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It was a beautiful morning in Ramfeckle under Whiteskelfe. The early wisps of mist clinging to the fields had dispersed, burnt off by the sunshine, and the low clouds which had earlier cast a veiled shadow over the village chased away up to the top of the bank. The sun was shining, the birds were singing and all was right with the world.

Walter was enjoying the moment, lounging on a new oak bench commemorating a recently departed villager. Set back from the road on the grass verge in front of a high stone wall, marking the boundary of Sweet-Feckle Hall, his seat afforded a view of all and everything that passed by. He saw Nimrod approaching.

“Morning, Walter. Thou’s up early. Owt wrong?”

“It’s our Mary,” replied Walter. “Spring cleaning. Deadly she is with a brush and duster, so I got out the way before I took a clout. How can I chill over a mug o’ tea with all that activity going on. Anyway, what about yerself. You’re out and about early too.”

“I’m off to the shop. Only it’s slipped me mind what it was I wanted. It’ll come back after I’ve had a sit.” And Nimrod plonked himself down on the bench next to Walter. For a while neither of them spoke.

“Feckle Hall’s looking good these days,” said Nimrod. “Spruced up a treat under the new owners.”

“Well those Bell sisters let it go a bit,” added Walter.

“That’s going back a piece. Rum lassies, those three. Life in the village was never dull with them about. The three Bell sisters,” echoed Nimrod.

“The tri-Bell elders as we used to call ‘em,” said Walter. “Destiny, Liberty and Southern.”

“Destiny,” repeated Nimrod. “Dessie. She was the eldest and most vociferous of the three.

 

Worked as a doctor, if I remember, though never married. Her final tryst was with the local vicar. Unfortunately one warm summer’s evening after Vespers the rector found them in the crypt. He was unfrocked and Dessie was struck off.

Then there was Liberty, the middle sister. A real artiste,  and quite a talented actress. Had her name in lights, ‘The Postman always rings twice’, ‘For whom the bell tolls’. But the drink got her. Fell off the stage at the Alhambra when playing Tinkerbelle in a musical version of Peter Pan.

Southern was the baby of the three, apple of her father’s eye, practical and philosophical. Conceived in First Class on the London to Brighton line. ‘Well it might have been worse’, she used to say to anyone who asked after her unusual name. ‘Daddy could have named me after the steam train or one of the stations.’ Often bumped into her in the village shop and she always had time for a quick chat.”

“What a font of knowledge you are Nimrod, and what a memory too. Now if you could only remember what it is you want from the shop….”

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Words and photographs Copyright © 2017 by Antony J Waller

The small village of Ramsfeckle under Whiteskelfe can be found nestling in the shadow of the Hills to the north of York, closer to the Moors and the sea than to the Yorkshire Dales. Typical of most Yorkshire villages of its ilk Ramsfeckle under Whiteskelfe’s roots go back through the centuries, though the angst and demeanour of life in the village is very much a part of the present day and not the past. This and subsequent stories are how village life and events are observed and perceived by Walter and Nimrod, two of the village’s more stalwart inhabitants.

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The small village of Ramsfeckle under Whiteskelfe can be found nestling in the shadow of the Hills to the north of York, closer to the Moors and the sea than to the Yorkshire Dales. Typical of most Yorkshire villages of its ilk Ramsfeckle under Whiteskelfe’s roots go back through the centuries, though the angst and demeanour of life in the village is very much a part of the present day and not the past. This and subsequent stories are how village life and events are observed and perceived by Walter and Nimrod, two of the village’s more stalwart inhabitants.

This week souvenirs are discovered in the village and they’re not being discarded by disgruntled tourists!

…..

Walter was genuflecting in a moment of rapt concentration when a familiar voice drifted over the low garden wall.

“Are yer knees givin’ out or ‘as t’teken to prayin’?”

“Shit,” replied Walter.

“I beg yer pardon?”

“Dog poop, Nimrod.  Some bugga’s dog keeps desecrating me lawn.”

“Ah, I wondered why you had bald patches on yer green sward. You’ll have to erect a sign.”

“What? Dogs can’t read.”

“Yer daft bat.”

“So what then? It’s not exactly conducive to a serious game of croquet if yer ball strikes a hardened chocolate sausage and is deflected past the hoop. ”

“I’m going to keep watch. Sit up all night with a flask of soup and a torch.”

