A pleasant road leads through Nawton to the beautiful little town of Helmsley. A bend of the broad, swift-flowing Rye forms one boundary of the place, and is fed by a gushing brook that finds its way from Rievaulx Moor, and forms a pretty feature of the main street.
A narrow turning by the market-house shows the torn and dishevelled fragment of the keep of Helmsley Castle towering above the thatched roofs in the foreground. The ruin is surrounded by tall elms, and from this point of view, when backed by a cloudy sunset makes a wonderful picture. Like Scarborough, this stronghold was held for the King during the Civil War. After the Battle of Marston Moor and the fall of York, Fairfax came to Helmsley and invested the castle. He received a wound in the shoulder during the siege; but the garrison having surrendered on honourable terms, the Parliament ordered that the castle should be dismantled, and the thoroughness with which the instructions were carried out remind one of Knaresborough, for one side of the keep was blown to pieces by a terrific explosion and nearly everything else was destroyed.
All the beauty and charm of this lovely district is accentuated in Ryedale, and when we have accomplished the three long uphill miles to Rievaulx, and come out upon the broad grassy terrace above the abbey, we seem to have entered a Land of Beulah. We see a peaceful valley overlooked on all sides by lofty hills, whose steep sides are clothed with luxuriant woods; we see the Rye flowing past broad green meadows; and beneath the tree-covered precipice below our feet appear the solemn, roofless remains of one of the first Cistercian monasteries established in this country. There is nothing to disturb the peace that broods here, for the village consists of a mere handful of old and picturesque cottages, and we might stay on the terrace for hours, and, beyond the distant shouts of a few children at play and the crowing of some cocks, hear nothing but the hum of insects and the singing of birds. We take a steep path through the wood which leads us down to the abbey ruins.
The magnificent Early English choir and the Norman transepts stand astonishingly complete in their splendid decay, and the lower portions of the nave, which, until 1922, lay buried beneath masses of grass-grown debris, are now exposed to view. The richly-draped hill-sides appear as a succession of beautiful pictures framed by the columns and arches on each side of the choir. As they stand exposed to the weather, the perfectly proportioned mouldings, the clustered pillars in a wonderfully good state of preservation, and the almost uninjured clerestory are more impressive than in an elaborately-restored cathedral.
DESCRIBES THE DALE COUNTRY AS A WHOLE
When in the early years of life one learns for the first time the name of that range of mountains forming the backbone of England, the youthful scholar looks forward to seeing in later years the prolonged series of lofty hills known as the 'Pennine Range.' His imagination pictures Pen-y-ghent and Ingleborough as great peaks, seldom free from a mantle of clouds, for are they not called 'mountains of the Pennine Range,' and do they not appear in almost as large type in the school geography as Snowdon and Ben Nevis? But as the scholar grows older and more able to travel, so does the Pennine Range recede from his vision, until it becomes almost as remote as those crater-strewn mountains in the Moon which have a name so similar.
This elusiveness on the part of a natural feature so essentially static as a mountain range is attributable to the total disregard of the name of this particular chain of hills. In the same way as the term 'Cumbrian Hills' is exchanged for the popular 'Lake District,' so is a large section of the Pennine Range paradoxically known as the 'Yorkshire Dales.'
It is because the hills are so big that the valleys are deep and it is owing to the great watersheds that these long and narrow dales are beautified by some of the most copious and picturesque rivers in England. In spite of this, however, when one climbs any of the fells over 2,000 feet, and looks over the mountainous ridges on every side, one sees, as a rule, no peak or isolated height of any description to attract one's attention. Instead of the rounded or angular projections from the horizon that are usually associated with a mountainous district, there are great expanses of brown table-land that form themselves into long parallel lines in the distance, and give a sense of wild desolation in some ways more striking than the peaks of Scotland or Wales. The thick formations of millstone grit and limestone that rest upon the shale have generally avoided crumpling or distortion, and thus give the mountain views the appearance of having had all the upper surfaces rolled flat when they were in a plastic condition. Denudation and the action of ice in the glacial epochs have worn through the hard upper stratum, and formed the long and narrow dales; and in Littondale, Wharfedale, Wensleydale, and many other parts, one may plainly see the perpendicular wall of rock sharply defining the upper edges of the valleys. The softer rocks below generally take a gentle slope from the base of the hard gritstone to the riverside pastures below. At the edges of the dales, where water-falls pour over the wall of limestone—as at Hardraw Scar, near Hawes—the action of water is plainly demonstrated, for one can see the rapidity with which the shale crumbles, leaving the harder rocks overhanging above.
