You can catch a bus to Ripley, from Leeds Bus station. Number 36. It takes you all across the dales to North Yorkshire and drops you off right outside the Boars Head in Ripley, which was where I was staying for a four-day Yorkshire Break. Ripley is one of those handsome stone built Yorkshire villages set in rolling dales, which round there are steeped in the blood and the history of religious and civil wars. Not too far away was Marston Moor where Oliver Cromwell destroyed the Northern army of Charles the 1st. And at Ripley castle, on the edge of the village, lived the Ingleby’s, heavily related to and implicated with those involved in the 1605 Guy Fawkes gunpowder conspiracy to blow up the Houses of Parliament. There’s some good people round here!
The 700-year-old castle still remains in the Ingleby family but is now a neat manicured family home/castle/manor house, with extensive gardens, tea rooms, souvenir shops, a lake with a small waterfall, and long county walks. It has become the poshest and most popular place in Yorkshire to have your wedding and you can hire it for grouse shooting, antique fairs and such like county pursuits.
We dined, Patricia and I, as the guests of Sir Thomas and Lady Ingleby, in the panelled library of the Castle. Cromwell had dined here, in the very same room, shortly after the battle of Marston Moor, in 1644. While he dined, Sir William Ingleby, a staunch catholic royalist and the then owner of the castle, who had fled from the bloody fields of the Marston Moor rout of the King’s Army, to his home in the castle, hid from Cromwell and his troops in the castle priest hole.
So, when the royal toast was proposed, I raised my glass of Yorkshire beer and toasted, quietly, under my breath, Oliver Cromwell.
We were told the tale of Cromwell and his soldiers arriving at the castle, weary and tired, their boots, horses, armour and swords stained with the blood of the battle, seeking entry for the night. The sister of sir William refused to open the castle gates and a tense stand off ensued with Cromwell demanding entry and Sir William’s sister, known as Trooper Jane Ingleby, denying it. Of course, Yorkshire common sense prevailed, and the gates were eventually opened.
It occurred to me that what he should have done, Cromwell, to gain entry, was to shout up at Jane on the battlements, “We’ve booked it for a wedding”
To Ripon next, about half an hour on the bus. It has the appearance of a smallish country town; market square, town hall, war memorial, old buildings, some of them timbered, that sort of thing. But it has a cathedral. Massive. As big as St. Paul’s in London and it’s a puzzle as why such a quaint country town should have such a monster size cathedral. But it’s a very cool place to visit. It has been a place of prayer since 670, perhaps even before that. The cathedral is built over the original little 670 chapel of St Wilfred. You can go down a steep winding stone staircase to the chapel itself, a small stone room not much bigger than a smallish garden shed. I sat in the stone chapel a little while, on my own. Thought it could do with a bit of a refurbishment.
Back up in the cathedral I sat and listened to a choir practice and saw this strange creature carved on one of the stalls of the choir. They are peaceful places such cathedrals, even if like me, you have no faith, worship no God and follow no religion. There is an elegance in the soaring architecture, the stained glass and the low lighting.I lit a candle for our son Gavan who was taken from us earlier this year and sat and thought about him for a while.
And I stumbled across these five panels mounted behind the alter in the chapel of peace and justice, dedicated to the poet Wilfred Owen and engraved with words taken from his poetry.
A bloke on the bus had recommended I go for a pint at the Royal Oak in Ripon and as it was only 100 yards or so from the cathedral I took up his suggestion and so found myself in this proper ancient Yorkshire pub with black beams and real Yorkshire horse brasses and copper topped tables. It was renowned, the Royal Oak, for its food. There was an all-day full Yorkshire breakfast, roast beef and Yorkshire pudding, Yorkshire sausages, Yorkshire beef pies, Yorkshire Barnsley chops, Yorkshire pikelets, Yorkshire vegetable soup, Yorkshire cheeses and sticky Yorkshire toffee pudding with Yorkshire custard.
I asked if they had any Lancashire hotpot. They were very rude to me!
But the beer was cracking, and for the beer alone I would always return to North Yorkshire, it was brewed in Saltare and by gum it wer good.
There’s not much else to see in Ripon, I had lunch, as one would while up north, in Greggs, a cup of tea and a steak bake, and wondered about the charity shops and into a large store called “The Yorkshire Trading Company” – a sort of cross between Woolworths and the Co-op, most notable for its clothing department which seemed to consist entirely of tweed jackets and flat caps, a sort of national dress in North Yorkshire, although I didn’t see any dog leads. Whippets don’t kick in till you reach the County Durham Border.
There’s a plaque to Wilford Owen on one of the side streets, 34 Borage lane, where he wrote some of his poems while stationed a t Ripon Army camp, but I couldn’t find it.
And there is a very ancient custom in Ripon whereby each night, at precisely 9pm a man in a three-cornered hat comes out to the war memorial in the market square and blows a horn. They have not missed a single night since 868 AD. Well I was not going to hang around Ripon till 9pm but you can see the horn blower on YouTube, here http://bit.ly/2Ra6Lz7 it’s worth watching till the end, to catch a real touch of Yorkshire charm and wit. And if you are quick you can see the Greggs shop where I had my cup of tea and steak pie.
I was rather taken with the Yorkshire accent. It has a real warmth to it and was surprisingly familiar for my mother hailed from Yorkshire and I was born in York so it was good to hear again the lilt and music of it. If you holiday in France or Italy it would be natural to try and learn a phrase or two of the local language to help you navigate the days, how to order a cup of tea, or a beer, how to buy a bus ticket, that sort of thing. So why not, I thought, a few Yorkshire phrases? Thus it was that I started earwigging Yorkshire conversations and secretly practising the accent. You may not believe me about this but below is an actual conversation I overheard between two Yorkshire ladies, sitting on the seat in front of me, on the number 36 bus to Leeds. It was so good I had to write it down. I swear to god this is a genuine conversation.
“ee, it wer right windy last week. Theay don’t mek clothespegs like theay used ‘ter. Our Frank’s trousers blew right off washing line, we ‘anvnt seen em since.
“Yer’d might get sum proper pegs off ee. Bay”
I looked out the window at the passing countryside, hoping to see Frank’s Yorkshire trousers billowing across the dales, but they had long gone. Probably somewhere over Scotland by now. But I was encouraged in my wish to learn a phrase or two
I had worked on it. In the “bath” and on the “grass” (with a short “a”) on long country walks, and now here I was, waiting for the big red Yorkshire bus to Harrogate, determined to put it into practice. What I meant to say, I didn’t in the end, but what I meant to say was
“ Eee by Gum, ‘ow much is ‘ticket ter ‘arrowgute?”
I glad that I didn’t. Bus driver was from Poland.