February 2005


Margaret Porter, 50, of Newbiggin, near Askrigg, was recently in court in Northallerton for attacking her brother with sticks of rhubarb. One of several which she threw at him caught him in the eye. She was convicted of common assault. Common or garden assault more like.

The truth is out there. On the Brigg apparently. There is an old line to the effect that when it’s midday in Leeds, it’s 1956 in Filey. Really this is a compliment; in so many ways Filey is physically unspoilt and there is a degree of civility and old world values which are rare nowadays. However, now the town has another claim to fame. The British UFO Hunters study group has cited Filey as the top UK location for sighting UFOs in 2004. There is said to be ‘a high volume of aerial activity’.



On New Year’s Eve we went to Thirsk. White Rose Books in the market square is an old-fashioned bookshop, old-fashioned in the sense that it is an independent and therefore rather less predictable than Waterstones or Borders. On the morning of New Year’s Day, my wife walked to the top of Roseberry Topping near Great Ayton on a bright sunny morning. The weather soon changed and the new year began in traditional style with gales and storms, floods in York, a double discount sale at dfs and a number of gruesome murders in Midsomer. By Twelfth Night the shops were displaying Valentines and Easter eggs. 2005 – 200 years since Trafalgar and 400 years since the Gunpowder Plot.


Delia Smith, TV cook and writer, recently praised Middlesbrough Football Club’s match day cuisine. Visiting the Riverside stadium, she enjoyed ‘mild mustard roast sirloin on a bed of crushed potato and wild mushroom sauce’. It was, she said, the best meal she’d ever had at a football club. Good grief. How things change. It’s not long ago that if you bought a meat pie at Ayresome Park and threw it at a man it would almost certainly kill him.


A friend of mine, Alistair Hall, knows as much as anyone about Roman and Anglo-Saxon Yorkshire. Occasionally we have a day out and this usually consists of him introducing me to interesting places. It was he who took me to Easby. Recently he showed me the Roman fort at Catterick which is next to where the Swale is crossed by the A1. Not marked on maps it is now the site of a farm but clearly there it is when someone points it out to you. We traced its outline. And it was Alistair who first took me to Aldborough. If you leave the visitors’ path there next to the town wall, you can scramble down into the quarry where the Romans mined their stone for the town. Do this discreetly and with care; I’m sure that health and safety concerns will soon stop you going there. In the wall of the quarry are the remains of a carved eagle and what looks like an animal. It is breathtaking to think of them mining the stone here so many centuries ago. We also went to Barwick, that place of big secrets. This was Elmet, about which so little is known, apart from the fact that it was the last independent state east of the Pennines and Wales to resist the Anglo-Saxon advance. Legend says that Arthur wintered here during his successful campaign temporarily to stem the Anglian advance.


After ten years as Archbishop of York, David Hope has stood down to become, at the age of 64, an ordinary parish priest at St Margaret’s in Ilkley. He leaves Bishopthorpe Palace for the vicarage in Wells Road. ‘It has been a huge privilege to have been Archbishop and to have lived here’, he told a reporter from the Wharfedale and Airedale Observer, ‘but I felt a very strong pull to finish my ministry as I had started it’. We wish him well.

David Hope

In late January the country house, Allerton Castle, once owned by the Grand Old Duke of York of the nursery rhyme, and located by the A1 near Knaresborough, sadly was largely destroyed in a fire. This pile of Gothic Revival, which my wife and I visited last year, had, over the previous 20 years, been lovingly restored at huge expense by its American owner, Dr Gerald Rolph. The papers and TV said that the flames could be seen from twelve miles away as over 100 firemen fought the blaze. As well as the fabric of the building, priceless furniture and irreplaceable stained glass were destroyed. One feels so very sorry for Dr Rolph, his work having been so tragically lost. We hope that by means of insurance, English Heritage and Dr Rolph’s continued enthusiasm the house can be restored.

Allerton Castle

The Oldie reports that 78 year old Marian Neale, on her way to the supermarket, stopped to rest on one of Ilkley station’s smart red benches. A security guard asked her to move on. It is the station’s policy only to allow people to sit on the benches if they are waiting for a train. On another occasion a girl who sat on the station floor because all the seats were occupied was told to get up. David Hockney, a passionate and practising smoker, said recently that he no longer visits New York because it’s like being at school. Sounds as though things are becoming much the same in Ilkley.

Ilkley Station