England is full of never-ending surprises. Just when we thought we had seen all landscapes, today threw up some scenery that was different again. From Durham to Cleasby outside Darlington, where we visited friends, the land was mainly flat with gentle undulations. Our visit with the brother of friends was full of surprises, not least having a pet peacock and peahen in the garden. The cock obligingly put on a display for us to admire. There was also an amazing train set.
Our first tourist stop was in the Georgian city of Richmond – a very attractive town. We enjoyed our walk around the outside of the castle walls, but we didn’t have time for a castle tour because we had to buy a picnic lunch and then head off into the Yorkshire Dales.
The word dale means valley. We traveled up Swaledale for over 20 Km, a fabulous experience, not least because the weather gods were kind today. This is a long and fairly narrow valley with steep flanks on either side of the river. Like most other places, the whole area is carved up into small paddocks delineated by stone walls. I find that it is these stone walls that help to bring the contours of the landscape alive. What an incredible effort went into constructing them, no doubt over many years, probably centuries.
The lush profusion of green vegetation is a constant surprise and delight. That and the meadows filled with wild flowers, often a golden yellow. We Aussies proclaim green and gold as our national colours, but they could just as well be applied to England.
At Thwaite we headed up over the moors (530m) to Hawse in Wensleydale. This is Wallace and Grommit territory. For those unfamiliar with W&G, it is the name of a series of animated films using clay models (no computer graphics used here). As a consequence, each film takes years to make. Wensleydale cheese plays a prominent role in this series so we had to see where it was made. Hawse was a busy place with many tourists about, no doubt for the same reason we were there.
A surprising discovery on our Dales drive was that in July, the Tour de France is due to have a leg traversing most of the route we took here today. There were numerous signs advertising locations to park cars and view the race. Also, the county was busy making road improvements, lopping branches and cutting grass. We’ll now have to watch this when it is shown on TV next month. We usually do watch some of it, mainly for the scenery. [Postscript: we did watch some it, and the sunny conditions made us wish we were back there, esp. in the helicopter]