Unlike the moors of the north-eastern parts of Yorkshire, the fells are not prolific in heather. It is possible to pass through Wensleydale—or, indeed, most of the dales—without seeing any heather at all. On the broad plateaux between the dales there are stretches of moor partially covered with ling; but in most instances the fells and moors are grown over at their higher levels with bent and coarse grass, generally of a browny-ochrish colour, broken here and there by an outcrop of limestone that shows grey against the swarthy vegetation.
In the upper portions of the dales—even in the narrow riverside pastures—the fences are of stone, turned a very dark colour by exposure, and everywhere on the slopes of the hills a wide network of these enclosures can be seen traversing even the most precipitous ascents. Where the dales widen out towards the fat plains of the Vale of York, quickset hedges intermingle with the gaunt stone, and as one gets further eastwards the green hedge becomes triumphant. The stiles that are the fashion in the stone-fence districts make quite an interesting study to strangers, for, wood being an expensive luxury, and stone being extremely cheap, everything is formed of the more enduring material. Instead of a trap-gate, one generally finds an excessively narrow opening in the fences, only just giving space for the thickness of the average knee, and thus preventing the passage of the smallest lamb. Some stiles are constructed with a large flat stone projecting from each side, one slightly in front and overlapping the other, so that one can only pass through by making a very careful S-shaped movement. More common are the projecting stones, making a flight of precarious steps on each side of the wall.
Except in their lowest and least mountainous parts, where they are subject to the influences of the plains, the dales are entirely innocent of red tiles and haystacks. The roofs of churches, cottages, barns and mansions, are always of the local stone, that weathers to beautiful shades of green and grey, and prevents the works of man from jarring with the great sweeping hill-sides. Then, instead of the familiar grey-brown haystack, one sees in almost every meadow a neatly-built stone house with an upper storey. The lower part is generally used as a shelter for cattle, while above is stored hay or straw. By this system a huge amount of unnecessary carting is avoided, and where roads are few and generally of exceeding steepness a saving of this nature is a benefit easily understood.
The villages of the dales, although having none of the bright colours of a level country, are often exceedingly quaint, and rich in soft shades of green and grey. In the autumn the mellowed tints of the stone houses are contrasted with the fierce yellows and browny-reds of the foliage, and the villages become full of bright colours. At all times, except when the country is shrivelled by an icy northern wind, the scenery of the dales has a thousand charms.
For the purposes of this book we may consider Richmond as the gateway of the dale country. There are other gates and approaches, some of which may have advocates who claim their superiority over Richmond as starting-places for an exploration of this description, but for my part, I can find no spot on any side of the mountainous region so entirely satisfactory. If we were to commence at Bedale or Leyburn, there is no exact point where the open country ceases and the dale begins; but here at Richmond there is not the very smallest doubt, for on reaching the foot of the mass of rock dominated by the castle and the town, Swaledale commences in the form of a narrow ravine, and from that point westwards the valley never ceases to be shut in by steep sides, which become narrower and grander with every mile.
The railway that keeps Richmond in touch with the world does its work in a most inoffensive manner, and by running to the bottom of the hill on which the town stands, and by there stopping short, we seem to have a strong hint that we have been brought to the edge of a new element in which railways have no rights whatever. This is as it should be, and we can congratulate the North-Eastern Company for its discretion and its sense of fitness. Even the station is built of solid stonework, with a strong flavour of medievalism in its design, and its attractiveness is enhanced by the complete absence of other modern buildings. We are thus welcomed to the charms of Richmond at once. The rich sloping meadows by the river, crowned with dense woodlands, surround us and form a beautiful setting of green for the town, which has come down from the fantastic days of the Norman Conquest without any drastic or unseemly changes, and thus has still the compactness and the romantic outline of feudal times.
From whatever side you approach it, Richmond has always some fine combination of towers overlooking a confusion of old red roofs and of rocky heights crowned with ivy-mantled walls, all set in the most sumptuous surroundings of silvery river and wooded hills, such as the artists of the age of steel-engraving loved to depict. Every one of these views has in it one dominating feature in the magnificent Norman keep of the castle. It overlooks church towers and everything else with precisely the same aloofness of manner it must have assumed as soon as the builders of nearly eight hundred years ago had put the last stone in place. Externally, at least, it is as complete to-day as it was then, and as there is no ivy upon it, I cannot help thinking that the Bretons who built it in that long distant time would swell with pride were they able to see how their ambitious work has come down the centuries unharmed.
