26 July 2020

We’re back! And back into our self-imposed isolation as far as possible. We had an absolutely marvellous four days in Yorkshire with reasonably good weather and visited lots of great places. There is so much to see and do in Yorkshire, we’ll have to go back again.

Thankfully (for you) there are so many photos to share this week that there will be relatively little of my usual nonsense to plough through. You’re welcome.

Last Tuesday, before we went, we visited Admington Hall Gardens near Shipston with members of the Moreton Pinkney Garden Club. It was the first visit the Garden Club was able to hold this year and it was a lovely afternoon out. The house itself is a beautiful Grade II Listed country house on the edge of the Cotswolds. The current owners have been there for 21 years and during that time they have broadly maintained the structure of the garden but have transformed the planting. It’s an evolving garden with some old bits, some new bits and some bits still under development.

And, we had tea and cakes on the patio afterwards – very civilised and a splendid visit for our first real post-lockdown outing.

Then, on Wednesday we set off for Yorkshire. We had booked a National Trust cottage just about a mile from Fountains Abbey. The cottage was lovely – a converted cow shed – which suited us perfectly. It was very well appointed and very comfortable in lovely rolling isolated countryside overlooked by How Hill Tower.

Thursday we visited Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal Water Garden which were simply stunning. We visited forty years ago, I should think, with my folks on one of our marvellous tours of the country whenever they visited. It was every bit as striking as I had remembered.

Fountains Abbey is one of the largest and best preserved ruined Cistercian monasteries in England, founded in 1132 by 13 monks who were expelled from a Benedictine monastery in York after a dispute and riots!

After the dissolution of the monasteries in 1539 by Henry VIII, the Abbey buildings and land were sold by the Crown to Sir Richard Gresham, a merchant.

From 1452 onwards the neighbouring Studley Royal estate was occupied by the Mallory family, most notably by MPs John Mallory and William Mallory. John Aislabie inherited the Studley estate from his elder brother in 1693. He was the Tory Member of Parliament for Ripon in 1695, and in 1718 became Chancellor of the Exchequer. He was also a principal sponsor of the South Sea Company scheme, the bill for which was promoted by him personally. In 1720 when this vast financial operation collapsed, he was expelled from Parliament and disqualified for life from public office. We could certainly do with a few more expulsions and disqualifications these days.

He returned to Yorkshire and devoted himself to the creation of the garden he had begun in 1718. After his death in 1742, his son William extended his scheme by purchasing the remains of the Abbey. He extended the landscaped area in the picturesque romantic style, contrasting with the formality of his father’s work. Between them, the two created what is arguably England’s most important 18th-century Water Garden.

Absolutely stunning.

Friday we went wandering. We explored Brimham Rocks, a National Trust site, took our time meandering across the Yorkshire Dales and ended up at Mount Grace Priory.

Brimham Rocks were extraordinary. They are known for incredible water and weather-eroded rocks, which were formed over 325 million years ago and have assumed fantastic shapes. As you can imagine, the site is very popular with the hordes of youngsters who climbed and clambered all over the rocks.

After wandering around the rocks, we took a leisurely drive through the Yorkshire Dales, a fabulously beautiful part of the world. Hundreds of miles of stone walls criss-crossed the landscape and though the weather wasn’t brilliant, in some ways the low clouds enhanced the atmosphere. Or, at least so Penny thought.

We decided to take one road marked by the smallest possible line on the map and the route was simply glorious. We encountered very little other traffic for most of the journey which was no bad thing – the road was very, very narrow scattered with the occasional passing bay and lined by stone walls which would undoubtedly be unforgiving to any car that came too close. What traffic we did meet was numerous brave (or foolish) souls pedalling their cycles up and down the Dales. We stopped for lunch in a little layby and in the distance we could see the road climbing up a vertical precipice. We watched as several cyclists passed the car and begin the tortuous ascent up the hill. They all managed it though and Penny and I had to admire their abilities – we knew we would have been walking!

When we were about three miles from where our very narrow lane met civilisation again we had become part of a modest convoy of traffic. As we approached a tight bend we came across three large tractors towing very large farming machinery coming in our direction. Not surprisingly, the tractors were followed by a larger convoy consisting of about fifteen cars.

Clearly it was impossible for the tractors to back up so the three or four cars ahead of us had to reverse. By this time our convoy had been joined by another three or four cars and I did, for a moment, imagine that we might be stuck for hours. Fortunately, we were able to pull into a layby by a gate but the cars ahead of us had to reverse past us and the cars following until they could find another layby into which they could pull off and let the tractors past. The tractors inched their way along the lane, scraping by the cars with centimetres to spare. I hope they weren’t having to travel too much further along the lane.

Eventually, we made our way to Mount Grace Priory, the best-preserved Carthusian monastery in England. Set in beautiful woodlands, it was founded in 1398 by Thomas Holland, 1st Duke of Surrey and was the last monastery established in Yorkshire, and one of the few founded anywhere in Britain in the period between the Black Death (1349–50) and the Reformation.

It was a fairly small establishment, with space for a prior and twenty-three monks and consisted of a church and two cloisters. The Great Cloister, to the north of the church, had seventeen cells for monks whilst the southern Lesser Cloister had six cells for the lay brothers.

These monks lived hermitic lives in one of Mount Grace’s 25 individual cells, each with a private garden. They would come together only for the nocturnal liturgical hours, and on Sundays and feast-days, in the church. Except for the singing of the liturgy and conversation “on grave subjects” during a weekly three-hour exercise walk, Carthusians are silent, and their diet is strictly vegetarian.

Lovely spot but a pretty isolated experience, I would imagine especially if the only conversation allowed was on “grave subjects.”

Our last day, Saturday, we made our way to Harlow Carr, an RHS garden just outside Harrogate. Again, the weather wasn’t brilliant but the garden is gorgeous. Ms Playchute was particularly keen to look at their variety of grasses having decided that one of the beds in our garden should be transformed into a “hot” bed with grasses and warm colours. As a result, we came home with a boot-load of grasses along with a couple of other plants.

Great fun and a lovely day out.

And so ended our first adventure post-lockdown. Later today we are off out to another open garden just near Daventry. We’ll share that with you next time.

Finally, Boris has been “celebrating” how well the fight against the coronavirus is going. It’s good to know that we are still World Beating:

I may have written this before – I can’t remember. But . . . Japan has more than twice the population of the UK. It is also has the most elderly population in the world. They have a higher population density than the UK and a greater proportion of people living in cities. In other words, just the conditions in which Covid should thrive. Yet their death rate is 8 deaths per million compared to the UK’s 678. What’s the difference? For one thing they have a culture which accepts the need to wear masks. Coincidence? I don’t think so.

Meanwhile, keep happy, keep smiling, keep isolating as much as you can, wear a facemask when you go out and keep your distance. And keep safe.

Lots of love to you all,


2 thoughts on “26 July 2020”

  1. A truly awesome issue of the MPP – history, geology, travel, politics, a bit of COVID, accompanied by the usual unusually spectacular photos.

    At least your retirement years are being spent productively, Gregory, and I’m only too happy to be on the receiving end.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.