Moors and Dales

Yesterday we took a private car tour of the Yorkshire Dales, visiting several of the sites associated with James Herriot , the author of several books with slightly fictionalized accounts of his life as a vet. Some were real locations, such as his actual home and surgery, and others were used in filming the All Creatures Great and Small TV series. The people making the series must have decided that a lot of the real places didn’t look photogenic enough.

He was actually named Alf Wight; the Royal College of Veterinary surgeons wouldn’t let him use his real name, because they considered it advertising. I’ll leave it to Margaret’s blog to talk about most of the day, since she is the hardcore All Creatures fan in the family; I’ll just make a few observations of my own.

The church where Alf and his wife were married was locked, and we couldn’t wait around until it would open later in the day, but I did find something curious in the main entryway. Our wonderful guide, Alan, asked us to guess what caused this:

Apparently these deep scrapes were from men sharpening their arrows over decades, perhaps centuries. Churches were also required to plant yew trees — the main source of the right kind of wood for longbows.

Alan picked up on our interest in history and took us to the ruins of Richard III’s Middleham Castle in Wensleydale:

and Bolton Castle where Mary, Queen of Scots was imprisoned (with 18 servants; I guess it was more house arrest than prison).

We ate lunch at the inn where the Whites had their honeymoon:

Along the way we asked what the terms “dale” and “moor”meant. We had many English novels that mentioned both, but weren’t entirely sure what they meant — especially “moor.” Alan explained that a dale is a fertile valley or lowland where trees and crops would grow, and that a moor is an upland area scraped clean of soil by glaciation, where little will grow but grass. On the way to Britain’s highest pub (1732 feet), we got a very interesting tour of classic moorland.

The tour took about 9 hours total and was fascinating all the way, including the drive home, all because of how knowledgeable Alan was about the whole area, including a lot of history. If you ever want to visit the Yorkshire Dales, he’s the man to take you.

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