We can go across the modern bridge, with its castellated parapets, and climb up the steep ascent on the further side, passing on the way the parish church, standing on the steep ground outside the circumscribed limits of the wall which used to enclose the town in early times. Turning towards the castle, we go breathlessly up the cobbled street that climbs resolutely to the market-place in a foolishly direct fashion, which might be understood if it were a Roman road. There is a sleepy quietness about this way up from the station, which is quite a short distance, and we look for much movement and human activity in the wide space we have reached; but here, too, on this warm and sunny afternoon, the few folks who are about seem to find ample time for conversation and loitering.
On one side of us is the King's Head, whose steep tiled roof and square front has just that air of respectable importance that one expects to find in an old established English hotel. It looks across the cobbled space to the curious block of buildings that seems to have been intended for a church but has relapsed into shops. The shouldering of secular buildings against the walls of churches is a sight so familiar in parts of France that this market place has an almost Continental flavour, in keeping with the fact that Richmond grew up under the protection of the formidable castle built by that Alan Rufus of Brittany who was the Conqueror's second cousin. The town ceased to be a possession of the Dukes of Brittany in the reign of Richard II., but there had evidently been sufficient time to allow French ideals to percolate into the minds of the men of Richmond, for how otherwise can we account for this strange familiarity of shops with a sacred building which is unheard of in any other English town? Where else can one find a pork-butcher's shop inserted between the tower and the nave, or a tobacconist doing business in the aisle of a church? Even the lower parts of the tower have been given up to secular uses, so that one only realizes the existence of the church by keeping far enough away to see the sturdy pinnacled tower that rises above the desecrated lower portions of the building. In this tower hangs the curfew-bell, which is rung at 6 a.m. and 8 p.m., a custom, according to one writer, 'that has continued ever since the time of William the Conqueror.'
All the while we have been lingering in the market-place the great keep has been looking at us over some old red roofs, and urging us to go on at once to the finest sight that Richmond can offer, and, resisting the appeal no longer, we make our way down a narrow little street leading out to a walk that goes right round the castle cliffs at the base of the ivy-draped walls.
From down below comes the sound of the river, ceaselessly chafing its rocky bottom and the big boulders that lie in the way. You can distinguish the hollow sound of the waters as they fall over ledges into deep pools, and you can watch the silvery gleams of broken water between the old stone bridge and the dark shade of the woods. The masses of trees clothing the side of the gorge add a note of mystery to the picture by swallowing up the river in their heavy shade, for, owing to its sinuous course among the cliffs, one can see only a short piece of water beyond the bridge.
The old corner of the town at the foot of Bargate appears over the edge of the rocky slope, but on the opposite side of the Swale there is little to be seen beside the green meadows and shady coppices that cover the heights above the river.
There is a fascination in this view in its capacity for change. It responds to every mood of the weather, and every sunset that glows across the sombre woods has some freshness, some feature that is quite unlike any other. Autumn, too, is a memorable time for those who can watch the face of Nature from this spot, for when one of those opulent evenings of the fall of the year turns the sky into a golden sea of glory, studded with strange purple islands, there is unutterable beauty in the flaming woods and the pale river.
On the way back to the market-place we pass a decayed arch that was probably a postern in the walls of the town. There can be no doubt whatever of the existence of these walls, for Leland begins his description of the town with the words 'Richemont Towne is waullid,' and in another place he says: 'Waullid it was, but the waul is now decayid. The Names and Partes of 4 or 5 Gates yet remaine.' We cannot help wondering why Richmond could not have preserved her gates as York has done, or why she did not even make the effort sufficient to retain a single one, as Bridlington and Beverley did. The two posterns—one we have just mentioned, and the other in Friar's Wynd, on the north side of the market-place, with a piece of wall 6 feet thick adjoining—are interesting, but we would have preferred something much finer than these mere arches; and while we are grumbling over what Richmond has lost, we may also measure the disaster which befell the market-place in 1771, when the old cross was destroyed. Before that year there stood on the site of the present obelisk a very fine cross which Clarkson, who wrote about a century ago, mentions as being the greatest beauty of the town to an antiquary. A high flight of steps led up to a square platform, which was enclosed by a richly ornamented wall about 6 feet high, having buttresses at the corners, each surmounted with a dog seated on its hind-legs. Within the wall rose the cross, with its shaft made from one piece of stone. There were 'many curious compartments' in the wall, says Clarkson, and 'a door that opened into the middle of the square,' but this may have been merely an arched opening. The enrichments, either of the cross itself or the wall, included four shields bearing the arms of the great families of Fitz-Hugh, Scrope (quartering Tibetot), Conyers, and Neville. From the description there is little doubt that this cross was a very beautiful example of Perpendicular or perhaps Decorated Gothic, in place of which we have a crude and bulging obelisk bearing the inscription: 'Rebuilt (!) A.D. 1771, Christopher Wayne, Esq., Mayor'; it should surely have read: 'Perpetrated during the Mayoralty of Christopher Wayne Goth.'
