An interesting day today, a good night’s sleep, no nasty surprises during the night, all in all a wonderful start to the day, and it didn’t take on any freaky-Friday hallmarks as the day wore on either! From Skeeby we drove down to Northallerton to once again delve into the historical/genealogical books in search of an ancestor, a bit of a ‘proof of life’ scenario if you will. Two hours later though and it was a bit of a hit-and-miss discovery. Whilst we couldn’t find what we were looking for, we did find evidence though supporting some ‘theories’ so that’s enough for us for the moment! Having then spent a good couple of hours poring over pages and pages of old fashioned handwriting we were in need of a cup of tea and some ginger cake, luckily for us we had both!
From Northallerton we headed through Thirsk and made our way over to Marsham and some very agreeable Black Sheep. In other words we visited the Black Sheep Brewery and enjoyed a full tour of the brewhouse and a very lively chat with tour-guide ‘Dave’ – a Lancastrian lad who was barely out of his 60’s. We hit it off right away, cousins war be damned, nothing gets in the way of a good story or an even better brew! The tour itself was actually really interesting, Dave told us all about how ‘The Black Sheep Brewery’ came about, how the Big Boss was actually a Theakston and due to outside influences eventually was forced out of the family brewing business, but that he clung to his dreams of brewing proper ales, so when chance and fortune decided to help him out, the Black Sheep was born. Well, with a little help from his Missus, who suggested the ‘Black’ part, she was right, it does make all the difference to the name.
Next we returned to Middleham Castle and were thankfully blessed with it not raining on us this time, though it was touch-and-go for a few minutes as we arrived and parked the car. As we took our seat-belts off it suddenly darkened, clouds moved in like ants at a picnic, sever unrepeatable words were said, along the lines of ‘sod off!’ and with that the clouds cleared and blue skies were back – though we did have to temper our enthusiasm with a rather lazy breeze, the type that can’t be bothered going around you, so goes through you instead! Middleham Castle is a rather interesting place, it was for a time the boyhood home of Richard, Duke of Gloucester, who would become Richard III, infamous for the allegations of instigating the murder of ‘The Princes in the Tower’. That aside, the castle has also been passed back and forth through some of the most noted families in English history.
By now it was much later in the afternoon than we’d intended, the brewery visit was meant to be much shorter, but it was all so interesting that time obviously took charge and that, as they say, was the end of that. With a quick look at the clock we decided an early dinner was in order, and as we had no pressing matters we thought a trip back to Richmond and to the pub that a great x 5 or 6 aunt started a couple of hundred years ago was in order. Her nephew also rang a pub and in the coming weeks I’ll be visiting that one too, but for the moment it was lovely to sit in the front parlour/reception room and have a dinner of beef pie and chips in not so different circumstances to those she would have offered long before my forebears were even a twinkle in her eye. For anyone who’s interested, I can heartily recommend the Black Lion in Finkle Street, Richmond. They have a really nice selection of offerings under their 2 courses for £9 or 3 courses for £11.50, we tried the pie and both had starters too, creamy garlic mushrooms on a crouton, and a goats cheese fritter with relish and salad. There were no leftovers.
We’ve enjoyed our time here, in the Richmondshire area, the roads haven’t been quite as hectic or as ‘oh dear lord, somebody save me’ that others have been. We’ve loved rambling along the slower country roads – that usually had trimmed hedges lining both sides, or solid rock walls, or a mix of both! – and the green fields in abundance that are bordered by various rivers like the Ure and the Swale with small stone bridges that cross them have been a real pleasure, not to mention the sheep with lambs we’ve seen everywhere. We’ll be leaving here tomorrow, pushing on further south and into some more familiar territory, and as much as I’m looking forward to what’s coming, I won’t be sorry to be leaving here, because I know we’ll be back. It’s far too wonderful a region not to return, it’s alive up here, it’s history isn’t confined to the dusty pages of tomes that are locked away in abandoned libraries, its people are vibrant and adaptable to the new demands of the modern world, without sacrificing their past. There’s something about this area that makes a stranger feel at home, and encourages its own to go adventuring, if only for one reason, for the pure delight of returning home.