Walking in the Yorkshire Dales

The Yorkshire Dales National Park is a popular walking destination in England made up of river valleys and hills. A “dale” is a valley, a word derived from old Nordic and Germanic languages. Dales throughout the county of Yorkshire are named after their corresponding river: Swaledale, Wharfedale, Waldendale, Raydale, Washburndale, etc. After our fabulous breakfast in Leeds, we drove to tiny Kettlewell and tackled the Great Whernside walking route, heading for the rocky summit of Wharfedale. Gorgeous day!!

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Scale is so difficult to convey in photos. That rock was large enough for us to stretch out and have a picnic lunch away from the soggy mossy hill we were climbing.

Sidebar on hiking lunches: we need a new go-to hiking lunch. Last winter in Italy, we developed a habit of buying baguettes and pre-sliced salami for quick and cheap sustenance. This works decently well in countries known for their salami. This doesn’t work so well if you buy the cheapest meat full of chemicals and baddies in random places like Yorkshire. It basically ruins your insides. I won’t go into details. Option #2, PB&Js, had a brief comeback a couple weeks ago when we visited the south of England with Connor’s parents. Something about the sog factor and lack of actual nutrients booted this out of the rotation. I’m all ears if anyone has any suggestions. I’ll give you a blue ribbon if it doesn’t involve bread or sugar.

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Penny has proved to be an excellent little traveler. She sleeps most of the day when we’re at home, but is always up for an adventure as long as it doesn’t involve swimming. She seems to be happy as long as she’s with us. We didn’t know what to expect when we put her in a backpack the first time, but she doesn’t seem to mind it. In fact, when she sees us packing up a bag for a day trip she knows a walk is coming and starts jumping all over the place. She does her fair share of walking on these hikes, but we try to carry her when the terrain is muddy or covered in sheep shit. Both are fairly common. Adders (European vipers) are a concern in many parts of England, and ticks are rampant, so sometimes it’s just safer to keep her in the bag.

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As usual, we saw plenty of sheep. The lambs are so adorbs.

That evening we pitched our tent and then drove back to the town of Harrogate to pick up some dinner. Even though I was a bit embarrassed to be seen with a pizza box, the other campers in the field didn’t seem all that committed to traditional, rugged camping techniques either. Their tents were the size of small houses with giant inflatable mattresses inside. Temporary privacy screens walled off sections of claimed space (can’t help but wonder if a little Oklahoma Land Rush went down in these parts). Wine glasses were clearly visible on tables. And then, our tiny little clown car rumbles through the scene. I can just see this through their eyes. Out pops a limping man, an odd girl in a baseball hat and sweatshirt (simply not a thing in England), and a tiny dog wearing a puffy winter coat. These rubes pitch their Tesco children’s tent and then drive off, only to return an hour and a half later with a pizza box and bag full of beer. The next morning, they’re gone before anyone else is awake.

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Walking in the Yorkshire Dales

1 Day in York

When you close your eyes and picture England, what pops into your head?

London and it’s dazzling buildings along the Thames…

Rolling green fields with sheep as far as the eye can see…

Rain, fog, and bowler hats…

Tiny villages of stone…

Or how about York? Beautiful, quaint, Medieval York is the England I envisioned before setting foot on the island. An easy, unforced combination of past and present, clean and well-kept despite its ancient buildings, very traditional yet not outdated. In all of these things York reminded me a bit of Bruges, Belgium. Unlike Bruges, however, York is not a canal city, and its ancient city walls are still standing.

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When I hear “quintessential English” I think of York: narrow winding streets, leaning Tudor buildings with tiny doors, Gothic churches, and loads of tea shops.

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hats hats hats.

And, ladies in hats! There was a wedding at York Minster Cathedral and I couldn’t help creeping and taking pictures. Technically they’re called “fascinators.” And they certainly are fascinating. Check out the one with the giant feather.

Also, isn’t this building gorgeous!? The grandness of these ancient churches and the detailed architecture stuns me every time. York Minster is one of the largest Gothic cathedrals in Europe and the second most important church in England. I’m not entirely clear on the hierarchy/structure of the Anglican church, but I know Canterbury (and the Archbishop of Canterbury) is #1 and the primate of York is #2. There has been a church on this site since 627 and the crypt still contains elements from this original church, old Roman foundations, and 11th century Norman elements. The existing church was built between 1220 and 1480. We stuck our heads inside but didn’t pay for full access. The exterior seemed to be the real show anyways.

I recommend visiting York during the week or an off-season weekend. Definitely don’t visit on a bank holiday weekend as we did. Narrow streets are even narrower with scads of slow moving tourists. Penny didn’t do as well on this leg of the adventure since there were so many people and dogs, and she prevented us from going inside a tea shop to relax. We sat on the river and had a pint hoping she would chill out away from the crowds, but instead, she made friends with a little toddler from Spain. Thank heavens this little boy liked her because she kept jumping up and putting her paws on his shoulders and giving him kisses. Besos. Cutest thing ever, but a bit nerve wracking since he would walk up behind us and Penny would be all over him before I knew what was happening.

That evening we stayed in Leeds and had a fabulous time chatting with our Airbnb hosts. We came away with great recommendations for walking in the Yorkshire Dales. They even made us a wonderful breakfast the next morning to prepare us for a long day of hiking (completely unexpected). Thanks to their tips, we had a fabulous 8 mile hike.

Check back tomorrow for pics of the Dales! I know I said I’d do that today. I lied. Sorry. Turns out I had more to say about York than I thought.