Although, as we have seen, Leland, who wrote in 1538, mentions Frenchgate and Finkel Street Gate as 'down,' yet they must have been only partially destroyed, or were rebuilt afterwards, for Whitaker, writing in 1823, mentions that they were pulled down 'not many years ago' to allow the passage of broad and high-laden waggons. There can be little doubt, therefore, that, swollen with success after the demolition of the cross, the Mayor and Corporation proceeded to attack the remaining gateways, so that now not the smallest suggestion of either remains. But even here we have not completed the list of barbarisms that took place about this time. The Barley Cross, which stood near the larger one, must have been quite an interesting feature. It consisted of a lofty pillar with a cross at the top, and rings were fastened either on the shaft or to the steps upon which it stood, so that the cross might answer the purpose of a whipping-post. The pillory stood not far away, and the May-pole is also mentioned.
But despite all this squandering of the treasures that it should have been the business of the town authorities to preserve, the tower of the Grey Friars has survived, and, next to the castle, it is one of the chief ornaments of the town. Some other portions of the monastery are incorporated in the buildings which now form the Grammar School. The Grey Friars is on the north side of the town, outside the narrow limits of the walls, and was probably only finished in time to witness the dispersal of the friars who had built it. It is even possible that it was part of a new church that was still incomplete when the Dissolution of the Monasteries made the work of no account except as building materials for the townsfolk. The actual day of the surrender was January 19, 1538, and we wonder if Robert Sanderson, the Prior, and the fourteen brethren under him, suffered much from the privations that must have attended them at that coldest period of the year. At one time the friars, being of a mendicant order, and inured to hard living and scanty fare, might have made light of such a disaster, but in these later times they had expanded somewhat from their austere ways of living, and the dispersal must have cost them much suffering.
Going back to the reign of Henry VII. or there-abouts, we come across the curious ballad of 'The Felon Sow of Rokeby and the Freres of Richmond' quoted from an old manuscript by Sir Walter Scott in 'Rokeby.' It may have been as a practical joke, or merely as a good way of getting rid of such a terrible beast, that
'Ralph of Rokeby, with goodwill, The fryers of Richmond gave her till.'
Friar Middleton, who with two lusty men was sent to fetch the sow from Rokeby, could scarcely have known that she was
'The grisliest beast that ere might be, Her head was great and gray: She was bred in Rokeby Wood; There were few that thither goed, That came on live [= alive] away.
'She was so grisley for to meete, She rave the earth up with her feete, And bark came fro the tree; When fryer Middleton her saugh, Weet ye well he might not laugh, Full earnestly look'd hee.'
To calm the terrible beast when they found it almost impossible to hold her, the friar began to read 'in St. John his Gospell,' but
'The sow she would not Latin heare, But rudely rushed at the frear,'
who, turning very white, dodged to the shelter of a tree, whence he saw with horror that the sow had got clear of the other two men. At this their courage evaporated, and all three fled for their lives along the Watling Street. When they came to Richmond and told their tale of the 'feind of hell' in the garb of a sow, the warden decided to hire on the next day two of the 'boldest men that ever were borne.' These two, Gilbert Griffin and a 'bastard son of Spaine,' went to Rokeby clad in armour and carrying their shields and swords of war, and even then they only just overcame the grisly sow.
