Thursday, 1 May 2014


It's really noticeable how much more friendly and open people are here... children, old ladies, shop-keepers, mums, everyone... all happy to chat, explain, talk. Settle is a great base to explore from. Yesterday we went out to 'do' the Settle-Carlisle railway, bought our tickets, crossed the splendid iron bridge onto the right platform (which was thronged, btw, with happy tourists like us, vindicating all those who worked so hard to maintain this amazing stretch of railway line). The train was on time, there was a rush for seats. We trundled along through the astonishing countryside. I managed to make one little watercolour - a bit drear as there was no sun, but I found the swooping curves and the rich palette of colours mesmerising.
The town of Appleby is ancient and historic of course, saved and glorified by that heroine of the 16th and 17th Cs, Lady Anne Clifford. She was 15 when her father died, when King James I was on the throne, and she was nearly disinherited of her estates by her uncle. But she married, and waited, and learned, and in her 50s (after the Civil War) wrangled her lands back. Her daughters were all married by then, so she came north from courtier-land and established herself in Appleby and revived after all of Cromwell's depradations. The main street leads up from the river and the church to the gates of her castle at the top of the hill. On either side are houses of great antiquity, some empty now (it must be said) and some beautifully kept. Her almshouses - 13 now, and double-storied - cluster round a charming little flowery courtyard, with a small field at the back (maybe once they grew their beans there), and there is a perfectly gorgeous little chapel off one corner. Communion is held once a week on Tuesdays, and the plate is kept in a stout nailed and adorned chest by the door. The seats are choir-style, face-to-face across the room, which has painted panels urging people to take care of widows, and the Creed and the Lords' Prayer.
We had a delicious fishy lunch in the Tufton Arms Hotel.  The hotel, by the way, has had a design make-over on the ground floor, very arty and stylish. But the carpet leading up the stairs (though of excellent quality and condition) reveals an earlier sense of propriety, with a mass of swirling colours. The ladies' loo on the first floor is (hoorah!) capacious and well-appointed. The tiny window over the loo has its own purpose-made pelmet-with-curtains, all in one, though no-body could possibly see into it from outside. But it's a nice, classy touch.
Appleby is not that far from Settle but it looks utterly different. Sandstone, and red too, instead of limestone. I mentioned this difference in appearance to the nice lady in the tourist office and she said 'Oh of course. That's limestone there'.  Explains everything.
Then we had time to kill, to wait for the train back. We saw round the church... earlier it had been closed to visitors because of a funeral.  The sense of sadness still hung in the air.  They say it has the oldest working organ in the country. They also have plans for an extension to the north of the church, for a meeting room. It looks very well thought-out, if they can avoid floods from the river - which borders the churchyard. 
At the river, we watched a happy gun-dog chasing ducks over and over again in the shallows. His owner tried in vain, over and over again, to call him back, but the joyous dog was having none of it.  In the end, the man had to put boots on and get into the river himself to drag the dog out. That was ok til he let go of the dog's collar... Guess what? The dog sprang back into the water.   Eventually, Fido was made to see that it was time to go home. The ducks regained their gravelly playground.  Andrew bought an ice-cream and we poddled back up the hill to the station... a lady gardener explained that the sun never reached her front garden, and bedding plants always get leggy, but the Pieris do ok.
It is hard to see the famous Ribblehead Viaduct when you are actually on the train, but you get a good feel for how remote it all is, how the navvies must have laboured, and what an astonishing piece of construction it is. No wonder people come from so far to see it. The railway line itself must contribute hugely to the whole regional economy. Would that we had more such lines in use.
We came back to Settle, shopped in the very up-market Booth's supermarket, and then cooked our brill for supper. Slept like lords.
Today we went to see the Ribblehead from the ground.... it's been a misty, moisty day, but worth the slinky drive out to the moor there. A lady approached with two black dogs. One snarled at me, bared his teeth, kept his distance but was very cross with me.  The lady said, this dog was a rescue dog. He had originally been reared up as a gun-dog and had been 'trained' by the use of electric shocks and beatings... He hated wide-brimmed hats (my waxed rain-protector), and camouflage jackets (my Sainsbury grey and pink floral kagoul), and to him, she said, cameras look like the butt-end of guns..... so I was his baddy.  I took off my hat and the dog was instantly transformed into a charming, friendly fellow.  She has an autistic daughter, she said, who found Canterbury to be a very calm place. She had visited because her brother lives at Leysdown on the Isle of Sheppey.  We said, surely Canterbury was not as calm as this remote moorland... nothing in sight except the famous viaduct.  She agreed, and said that calmness is the most important thing.
Later we arrived at Ingleton - a higgledy-piggledy Anglo-Saxon village of charm, bridges, courtyards, trees, cafes, tourist shops, etc. We bought hand-made soap, a pair of bamboo socks and some black pudding.  Our coffee was made by a lady who said she'd always been in the pub trade, then worked as a cook in the Ingleton Nursing Home. But when her husband died 4 years ago, she couldn't face the Nursing Home any more, and eventually, this January, opened her own cafe. She let us use the loo ('You see, I'm not insured, so you must not slip over').  She has two sons, both in catering, and a nephew who's a chef, who works for racing drivers. Whenever he comes back to England she pounces - 'How should I do this? How would you arrange that?'     She makes up plated meals for two old ladies, as she thought that one pie a day was not a balanced meal for them; one of these she delivers herself by hand.  The cafe is allowed 8 seats inside and 8 on the pavement, as it is classed as a carry-out. Although it was her new business, it looked 50 years old.
We tootled back to Settle, met up over lunch with an old friend who'd driven over from Lancaster. Loud laughs. She and I sauntered round the town, and we called into the local professional-amateur history society - a charming little cottage stuffed with books and computers and manned by a sort of hobbit (Mr Hudson) who said the boss (Mrs Hudson) was away, but that this historical society is full of many retired professors who continue to do their research in his front room. In any case, he explained that the people now running The Folly which we enjoyed visiting on Tuesday have nothing to do with them.... sad, as his gang had done the surveys and have written an interesting book on the history of the building.  I am all too familiar with how small communities can have these deep rifts running through them.  Geological, like the limestone/sandstone extremes, or that ancient/modern tectonic rift which happens to lie right under North Craven....
So, we brought Mary back here for tea and cakes, and reminiscence, and she said how difficult and necessary it was for her to have resigned as head of a primary school in Lancaster...she just couldn't face another summer term.  'Why', she said, 'do teachers put up with all this OFSTED?'  But later, she admitted, that (having come from London where we first met her) the standards in Lancashire were pretty dire and the national curriculum had been the best thing to happen to schools around there....  It seemed to us she has done the right thing in giving up her profession.  She will continue to teach special needs children, but with any luck will get more time off and time to travel too, and play music.
Now it's our last night. We're having that black-pudding in a salad, with duck-eggs and tiny tomatoes. Tomorrow we pack up, and head home. We've only been here 4 days and it feels like home. Settle is really lovely. And so is North Craven.

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