Half-way, 100 miles completed, Mary Queen of Scots, The Plague, Hypothermia.

Post 68: 7 April 1993: Day 9 – Aysgarth Falls Youth Hostel to Ellingstring Youth Hostel- 16 miles

It was another late departure at 10.00am, caused by Dan having to apply ‘Compeed’ to his blisters. In addition, he had pulled a muscle, which was causing him a few problems. I felt great as, near Hollins House Farm, I passed the 100-mile half-way mark.

Our first stop of the day was at Bolton Castle, erected by the first Lord Scrope, Chancellor of England, in 1379, more as a fortified manor house with the needs of comfort predominating over those of defence. Designed with a huge four-storey tower some hundred feet high at each corner, four ranges of living quarters enclosing a courtyard and turrets in the middle of each of the two longer sides, it took eighteen years to complete. The antiquary Leland, writing in about 1546, asserted that it cost £12,000 to build, a sum equivalent to around £1.5 million today.

From July 1568 until January 1569 Mary, Queen of Scots was imprisoned at Bolton, apparently in some degree of comfort since about twenty servants were billeted in the village. The castle was garrisoned for the Royalists during the Civil War, besieged by the Parliamentary forces in 1645 and eventually surrendered. Two years later it was partially dismantled and in 1761 the northeast tower, weakened a century earlier, fell during a great storm. The other three towers survive almost to their original height. Owned by Lord Bolton, the castle has a museum of local history exhibits, and an excellent tearoom. It has been considerably restored in recent years, with grant aid from English Heritage. Dan decided torest in the tearoom, whilst I toured the castle, taking photographs, admiring the figurines of Mary Queen of Scots, monks and other characters of the past and the somewhat basic toilets of days gone by. The latter being holes in the floor dropping down to a void outside the castle walls. Any invaders would have received a nasty surprise if someone was on the toilet.

Near Redmire I had to jump across a stream and in doing so jarred my knee; I needed to be more careful. The pain eased off as we approached Wensley, where we rested for lunch on a circular seat rapped around a tree. Wensley is a small village of 19th-century estate houses set round a neat green. On the hillsides above the village cattle and sheep predominate, whilst below are the first arable fields in the dale. For a century after 1202, when it received its charter, Wensley had the only market in the dale and this continued to function until the 16th century, although on a decreasing scale as other markets were established.

As the parish register notes Plague struck Wensley in 1563: ‘This year nothing set down.’ Some surviving villagers fled to higher ground at Leyburn. The fortunes of Wensley were revived when Bolton Hall was built.

Wensley’s church of the Holy Trinity is one of the finest in the Dales. Much of it dates from around 1300, but the tower was rebuilt in 1719. The interior is rich in furnishings and of particular interest are the traces of an early 14th-century wall painting, the 17th-century box-pews, a reliquary, a poor box, a two-decker pulpit and stalls with poppy-heads. The Scrope family pew includes part of a fine wood screen, which probably came from Easby Abbey when it was dissolved in 1537, the abbey having been owned by the Scrope family. There is also a banner of the Loyal Dales Volunteers, which was raised against Napoleon. The church was the setting for the television marriage of James and Helen Herriot.

This was to be a day of visiting village and towns and we soon arrived at Middleham, an opportune moment to have an icecream. This is one of the norths great centres for racehorse training, a tradition going back two centuries. Beautiful horses on their way to the gallops outside the town are a common and delightful sight; it was tempting to ask if we could borrow one to rest our weary legs. The Swine Cross commemorates Richard’s 1479 ratification of the Market Charter given to the town a century earlier by Ralph Neville, Earl of Westmorland. A lane nearby leads to St Mary and St Alkelda’s church, dating mainly from the 13th and 14th centuries, and made a collegiate foundation by Richard in 1478. At some point during the last century, the writer Charles Kingsley was its canon. Kingsley House, the rectory next to the church, was built in 1752.

The first castle, its site marked by hawthorns, was built in the early Norman period. Its successor of 1170 passed into the hands of the Nevilles of Raby a century later but saw its great days during the War of the Roses. The castle remained Crown property until 1625, when it passed into private hands; it is now in the guardianship of English Heritage.

Descending from Middleham we reached and followed the River Cover to its confluence with the River Ure, the latter eventually leading to Jervaulx Abbey. This was a great Cistercian house, founded in 1156 and suppressed by Henry VIII in 1537. The abbey fell into ruins, but there is still sufficient remaining to remind the walker of the way of life of the Cistercian monks who built and occupied it. Little remains of the church, which is entered through the south-west door and was the focal point of the abbey. Other parts that can be seen include the cloister, the dining hall, two infirmaries and the abbot’s lodging. The dominant feature is an imposing wall of the dormitory, originally 180 feet long with a line of lancet windows. The abbey is set in lovely parkland with many trees and flowers, the daffodils and aubrietia being particularly attractive in spring.

However, with no roof the abbey was no place for us to stop for the night, therefore we continued on our route towards Ellingstring Youth Hostel. The last diversion of the day was to try one of the popular homemade Brymor icecreams from High Jervaulx Farm, just beyond Jervaulx Abbey. There are over forty different varieties made from the milk and cream of Guernsey cows and is a great refresher before the final ascent of the day to Ellingstring Youth Hostel.PICT0002

The hostel, with its log fires, homely lounge, and basic ‘drying room’ (consisting of a few clothes lines) captures the spirit of self-catered youth hostelling off the beaten track. It was very tempting to continue beyond the hostel to Masham, 5½ miles further on. This would have reduced the following day’s mileage of 21 miles and enabled us to take advantage of Masham’s range of fully catered accommodation – as well as the Theakston and Black Sheep Brewery visitor centres! However, our choice was to raid the hostel shop for food. I opted for tinned potatoes, tinned meat, tinned vegetables, followed by tinned rice pudding. Dan, maintaining the traditions of gourmet cooking, went for real potatoes and vegetables, which he spent ages peeling. He insisted I have some, despite my plate already being full; we nearly ended up having an argument. However, we spent a relaxing evening sitting in front of the log fire. On retiring to bed Dan, a fresh air fiend (what is wrong with my smelly socks?) opened the windows. At about 3.00am, I awoke shivering and suffering from hypothermia. Fortunately, no one else was in the dormitory, so I took duvets and blankets off the spare bunks, eventually getting warm and back to sleep under about five duvets and blankets.

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