1 Day in York

A Camping Attempt in the Yorkshire Dales

For those of you in the States, imagine for a moment what you would do if your trusty one-stop-shop disappeared off the face of the earth. No more Target or Meijer, not even Walmart. You need to source all your possessions from specialty, expensive boutiques that may not have a website or a brick and mortar in your city. You have no idea how to even find these places to overpay for pillows, cookie sheets, a rain coat, and other superfluous essential items. Your neighbors don’t speak English so you can’t ask them for suggestions. You can either shop at the Dollar Store or Aldi. You hold your breath as you walk through the doors and hope that their pathetic bins of inventory 1) are actually full enough that you don’t have to compromise your dignity and dumpster dive to reach the items and 2) contain something of use.

In this alternate universe, the brilliant idea to go camping over a bank holiday becomes extremely complicated. Where the hell are you going to find an affordable tent of decent quality that won’t leak in the very likely event it rains? Yes, #firstworldproblems. Boo hoo, you have spend an entire day driving around your city looking for a tent or hoping Amazon UK learned something overnight from the States (definitely not).

I haven’t fully processed my thoughts on American vs British consumer habits, and I haven’t decided if I think Americans are spoiled, fortunate, or just doomed to a life of detached consumption and rampant materialism. (The latter is easily noticeable, but it also seems that Americans have more hobbies than the British, and hobbies = gear/supplies/stuff. If the British had more hobbies maybe they would spend less time sitting around drinking in dreary old pubs.)

Anyway, I admit that I’ve grown accustomed to a certain level of convenience and efficiency in my shopping habits. Because Target. Singlehandedly making my life easier since 2005. Dear Target, if you came to Britain, you would blow everyone’s mind and put a lot of small shops out of business.

Alas, I eventually found an affordable tent. The “rain fly” was smaller than a pair of my underpants. I also found sleeping bags, made of the most synthetic of synthetic materials. I’m pretty sure all this gear was intended for backyard sleepovers. The kind where the kids all end up in the house so poor quality gear is a non-issue.

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SO, what did we do with our sub-par gear?! We drove a few hours north to Yorkshire, spent a day in York, stayed overnight at an Airbnb in Leeds, walked the Dales the next day, camped that night, and drove back to Birmingham the following day. Our tent was about 1/8 the size of all the other tents in this field. No joke. We also forgot about the whole food thing so we drove 30 minutes into a town and ordered a pizza. And it was delicious.

Additionally:

  • It didn’t rain.
  • We were freezing cold.
  • Penny was initially scared of the tent.
  • There are cows on the other side of that wall in the above picture.
  • Connor thought he twisted his ankle at the end of the day’s hike.
  • Penny scratched my eyeball in the tent and I spent the drive home thinking I would have to go to the emergency room and wear an eye patch.
  • Both were false alarms.

Check back tomorrow for some pictures of Medieval York and the rolling hills of the Yorkshire Dales!

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A Camping Attempt in the Yorkshire Dales

A Day in Chipping Campden – Cotswolds

Somehow it’s June 14. Has it really been more than a month since we’ve chatted? I have a huge backlog of photos and adventures to sort through, the Queen is 90 years old, a heatwave of 70 degree temperatures hit the island catching everyone off guard (pun very much intended), and my garden has exploded in leafiness slugs be damned.

A few weeks ago, our morning chauffeur duties complete, Penny and I hopped in the Minnow and drove an hour south to explore Chipping Campden, a little village in the Cotswolds.

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Can't get enough of the wisteria!

Spring is such a lovely season in England – flowers just explode and I’m officially in love with all the wisteria.

“Chipping” derives from the old English word for market or marketplace, and this particular village was a major wool trading center in the Middle Ages. Its high street has buildings from the 14th century and quaint thatched roofs dot the narrow twisty lanes heading off the main road. Houses in the Cotswolds are all made of the same local limestone that yellows with age, and strict building regulations ensure that these villages retain their old-world charm and traditional appearance. Chipping Campden is one of the northernmost towns in the Cotswolds AONB and thus relatively easy to access from Birmingham, and it’s also the start of the 102 mile Cotswolds Way, a walking path along the AONB’s northern border that ends in the city of Bath. My plan was to explore the village and then spend the day walking the trail.

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Are any of you familiar with the London Blue Plaques? Throughout the country, and mainly in London, blue plaques mark buildings where notable people have lived or worked. There’s even an app to help you stalk your favorite historical figures. We’ve had a lot of fun discovering these plaques and I stumbled on one in Chipping Campden. The author Graham Greene spent a couple years in the cutest thatched cottage just outside of town, close to the start of the Cotswolds Way. He lived here from 1931-1933.

Graham Greene's House from 1931-1933

Graham Greene's House from 1931-1933

I met a few ladies from Canada walking the Cotswolds Way, but other than that, my chosen walking route was completely deserted. Lots of overly protective mamma sheep, however.

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On the way home I passed a giant castle looking building and pulled in to see what it was all about.

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Little church on the grounds of Coughton Court

Coughton Court has been the Throckmorton family home since the early 1400s. The Tudor-style country house is now owned by the National Trust, but still inhabited by the family. The grounds cover 25 acres and there’s a gorgeous garden in the back and an ancient chapel next to the main building. The Throckmortons were one of the families that remained Catholic after the Reformation, contributing their house and money to resistance efforts and to Catholic emancipation in the 18th and 19th centuries. The house is open to visitors, but the entrance fee and Penny’s fear of being abandoned in a car until the end of time were reason enough to admire the gigantic home from the outside only.

A Day in Chipping Campden – Cotswolds