“Well your Mary won’t like that. And the dog might not be regular. Could take a while. Have you got a jam jar with a lid.”

“Eh? Nimrod, I’m not looking to preserve it.”

“Doh. We’ll take it to the vets and ask him to run it through his spectrometer for analysis. It’ll tell us what the dog eats for its supper.”

“Oh great. Then all I have to do is ask round as to what folk feed their dogs on.”

“Aye, well it’s only an idea.”

“Sometimes, Nimrod, I wonder about you.”

“Sorry, Walter, lateral thinking’s not so easy at my age. My creativity is thinning.”

“Aye, like yer head.”

As they cogitated and scratched their thinning thatches a little cream coloured Schipperke trotted into sight and completely ignoring the pair squatted in the middle of the lawn.

“Well would yer look at that.”

“Brazen, I’ll give it that”, added Walter

They watched as the dog completed its ablutions, scratched away at the grass and trotted off again.

“Oh ‘eck,” said Walter. “I recognise it now. That’s Mrs Braithwaite’s pooch. She lost her Jack a few months back and dotes on that dog. Always talking to it. I haven’t the heart to say owt. I can’t.”

They looked at the steaming deposit on the lawn.

“Then I’m afraid,” said Nimrod wistfully, “you’ve got another souvenir to add to your collection”.

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Words and photographs Copyright © 2017 by Antony J Waller

 

 

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You never know who you might bump into or what you might see on a day out at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park…

(click on images to enlarge)

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For more information go to Yorkshire Sculpture Park http://www.ysp.co.uk/

Words and photographs Copyright © 2016 by Antony J Waller

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nik_5734The signpost proclaiming “Finest view in England” stands on an escarpment almost 800 feet (300 metres) high at Sutton Bank on the edge of the North York Moors National Park. On a clear day from this spectacular viewpoint you can look out over the wooded and craggy slopes, beyond nearby Hood Hill and Lake Gourmire, across the Vale of York and westwards to the Pennines.  The adjacent Visitor Centre is a popular attraction and many visitors stop to walk the path along the top past the Yorkshire Gliding Club, along the earthworks of an ancient Iron Age hill fort and around the point of Roulston Scar to the equally famous White Horse above the village of Kilburn. But what many do not know is that this is also the site of a battle. For it was here on14 October 1322 that a Scottish army led by Robert the Bruce attacked and routed an English army and came within a hair’s breadth of capturing the king, Edward II; and it is in the woods below that many English soldiers lie buried.

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The road (A170) approaching Sutton Bank with Lake Gourmire in the distance

It was the time of the ‘Wars of Scottish Independence’. In August 1322 Edward II had marched into Scotland with an army of over 20,000, despatching his fleet to sail up the coast to the Firth of Forth in a campaign to defeat Robert the Bruce and capture Edinburgh. However, the Scottish army retreated before the English advance, avoiding battle and destroying all crops and cattle in their wake. Sir Thomas Gray, constable of Norham castle in Northumberland described it thus, “The king marched upon Edinburgh, where at Leith there came such a sickness and famine upon the common soldiers of that great army, that they were forced to beat a retreat for want of food…so greatly were the English harassed and worn out by fighting that before they arrived in Newcastle there was such a marrain in the army for want of food, that they were obliged of necessity to disband.”

Edward left his queen, Isabella, at Tynemouth and marched southwards to York with the remnants of his army, eventually arriving at Rievaulx Abbey, a few miles to the east of Sutton Bank. Behind him Robert the Bruce with an army of 20,000 ‘moss-troopers and clansmen’ had crossed the border, laid waste to Carlisle, Lancaster and Preston and was marching over the Pennines and through the Yorkshire Dales. At Northallerton he met with more Scottish troops and set out to capture a king.

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Roulston Scar with the woods beneath

Robert the Bruce and his army marched through the night and by the morning of 14 October were in the woods beneath the craggy summit of Sutton Bank. Alerted, the English army under the Earls of Richmond, John of Brittany, Pembroke, Aymer de Valence and Buchan, Henry Beaumont, had broken camp near Old Byland to take up defensive positions along the top, probably from where the Visitor Centre now stands southwards to Roulston Scar. The Scots advanced against a barrage of rocks and missiles and hails of arrows; the Earl of Richmond attempted to counter the advance by sending men down the slopes but the narrow and steep gullies were easily defended by the Scots leading to many English dead. Bruce now set his highlanders against the English flanks and the Scots fought their way to the summit causing Richmond’s troops to pull back to engage and fight the enemy along the top of the escarpment and beyond. The battle now entered its final decisive phase.

