Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Day 9 Yorkshire – In Which we Learn how to Make Cheese, Hang out in James Herriot Country, and are Stunned by Scenery.

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I have long been a fan of the British TV series All Creatures Great and Small, and if you know me at all, will know that I am also a huge fan of Monty Python and, in particular, their skit The Cheese Shop which I highly recommend you watch here, if perhaps you have nothing else to do and would like to procrastinate. It’s safe for work, don’t worry. My favourite bit has always been the ‘Mr. Wensleydale’ part. You may have noticed.

So I was REALLY excited to take a trip up into Yorkshire Dales National Park which would encompass visits to both the Wensleydale Creamery, AND some of the scenery from where the All Creatures was filmed, and where James Herriot used to work as a vet in the 30s and 40s. Heaven! In case you have never ever heard of the show, and would like to procrastinate even further, you can watch the opening credits here Completely safe for work also unless you are worried about being labeled as some sort of uncool English TV nerd, like me. Like, I mean I am an English TV Nerd, not that I’m worried about being labeled as one…

Our destination was a village called Hawes, which sits at 260metres above sea level and that makes it one of the highest villages in the UK, which is a bit hilarious to those of us from Canada, but it’s kind of cute, so we’ll let them have their little record without laughing too much.

The villages in this part of Yorkshire are so ridiculously charming, it’s almost too much. I keep looking for TV cameras or a film set around the corner with Hugh Grant stuttering his way through some sort of charming speech to the vicar’s daughter, while punting his way across a swan filled pond. So far, no Hugh Grant, but there are enough rose-strewn stone cottages and pubs called The White Stag to make it all seem more English than English. We drove through several such villages, with completely over-the-top names like Dent, Horton-in-Ribblesdale, Ravenstonedale, and, I’m not making this up, Giggleswick. They were all very lovely, but nothing was as impressive as the moors that suddenly appeared in front of us as we rounded a corner. We came upon this huge viaduct in the middle of nowhere and went for a walk across the moors to investigate. This area is prime ‘rambling’ country and the place was almost busy with hikers.

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Apparently there was complete temporary village here in the 1860s for the men who built the railway. There’s not much left now, but Jacob spotted this old stone/sod structure that looked like it used to be some sort of shelter. But not any more unless you are a only about a foot high and fit in that tiny opening. Perhaps a badger?

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It’s a very posh badger.

We drove on through the beautiful, if a bit bleak, countryside. At one point a logging truck drove by with a full ‘load’. Isn’t it cute?

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A little further on we drove past the Yorkshire equivalent of a clear cut which, didn’t really have much on say, a Clayoquot clearcut, but was still a bit of a blot on the landscape.

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We carried on our way to Hawes, and went past a sketchy-looking farmhouse advertising home-baked cakes. Not wanting to be the one who sent this poor family into the depths of poverty by not purchasing a cake at the height of their need, I pulled in, negotiated a few dread-locked, slightly rabid looking dogs, stepped into a room that can only be described as straight out of Withnail and I, and departed with one of the BEST cakes I have ever had.

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At least this provided a small amount of reassurance that this part of the countryside isn’t all roses and honeysuckle, just most of it.

We arrived in Hawes, ate our lunch at lightening speed so that we could go to the Creamery as fast as possible.

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There was a small museum where we watched a movie on the steps to making Wensleydale cheese, and then we trucked it across the parking lot to the cheese making facility where it is possible to watch the cheesemakers in action. It was our lucky day as fresh milk had just arrived and we basically got to watch each step of the process and it was fascinating – kept us there for nearly half an hour as we watched as first the curds formed in the whey, then, in another tub, formed curds were sliced and crumbled into small pieces, then packed into molds where they would be compressed for a few days as all the whey drains out.

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Sorry about the yellowish tinge – something they put on the windows. It’s not really that yellow…

After working up an appetite watching all this action, we made a dash for the cheese-tasting shop.

Oh. My. God.


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Needless to say we bought up the place. Not sure where I’m going to put all this cheese for the next week, but whatever. I think I’ll save it and have it on the plane ride home so that I don’t have to eat Chicken Parts in a Rat Sauce with a side of Ironed Lettuce.

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After all that it was time for a brew, so we sat next to the sheep (when aren’t we sitting near a sheep?) and enjoyed our tea.

Next up was a wander through the village, which had a fabulous candy store, and of all things, a ropemaking factory.

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We also managed to run into one of Jacob and Zoe’s teachers from SMUS, which was very random considering the remote nature of the village. Her name escapes me, but she was a sub at the middle school and is now on assignment as teacher to four children while they and their family travel Europe for a year. How awesome is that!

As if all this wasn’t enough, on our way out of Hawes, the cows were literally coming home, and held up traffic while doing so. Again I looked for the film crew but it was all very authentic.

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Our next destination was a tiny village called Askrigg, which is where Skeldale House (where the vets all lived) from the All Creatures series can be found.

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My mum, who has seen every episode 62 times, was beside herself at actually seeing the ‘real’ thing. I think she and Jacob half expected Siegfried and Tristan to come out the front door and invite them to the pub for a pint. I must admit I was secretly thrilled.

What a nerd.

We drove home through some truly spectacular scenery, and made it home just in time for cake.

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Last full day in Yorkshire tomorrow, then it is back to London for our flight to Amsterdam.

Thanks for reading,



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