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Wednesday, 8 April 2009

More old haunts

If you happened to log in here earlier, to find a picture of new leaves on the trees, with a church tower in the background, and you think you've gone mad because it's not here now, then look on my Peebles blog! I put it on the wrong blog so transferred it to Peeblesforpleasure.com

So, at last I will finish off the visit to Swaledale with a walk to the river at Reeth and then a glimpse of the village where I lived for several years - I spent so much time in Reeth that I didn't have much time to spend in Healaugh! It's peculiar how your memory of somewhere so familiar, plays up after 20 plus years! There were houses in Reeth and Healaugh I had completely forgotten about, and have no recollection of who lived there, and things that had changed, though I couldn't quite remember them as they were.

What I do remember is the bench at the end of Quaker Lane, just outside Reeth, where on a warm summer's day it was a quiet place to sit and reflect or ponder about things! From here you could follow a lane to the river or go through the gate to walk back through the fields to Healaugh, the next little village.

Up on the hill behind my "thinking place" is the school where I filled some of my days doing some teaching. I'd even forgotten there was a school house next door.

What quite shocked me though, was the extent of the erosion caused by the river Swale over the past couple of decades. It was always a fast flowing river when in spate, and had changed its course on several occasions, but the land always seemed to recover. Now the earth has been washed away too, leaving a vast area of stones with the river meandering through the middle - meandering today, but come a day with heavy rain, the river will rise very quickly to flood over the stones and form a small lake here with the river still continuing to flow down past Grinton and on to Richmond, and eventually to join the river Ouse. As the Ouse it carries on through the city of York and becomes the Humber near Hull beyond which it reaches the sea, so here in its youth it is already a force to be reckoned with.

When I was living down here, all this area was grassland, and the river was way over to the right.

A small suspension footbridge crosses the river a little further upstream, that having stood in situ for eighty years was destroyed at the beginning of the Millennium by a rather large tree that was uprooted and washed downriver during a huge flood. Since then it has been restored, but one wonders if weather conditions will allow it to stand as long again.
My aim was to reach the Swing Bridge, and although I got there I could see the rain travelling down the valley and knew I'd better not hang around or I'd soon be very wet! So no photo of the bridge itself! I should have crossed it and taken a picture looking back - well, another time!

After hurrying back to Reeth (and getting caught in the expected squall), I drove up the hill out of Reeth, past the school and on for a mile or so along the pretty country road to Healaugh.

My old friend Gladys's former home in Healaugh has had an addition to it, though it fits in so well with the style of the row of cottages, that at first I didn't even notice! All that bit on the left was garden in Gladys's time. There's a narrow lane goes round the corner of the gable on the left of the photo, in front of Gladys's and round by a long low wall that surrounds a rather bumpy area of grass (and daffodils right now). It strikes me that in the heyday of the lead-mining industry around the dale, perhaps Healaugh had many more houses, and that these humps and bumps are the grass covered foundations of old cottages.

However Gladys always used to talk of it as having been Johnny Gaunt's Castle! I reckon she meant John o' Gaunt, but what truth there may be in that story I never found out! Maybe one day I'll go and talk to one of the villagers I know, whose family, he proudly told me, had lived in the village for 300 years! He may be able to shed some light on the subject!

The telephone box in the square outside Gladys's was always looked after by one of the villagers, and always sported a beautiful little posy of flowers in a jar, so it was lovely to have a look 22 years on and still find the tradition being kept up! Someone asked me later if it still had a square of carpet on the floor, because it certainly used to, but I had forgotten about that and didn't look!

My old house looked just the same, except for a new name plate. Annette who bought the house from me is apparently still living there, though there must be a lot of changes in other houses in the village. Two former barns have also been converted very nicely to houses, and some cottages that were rather run down and derelict have been restored and look very smart.

As I said earlier I didn't have much time to rake around and take photos, but I took one from the back of the village looking down at the old stone houses with their thick slated roofs, with the wall enclosed fields of Harkerside across the river. You should see Harkerside in the late summer when the heather is in bloom! The upper slope turns purple!

So that was as much of the village as I managed to photograph. I'll make a point of spending longer there when I next go down that way. There still must be a few folk I know there, to go and say hello to!

One more photo, and that's of the little road that climbs up the hillside from Healaugh to the ruins of Surrender mill - one of the several leadsmelting mills in the area - , and through the "watersplash" (ford) that featured in the introduction to the televised version of "All creatures great and small" filmed in the area about 25 years ago now. I came up here looking for primroses, but didn't find them! Shame! There were lots of clumps along parts of the verge in the 1980s.

Next time, and I won't leave it so long till then, I'll show you some photos of historic Darlington where we used to go sometimes when small town shopping wasn't enough! I spent an afternoon there the day before I came home again.

So, talk again soon.

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