If we go across the river by the modern bridge, we can see the humble remains of St. Martin's Priory standing in a meadow by the railway. The ruins consist of part of a Perpendicular tower and a Norman doorway. Perhaps the tower was built in order that the Grey Friars might not eclipse the older foundation, for St. Martin's was a cell belonging to St. Mary's Abbey at York and was founded by Wyman, steward or dapifer to the Earl of Richmond, about the year 1100, whereas the Franciscans in the town owed their establishment to Radulph Fitz-Ranulph, a lord of Middleham in 1258. The doorway of St. Martin's, with its zigzag mouldings must be part of Wyman's building, but no other traces of it remain. Having come back so rapidly to the Norman age, we may well stay there for a time while we make our way over the bridge again and up the steep ascent of Frenchgate to the castle.
On entering the small outer barbican, which is reached by a lane from the market-place, we come to the base of the Norman keep. Its great height of nearly 100 feet is quite unbroken from foundations to summit, and the flat buttresses are featureless. The recent pointing of the masonry has also taken away any pronounced weathering, and has left the tower with almost the same gaunt appearance that it had when Duke Conan saw it completed. Passing through the arch in the wall abutting the keep, we come into the grassy space of over two acres, that is enclosed by the ramparts. It is not known by what stages the keep reached its present form, though there is every reason to believe that Conan, the fifth Earl of Richmond, left the tower externally as we see it to-day. This puts the date of the completion of the keep between 1146 and 1171. The floors are now a store for the uniforms and accoutrements of the soldiers quartered at Richmond, so that there is little to be seen as we climb a staircase in the walls 11 feet thick, and reach the battlemented turrets. Looking downwards, we gaze right into the chimneys of the nearest houses, and we see the old roofs of the town packed closely together in the shelter of the mighty tower. A few tiny people are moving about in the market-place, and there is a thin web of drifting smoke between us and them. Everything is peaceful and remote; even the sound of the river is lost in the wind that blows freely upon us from the great moorland wastes stretching away to the western horizon. It is a romantic country that lies around us, and though the cultivated area must be infinitely greater than in the fighting days when these battlements were finished, yet I suppose the Vale of Mowbray which we gaze upon to the east must have been green, and to some extent fertile, when that Conan who was Duke of Brittany and also Earl of Richmond looked out over the innumerable manors that were his Yorkshire possessions. I can imagine his eye glancing down on a far more thrilling scene than the green three-sided courtyard enclosed by a crumbling grey wall, though to him the buildings, the men, and every detail that filled the great space, were no doubt quite prosaic. It did not thrill him to see a man-at-arms cleaning weapons, when the man and his clothes, and even the sword, were as modern and everyday as the soldier's wife and child that we can see ourselves, but how much would we not give for a half-an-hour of his vision, or even a part of a second, with a good camera in our hands?
In the lower part of what is called Robin Hood's Tower is the Chapel of St. Nicholas, with arcaded walls of early Norman date, and a long and narrow slit forming the east window. More interesting than this is the Norman hall at the south-east angle of the walls. It was possibly used as the banqueting-room of the castle, and is remarkable as being one of the best preserved of the Norman halls forming separate buildings that are to be found in this country. The hall is roofless, but the corbels remain in a perfect state, and the windows on each side are well preserved. The builder was probably Earl Conan, for the keep has details of much the same character. It is generally called Scolland's Hall, after the Lord of Bedale of that name, who was a sewer or dapifer to the first Earl Alan of Richmond. Scolland was one of the tenants of the Earl, and under the feudal system of tenure he took part in the regular guarding of the castle.
There is probably much Norman work in various parts of the crumbling curtain walls, and at the south-west corner a Norman turret is still to be seen.
Alan, who received from the Conqueror the vast possessions of Earl Edwin, was no doubt the founder of Richmond. He probably received this splendid reward for his services soon after the suppression of the Saxon efforts for liberty under the northern Earls. William, having crushed out the rebellion in the remorseless fashion which finally gave him peace in his new possessions, distributed the devastated Saxon lands among his supporters; thus a great part of the earldom of Mercia fell to this Breton.
