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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.

* *

It was Tuesday in Ramsfeckle under Whiteskelfe and black bin collection day. Nimrod was ensuring his wheelie bin was correctly parked at 90 degrees to the kerb. Satisfied it was he gave the bin a final shuggle and lifted the lid to check the contents.

“Lost summat, Nimrod?”

“Morning, Walter. Nah, just checking the stuff I should be recycling is hidden beneath the rubbish. I’m using the recycling bin to store logs. And there’s a bit of garden waste in there too. I’m not paying to have my green bin emptied.”

“They’ll catch you one day, Nimrod.”

“Then they’ll have to be up early.”

“Fit for the Arms tonight?”

“Is the Pope a catholic? I’ll be there, Walter. See thee later.”

* *

Tuesday evening was dominoes night at The Whiteskelfe Arms. A game of penny a spot and five pence a corner washed down by a couple of pints of Brown Belch. And to round the evening off the Arms signature supper dish, a pork pie submerged beneath a sea of mushy peas covered in mint sauce. A proper Yorkshire aphrodisiac after a game of bones.

* *

Nimrod was already hugging his first glass of Belch and staring into the flames licking the logs in the fire place when Walter slid onto the wooden pew beside him.

“I wonder what the origins are,” he said, eyes still fixed on the fire.

“Chinese I think,” replied Walter. “Then mid 18th century European.”

“No, not dominoes. Tuesdays. Where do Tuesdays come from?”

“Eh? What’s that got to do with owt?”

“I was interested, that’s all.”

They both took a sip of Belch and looked into the fire for an answer.

“Germanic gods,” said a voice.

Walter and Nimrod averted their gaze towards the newcomer as he scraped the legs of a chair on the stone floor and plonked himself down opposite before setting his glass down on the table to join them.

“Now Sid,” said Walter. “Hope you’ve brought some money. I want to be touching it this week.”

“Tuesdays,” said Sid.

“Oh, don’t you start as well. What is it with you two and Tuesdays?”

“If you’ll let me finish,” said Sid. “I was about to tell you about Tuesdays.”

“And Germanic gods” added Nimrod.

“That’s where Tuesdays come from,” continued Sid. “An Anglo-Saxon warlike deity, ‘Tiwesdaeg’. It all goes back to the Romans who called it Martis dies, day of Mars, after their god of war.”

“An apt night for dominoes then,” said Nimrod. “Least the way you two play.”

“Supposed to be a good day for getting married too.”

“You mean better than a Saturday if United are playing at home,” Walter chipped in.

“You’re a font of knowledge Sid,” said Nimrod.

“Well, if you want superstition, it’s a good day to have your hair cut or your nails. It’s supposed to bring wealth or a new pair of shoes.”

“I’d best make an appointment then, if I don’t take all your money playing doms, said Walter.”

“And don’t sneeze on a Tuesday or you’ll meet a stranger. And if he’s left handed…”

“Ey up lads. What’s thee gassing about? You haven’t got the dominoes unboxed yet?”

“Now then, Harry. We were just saying about strange left handed men who worshipped Germanic gods and got married on Tuesdays.”

“New boots, Harry?”

“Hope you clipped your nails before we start.”

“You’re crackers, you lot. Must be Tuesdays.”

* *

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Words and photographs Copyright © 2017 by Antony J Waller

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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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On a pleasant, sunny autumnal day there can surely be nothing more enjoyable than a stroll through the woods and along the grassy terraces of Rievaulx near Helmsley in North Yorkshire.

And you never know what local wildlife you may encounter….

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Is this the fabled ‘long feathered shrike’.

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…or a ‘metal crested trumpet bird’ gathering nesting material?

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Definitely a ‘greater-hatted Phoenix fire bird’.

Whilst the captions are mine the artwork is by Yorkshire sculptor Michael Kusz.

Words and photographs Copyright © 2016 by Antony J Waller

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nik_17224Hackfall Woods lie between Masham and Ripon near to the village of Grewelthorpe in North Yorkshire and has a chequered history. Mentioned in the Doomsday Book and at various times belonging to Knights Templar, the estate of Fountains Abbey and sold by Henry VIII following the dissolution of the monasteries it was bought by John Aislabie in 1731. Member of Parliament for Ripon and owner of Studley Royal which forms part of the Fountains Abbey lands he was Secretary to the Navy and later Chancellor of the Exchequer. He accepted a bribe (said to be worth £20 million in today’s money) for which he was found guilty and imprisoned in the Tower of London before returning to North Yorkshire in disgrace. He died in 1742 when his property and lands passed to his son William.

nik_17225William set about transforming the woods creating an ornamental landscape using the natural beauty of the river and surrounding area. This included Fisher’s Hall, built in 1750 from tufa and thought to be named after his head gardener.

 

Just one of the ruins and follies to be enjoyed on an enchanting walk through Hackfall Woods.

For more information visit http://www.hackfall.org.uk/

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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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