A reader in the Times asked why Yorkshire has produced no comedians of note, which sounded a bit harsh. A correspondent from Ormskirk, Lancashire, replied that this must be because there’s not much to laugh about in Yorkshire. Someone else then wrote that you have to be a comedian to live in Lancashire which prompted another reader to write that watching Leeds United or Sheffield Wednesday is funnier than Ken Dodd, Les Dawson, Eric Morecambe and the other Lancashire comedians combined.

Idly looking through the job adverts in the Yorkshire Post, I came across the following:

‘Twice used and abused, attractive young farmer needs a loving genuine woman to love and adore. Don’t miss this chance. You only live once’.

August in Yorkshire this year was like being in Singapore. Day after day, week after week, there were hot humid days punctuated by torrential downpours and thunderstorms which brought floods and damage to many parts of the county. Rivers and streams burst their banks, crops were ruined and drains and sewers couldn’t cope. Our winters are much milder and our summers are hotter and wetter.

Ladies who lunch. One of my colleagues, Moira, together with her friend, Wendy, went to the Devonshire Arms at Bolton Abbey for afternoon tea. The Devonshire Arms, a country house hotel, is part of the estate of the recently widowed Duchess of Devonshire who lives at Chatsworth in Derbyshire. What was once a coaching inn established in 1753 is now a luxurious hotel and restaurant; the Duchess herself was responsible for much of the furnishings and interior decoration. The restaurant’s conservatory looks out on to an Italian garden planted in 1993 beyond which are the moors and fells of Lower Wharfedale.

Devonshire Arms

Anyway, in Moira and Wendy they were entertaining a pair of discriminating Yorkshire ladies who lunch together regularly at Yorkshire’s better establishments. They were not disappointed. For £12.50 each, afternoon tea of sandwiches, scones and cakes with quality tea and coffee was served politely and attentively. They didn’t go in the cold plunge pool afterwards because, of course, you shouldn’t bathe after eating. When I asked Moira for a mark out of 10 she said 10 and she never normally gives 10. She expects value for money and for her points.

Kildwick Hall, near Skipton, is a Jacobean country house with a symmetrical gabled façade, except for the porch, and is built on three storeys. 20 acres are attached including gardens, grazing land and staff cottages – phew, thank goodness for that, I was wondering where to accommodate the staff. It’s for sale with a price guide of £3.5 million. For once the agents are not exaggerating when they describe it as ‘exquisite’. Get in line.

Kildwick Hall

A book called The Big House: the Story of a Country House and its Family by Christopher Simon Sykes has been recently published. It is about Sledmere, the 250 year old family home in the Yorkshire Wolds. In 1911 it burnt down; Sir Tatton Sykes, 5tth baronet and known locally as Sir Satin Tights, insisted on finishing his pudding before calling the fire brigade. It was rebuilt. The book, described as ‘a vivid and romantic history of a Yorkshire family’ in the paper, shows the ups and downs of a privileged family through the generations and is told in an absorbing and sensitive way.

This year is the 50th anniversary of the Yorkshire Dales National Park.

On August bank holiday Monday we went into the Dales. There was a time when the roads in the Dales were very busy on bank holidays, but much less so now. Presumably this is partly because bank holidays are no longer the only time off work that many people have and also people avoid travelling simply for pleasure. Too many prefer to go shopping or watch property programmes on TV. As someone noted in the Times recently, when did you last see a roadside picnic? These were a feature of bank holidays in the Dales not so long ago. People now eat in pubs and cafes. Many of you will remember the folding chairs and tartan rugs, thermos flasks, food in foil and greaseproof paper. I am reminded of Betjeman’s line:

‘sand in the sandwiches, wasps in the tea…’

Anyway, we went to Langthwaite in Arkengarthdale north of Reeth in Swaledale to meet some friends who have an old cottage there. It was a reunion for us and also for their and our children, all now well into their teens but, to us, not long ago in pushchairs. Those games of frisbee and the cut knees which we kissed better have now given way to pints of beer, discussions about impending ‘yooni’ and listening to bands we’ve never heard of.


We had lunch at the Charles Bathurst Inn, known generally as the CB. This doesn’t serve lunches of chips and microwaved whatever but good home-cooked food of a high standard. The staff were helpful and friendly, unlike a correspondent’s recent experience at a pub in Buckden. The 18th century CB has been thoroughly refurbished most tastefully and entertains walkers on the Pennine Way and other visitors. Only eight miles up the road is the Tan Hill Inn, at 1732 feet the highest pub in England. It is even licensed for weddings now. There must be some joke about it’s downhill after that. In Langthwaite itself is the Red Lion, the nerve centre of the local community.

Charles Bathurst Inn

I spent a worthwhile ten minutes reading the Reeth and District Gazette. At Gunnerside Women’s Institute recent excitement has included a talk about windmills of Norfolk and Suffolk and another by an expert on cemeteries. The evening of belly-dancing followed by supper sounds more promising. I must have spent too long telling the children about the Viking settlement of the North Riding – ‘that, I suppose, was the Reeth lecture’, said my 18 year old drily. Can’t think where he gets it from.



We drove back through Swaledale. I’d forgotten how breath-takingly lovely Swaledale is. The pastures, dotted with stone barns and lined with dry stone walls, were brightest green following the heavy rain. We went through Muker (gorgeous) to Thwaite and then over the top past the Buttertubs to Wensleydale. The views of Ingleborough and the other fells were wonderful in the early evening sunshine. From Hawes again we drove over the moors to Wharfedale, and through Buckden and Kettlewell. The younger son was asleep, the elder tuned into his personal stereo (or whatever they call them nowadays – ‘do keep up, Dad’).

Health & Safety news. Dogs have been banned from the Great Yorkshire Show and are to be banned from Kilnsey Show because they are a health hazard, for goodness sake. At work the plants have been removed from our reception area because they are a fire hazard – you could drive a double decker bus through quite comfortably. I’ve just bought some tulip bulbs; the packaging warns me not to eat them.

On Restoration, the BBC programme about neglected and endangered buildings, which has been called Pop Idol for the middle classes, Gayle Mill, near Hawes, was featured. It is a unique 18th century mill, originally powered by water, and was voted third in the attempt to win £2.5 million of lottery money. The group anxious to restore the building is still in business and it is hoped that they can finance the preservation of the building by other means.

Carved stones more than a thousand years old which were found in Burnsall are evidence of Viking settlement in the area. These are now on show in the church there. Dating from the 920s they show Christian symbols. Villagers have fought for years for funding to enable the stones to be properly displayed. Never give up.

Cricket match at Burnsall


Private Eye revealed that Harrogate police took a large advert in the Antique Trade Gazette in their attempt to trace a stolen painting entitled the ‘Circle of Palamedes called Stevents’. The picture, reproduced in the advert, was in fact coincidentally and helpfully being advertised for sale a few pages earlier at an auction with an estimate of £3,500. The police were able to recover it.