest that its flapjacks were cut from the ruins or the cappuccino raised from the ditches but they were not very good.

Next on the list was Middleham Castle, dating from 1190 and later the childhood home of the future Richard 3rd.  In its day it must have been most impressive with strong outerwalls protecting the huge inner keep with its massive kitchens at ground level and splendid hall higher up.  Again good information and imagination is called for in order to properly understand its constituent parts but sufficient remains to enable a good idea. English Heritage have put in an authentically placed wooden staircase that enables a safe climb to the ramparts where there is an impressive view over the town and dale.

We had been advised also to visit the Middleham Church but didn't find anything particularly noteworthy there.

Our final target was Aysgarth Falls but we took the scenic route past Bolton Castle. This building dates from  the 14th century and seems to be in a much better state of repair.  Further inspection will have to wait for a future visit.

The Falls are in three parts.  The upper part is on private land so costs £2 entry (but only if you are honest).  The middle and lower falls are below the Visitor Centre and are reached by a looping footpaths.  Each set has sudden but modest drops in levels where the rocks have been gouged out by water filling in the cracks then freezing and expanding, eventually causing the stone to shear.  At least that is my theory.

With the golden leaves starting to carpet the ground, it was a pleasant autumnal walk to round off our visit to Wensleydale.  We shall return.

Don, Monday 19th October 2015




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