Sunday, 20 September 2015

Constant as the northern star....

Saltaire Festival

Saltaire Festival

A few times a year Saltaire, where I live, holds a street and park festival with beer tents, food stalls, craft and vintage stalls, live music and street performers. Some years there are arts trails, open garden trails and in recent years in the build-up to Christmas there has been a Window Advent Calendar hunt. All these events bring out the creative best in local people and the atmosphere is generally fantastic although the Festival now is a huge and crowded event and seems to get bigger every year. I am as proud of my adopted home, Saltaire, as I am of my birth city of Wakefield.

Proud of Wakefield

Wakefield Cathedral

Growing up, I loved Wakefield. I loved the open fields near Eastmoor Estate, the sense of history with Sandal Castle and the chantry chapel, the cathedral, the parks, the opportunities for both sports and the arts; as a teenager I played rugby and acted in a local amateur dramatic society – an odd combo looking back. One of the constants about Yorkshire through my life has been how quickly you can get to places of interest and beauty.

Harewood House

Harewood House near Leeds

A place like Harewood House, for example, has so many quirky aspects: the beauty of the house and grounds; the Bird Garden (complete with penguins); the terrace art gallery and café; the display about Britain’s history of slavery; and the painting of the “Scandalous” Lady Worsley, recently portrayed in a BBC TV drama by Natalie Dormer.

East Riddlesden Hall

East Riddlesden Hall between Bingley and Keighley

Along the road from my house is the National Trust-run East Riddlesden Hall complete with a huge ancient barn, legends of hauntings, at least three stages of building and a riverside walk.

Jervaulx Abbey

Jervaulx Abbey, North Yorkshire

Further afield is the tranquility of one of the great ruined abbeys of the north. You can take your pick in Yorkshire from Bolton, Byfield, Coverham, Easby, Fountains, Jervaulx, Kirkham, Monk Bretton, Mount Grace, Rievaulx, Roche, Whitby and York St Mary’s. The pictures above are from Jervaulx but they all are atmospheric and peaceful  places to visit.

Middleham Castle

Middleham Castle, North Yorkshire

And not far from Jervaulx is my favourite Yorkshire castle, childhood home of Richard III, Middleham, maintained by English Heritage. I visited Leicester cathedral recently to see the new burial site of Richard but it is Middleham where his heart seems to have been and where his positive reputation remains intact.

Linda Thompson's statue of Richard III at Middleham Castle
I have posted the poem below in a previous blog, but I think it’s a superbly crafted piece of writing:

Richard by Carol Ann Duffy
My bones, scripted in light, upon cold soil,
a human braille. My skull, scarred by a crown,
emptied of history. Describe my soul
as incense, votive, vanishing; you own
the same. Grant me the carving of my name.
These relics, bless. Imagine you re-tie
a broken string and on it thread a cross,
the symbol severed from me when I died.
The end of time – an unknown, unfelt loss –
unless the Resurrection of the Dead …
or I once dreamed of this, your future breath
in prayer for me, lost long, forever found;
or sensed you from the backstage of my death,
as kings glimpse shadows on a battleground.