The site of Richmond was fixed as the new centre of power, and the name, with its apparently obvious meaning, may date from that time, unless the suggested Anglo-Saxon derivation which gives it as Rice-munt—the hill of rule—is correct. After this Gilling must soon have ceased to be of any account. There can be little doubt that the castle was at once planned to occupy the whole area enclosed by the walls as they exist to-day, although the full strength of the place was not realized until the time of the fifth Earl, who, as we have seen, was most probably the builder of the keep in its final form, as well as other parts of the castle. Richmond must then have been considered almost impregnable, and this may account for the fact that it appears to have never been besieged. In 1174, when William the Lion of Scotland was invading England, we are told in Jordan Fantosme's Chronicle that Henry II., anxious for the safety of the honour of Richmond, and perhaps of its custodian as well, asked: 'Randulf de Glanvile est-il en Richemunt?' The King was in France, his possessions were threatened from several quarters, and it would doubtless be a relief to him to know that a stronghold of such importance was under the personal command of so able a man as Glanville. In July of that year the danger from the Scots was averted by a victory at Alnwick, in which fight Glanville was one of the chief commanders of the English, and he probably led the men of Richmondshire.
It is a strange thing that Richmond Castle, despite its great pre-eminence, should have been allowed to become a ruin in the reign of Edward III.—a time when castles had obviously lost none of the advantages to the barons which they had possessed in Norman times. The only explanation must have been the divided interests of the owners, for, as Dukes of Brittany, as well as Earls of Richmond, their English possessions were frequently endangered when France and England were at war. And so it came about that when a Duke of Brittany gave his support to the King of France in a quarrel with the English, his possessions north of the Channel became Crown property. How such a condition of affairs could have continued for so long is difficult to understand, but the final severing came at last, when the unhappy Richard II. was on the throne of England. The honour of Richmond then passed to Ralph Neville, the first Earl of Westmoreland, but the title was given to Edmund Tudor, whose mother was Queen Catherine, the widow of Henry V. Edmund Tudor, as all know, married Margaret Beaufort, the heiress of John of Gaunt, and died about two months before his wife—then scarcely fourteen years old—gave birth to his only son, who succeeded to the throne of England as Henry VII. He was Earl of Richmond from his birth, and it was he who carried the name to the Thames by giving it to his splendid palace which he built at Shene. Even the ballad of 'The Lass of Richmond Hill' is said to come from Yorkshire, although it is commonly considered a possession of Surrey.
Protected by the great castle, there came into existence the town of Richmond, which grew and flourished. The houses must have been packed closely together to provide the numerous people with quarters inside the wall which was built to protect the place from the raiding Scots. The area of the town was scarcely larger than the castle, and although in this way the inhabitants gained security from one danger, they ran a greater risk from a far more insidious foe, which took the form of pestilences of a most virulent character. After one of these visitations the town of Richmond would be left in a pitiable plight. Many houses would be deserted, and fields became 'over-run with briars, nettles, and other noxious weeds.'
Easby Abbey is so much a possession of Richmond that we cannot go towards the mountains until we have seen something of its charms. The ruins slumber in such unutterable peace by the riverside that the place is well suited to our mood to go a-dreaming of the centuries which have been so long dead that our imaginations are not cumbered with any of the dull times that may have often set the canons of St. Agatha's yawning. The walk along the steep shady bank above the river is beautiful all the way, and the surroundings of the broken walls and traceried windows are singularly rich. There is nothing, however, at Easby that makes a striking picture, although there are many architectural fragments that are full of beauty. Fountains, Rievaulx and Tintern, all leave Easby far behind, but there are charms enough here with which to be content, and it is, perhaps, a pleasant thought to know that, although on this sunny afternoon these meadows by the Swale seem to reach perfection, yet in the neighbourhood of Ripon there is something still finer waiting for us. Of the abbey church scarcely more than enough has survived for the preparation of a ground-plan, and many of the evidences are now concealed by the grass. The range of domestic buildings that surrounded the cloister garth are, therefore, the chief interest, although these also are broken and roofless. We can wander among the ivy-grown walls which, in the refectory, retain some semblance of their original form, and we can see the picturesque remains of the common-room, the guest-hall, the chapter-house, and the sacristy. Beyond the ruins of the north transept, a corridor leads into the infirmary, which, besides having an unusual position, is remarkable as being one of the most complete groups of buildings set apart for this object. A noticeable feature of the cloister garth is a Norman arch belonging to a doorway that appears to be of later date. This is probably the only survival of the first monastery founded, it is said, by Roald, Constable of Richmond Castle, in 1152. Building of an extensive character was, therefore, in progress at the same time in these sloping meadows, as on the castle heights, and St. Martin's Priory, close to the town, had not long been completed. Whoever may have been the founder of the abbey, it is definitely known that the great family of Scrope obtained the privileges that had been possessed by the Constable, and they added so much to the property of the monastery that in the reign of Henry VIII. the Scropes were considered the original founders. Easby thus became the stately burying-place of the family and the splendid tombs that appeared in the choir of their church were a constant reminder to the canons of the greatness of the lords of Bolton. Sir Henry le Scrope was buried beneath a great stone effigy, bearing the arms—azure, a bend or—of his house. Near by lay Sir William le Scrope's armed figure, and round about were many others of the family buried beneath flat stones. We know this from the statement of an Abbot of Easby in the fourteenth century; and but for the record of his words there would be nothing to tell us anything of these ponderous memorials, which have disappeared as completely as though they had had no more permanence than the yellow leaves that are just beginning to flutter from the trees. The splendid church, the tombs, and even the very family of Scrope, have disappeared; but across the hills, in the valley of the Ure, their castle still stands, and in the little church of Wensley there can still be seen the parclose screen of Perpendicular date that one of the Scropes must have rescued when the monastery was being stripped and plundered.