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The craggy outcrop of Roulston Scar


Bruce sent his remaining ‘moss-troopers’ and cavalry to find a way around the back up onto the moor, to outflank the English and attack from the rear. The battle was lost, no quarter was given and the English suffered heavy casualties. However, Bruce was not yet finished. He despatched Sir Walter Stewart and a contingent of cavalry to Rievaulx to capture the king. Stewart arrived to find an untouched banquet on the table, treasures, personal possessions and the great Privy Seal but no king.  Edward evaded capture by the skin of his teeth fleeing with a small personal bodyguard. Stewart and 50 men set off in pursuit, first to Nunnington and Pickering Castle; then to Bridlington before Edward turned inland and to safety behind the walls of the city of York. Bruce and his army continued their march as far as Beverley taking riches and loot as they went before finally returning to Scotland 6 weeks later.

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I live almost in the shadow of Sutton Bank and Roulston Scar and often walk through the woods and take the path along the top of the hills. However, it was only recently when I chanced upon ‘A brief guide to British Battlefields’ by David Clark that I realised I was walking in the footsteps of history and that such a large battle had taken place hereabouts. There is no plaque, monument or information board to the events of that day, which is a shame. No cairn or memorial marks the graves of the estimated 8,000 Englishmen and 960 Scotsmen who lost their lives on 14 October 1322 and that too is sad. It would be nice to think that as the 700th anniversary of the Battle of Old Byland approaches this will be remedied.

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Looking southwards along Sutton Bank and Roulston Scar with the Vale of York in the distance

Words and photographs Copyright © 2016 by Antony J Waller

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NIK_9355Yorkshire Day, the first day of August, a day when Yorkshire folk wear with pride the White Rose and celebrate all things Yorkshire.

A day when Yorkshire puddings are eaten, ferrets stuffed down trousers, pigeons fancied, whippets raced, flat caps thrown in the air, rhubarb thwacked and ale quaffed with much mirth and merriment.

Nowt so queer as folk, you may think.

But as we say hereabouts:-

‘Ear all, see all, say nowt,
Eyt all, sup all, pay nowt,
And if ivver tha’ does owt fer nowt
Allus do it fer thissen

‘ave a reet good (Yorkshire) day.

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On a bright and sunny March day I set off to find and photograph a legend from those glory days of the railway when trains were hauled by steam locomotives with evocative names, none more so than the Flying Scotman.

Across the North Yorkshire moors and nearing the village of Goathland I had never seen so many cars parked on the verges of the narrow moors roads vying with the sheep for a vacant patch of grass. Goathland itself was no better and the tiny station there was a mass of expectant faces waiting for the 12.44 from Grosmont (which wasn’t even scheduled to stop).

“Stand back, please,” a volunteer platform attendant asked. “Someone fell off at Grosmont yesterday!”

Nevertheless we craned to see as the high pitched toot of a whistle sounded and a column of steam appeared around the bend up the line. On it came, wreathed in steam, and then it was gone as the maroon carriages clanked by. My first glimpse of the Flying Scotman, albeit quite brief.

We’d catch the return, but not here. A mile or so up the line at Darneholme where the line passes beneath a narrow stone bridge. Even here up to 50 people gathered to stand and watch. Hovever, being the return journey from Pickering, the mighty Flying Scotsman was puffing backwards pulling its maroon entourage.

One final try. Onto Pickering to catch her steaming into the station. Again crowds lined the platform whilst others sought a vantage point. And as the train steamed into view you it was to the sound of bagpipes being played. As for photographs I managed to snap a few…

Words and photographs Copyright © 2016 by Antony J Waller

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Steamy nights

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We were standing on the platform at York station the other evening waiting for a local train when all of a sudden there was steam in the air and the night became alive….

LMS Jubilee Class 5699 Galatea.

Words and photographs Copyright © 2015 by Antony J Waller

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