The whole weekend was a bit foggy and dreich, and on Saturday there was some snow – not a lot, but enough to cover the ground. Colin had some shopping to do in Northallerton, so we were down there early on Saturday morning. It was a bitter day, and hardly surprising that some of the market traders hadn’t set up stalls. Some of the stalwarts were there, but all in all it was a poor market that day.
A drive up to Reeth, my old stamping ground of 30 years ago, was interesting. Basically the place looks just the same, but on closer inspection there were lots of changes - a new teashop in what was a private house 30 years ago, and a new craft shop where the doctor’s surgery was for a time. The bank has gone and is now a National Park visitor centre. The Black Bull’s sign was no longer upside down; the Blacksmith’s shop that became a pottery is still there but with a new name -left of the Congregational Church.
The Post Office looks much the same , right, but has extended into what was Peter’s garage and is now the village shop. Up on the Cobbles at the top of the village was where the shop was in my day – the one with the blue door - though I know it closed not long after I moved back to Scotland.
At the crossroads at the top of the village , the bus shelter on the right of the picture was built in its current form when I lived down there. For years, in the evenings, the old men of the village used to gather there just to sit and talk. It was referred to as The Reeth Parliament – and maybe major decisions were made there that none of us know about. I can see in my mind’s eye, Fremmie, Norman, Mr Dolphin, Mr Sunter ….. sitting there leaning on their walking sticks. All gone now, but I do hope they have been replaced – maybe Tan, Fremmie’s son; Peter; Dick; Corky… will have taken on the roles as parliamentarians of the village now – crumbs, and them not much older than me!!!
How strange it is looking at these photos, and trying to think back! Was that a shop when I lived there? Who lived in that house? I don’t remember that being there. Where was the…..?
Before we left Reeth I had to take a photo of the wee cottage I rented when I first went to Swaledale. (I loved that place!) and one of the house my mother’s old friends lived in, just down the hill. It was once the police house and still has the old cell, complete with heavy metal door, at the back! I loved visiting the two elderly sisters and their brother here. This house holds lots of memories for me! Sunday tea with potted meat sandwiches – ugh – and jelly with cream crackers; a fully grown sick sheep with a woolly sweater across its back, the sleeves tied under its chin, wandering through the house; orphan lambs playing on the kitchen floor, even sitting catlike on the armchairs! Yes, these truly happened! Then there was the day they had to get a new washing machine to replace their old one that was filled and emptied by hand. Someone gave them a second hand automatic one! And…… oh I could go on and on, but that’s all another story!
So, onwards and upwards – up the dale to the next village, where I finally bought a house. I would have been great to have had the money to do it up - ~I had lots of ideas – but it wasn’t to be! My part of this terrace was what were once two of the three original cottages. I had a visit once from a man who had been brought up in the house about 50 years before. His father had been a lead-miner, probably the main occupation in the area till the early part of the 20th century. I sold the house to Annette who I think is still there, to move back to Scotland in 1987. There are several new houses in the village, always changes, but I was glad to see something that hadn’t changed! The old red village telephone box still has a posy of flowers in a small vase on the shelf and a piece of carpet on the floor, a tradition that goes back at least to Mrs Nathan an elderly resident of the village when I was living there. She was the one who kept the flowers fresh in those days, but whether or not she was the originator of the idea, I couldn’t say.
Memories came flooding back here too as we drove past the old Methodist chapel, sold almost 30 years ago to be converted into a private house, and Sunters’ farm where you could collect a bottle of fresh milk from their cows and leave payment on the window sill. I remembered wee Gladys with whom I would go “sticking” – collecting sticks as kindling for the fire; Lynne and her family at Crows Nest and dyed-in-the-wool dalesman Lawrence, next door – whose family had been there for 300 years, he told me!
We continued our drive updale through various villages with reminiscences galore, before turning up to the moor road and the highest inn in the country at Tan Hill. This is where Fremmie’s son gets the nickname Tan from! If you read earlier about Fremmie, you’ll remember he was landlord here for a time. It’s a bit of a lonely bleak spot up here and the staff work hard at making a living. It can’t be easy in the middle of winter, but generally on a weekend there is some sort of entertainment going on. There must have been a Mini Rally that day as there was a good number of the little cars sitting outside, while the owners lunched inside. There was a guy singing too, and with the open fire burning brightly, it was very cosy on that cold snowy day. The cat must have thought so anyway.
Refreshed by a bowl of hot soup we were soon on our way again, down to Arkengarthdale, and more scenes from my sojourn in the Dales. There was the CB Inn where I worked for a couple of years – it has the distinction of having the shortest inn name in the country according to the Guinness book of records. CB stood for Charles Bathurst sometime owner of the nearby leadmine and smelting mill. On, past the school and through the village of Langthwaite, thinking of an old friend, John from Cocker House, who sadly died far too young a couple of years ago and is buried in the Wesleyan churchyard, and soon we were back in Reeth. This time we didn’t stop but carried on downdale, crossing the Great North Road at Brompton before reaching Colin’s place again. A day of memories, many of which Colin shared, it had been fun.
Talk again soon.