The fine gate-house of Easby Abbey, which is in a good state of preservation, stands a little to the east of the parish church, and the granary is even now in use.
On the sides of the parvise over the porch of the parish church are the arms of Scrope, Conyers, and Aske; and in the chancel of this extremely interesting old building there can be seen a series of wall-paintings, some of which probably date from the reign of Henry III. This would make them earlier than those at Pickering.
There is a certain elevated and wind-swept spot, scarcely more than a long mile from Richmond, that commands a view over a wide extent of romantic country. Vantage-points of this type, within easy reach of a fair-sized town, are inclined to be overrated, and, what is far worse, to be spoiled by the litter of picnic parties; but Whitcliffe Scar is free from both objections. In magnificent September weather one may spend many hours in the midst of this great panorama without being disturbed by a single human being, besides a possible farm labourer or shepherd; and if scraps of paper and orange-peel are ever dropped here, the keen winds that come from across the moors dispose of them as efficaciously as the keepers of any public parks.
The view is removed from a comparison with many others from the fact that one is situated at the dividing-line between the richest cultivation and the wildest moorlands. Whitcliffe Scar is the Mount Pisgah from whence the jaded dweller in towns can gaze into a promised land of solitude,
'Where things that own not man's dominion dwell, And mortal foot hath ne'er or rarely been.'
The eastward view of green and smiling country is undeniably beautiful, but to those who can appreciate Byron's enthusiasm for the trackless mountain there is something more indefinable and inspiring in the mysterious loneliness of the west. The long, level lines of the moorland horizon, when the sun is beginning to climb downwards, are cut out in the softest blue and mauve tints against the shimmering transparency of the western sky, and the plantations that clothe the sides of the dale beneath one are filled with wonderful shadows, which are thrown out with golden outlines. The view along the steep valley extends for a few miles, and then is suddenly cut off by a sharp bend where the Swale, a silver ribbon along the bottom of the dale, disappears among the sombre woods and the shoulders of the hills.
In this aspect of Swaledale one sees its mildest and most civilized mood; for beyond the purple hill-side that may be seen in the illustration, cultivation becomes more palpably a struggle, and the gaunt moors, broken by lines of precipitous scars, assume control of the scenery.
From 200 feet below, where the river is flowing along its stony bed, comes the sound of the waters ceaselessly grinding the pebbles, and from the green pastures there floats upwards a distant ba-baaing. No railway has penetrated the solitudes of Swaledale, and, as far as one may look into the future in such matters, there seems every possibility of this loneliest and grandest of the Yorkshire dales retaining its isolation in this respect. None but the simplest of sounds, therefore, are borne on the keen winds that come from the moorland heights, and the purity of the air whispers in the ear the pleasing message of a land where chimneys have never been.
Besides the original name of Whitcliffe Scar, this remarkable view-point has, since 1606, been popularly known as 'Willance's Leap.' In that year a certain Robert Willance, whose father appears to have been a successful draper in Richmond, was hunting in the neighbourhood, when he found himself enveloped in a fog. It must have been sufficiently dense to shut out even the nearest objects; for, without any warning, Willance found himself on the verge of the scar, and before he could check his horse both were precipitated over the cliff. We have no detailed account of whether the fall was broken in any way; but, although his horse was killed instantly, Willance, by some almost miraculous good fortune, found himself alive at the bottom with nothing worse than a broken leg.
It is a difficult matter to decide which is the more attractive means of exploring Swaledale; for if one keeps to the road at the bottom of the valley many beautiful and remarkable aspects of the country are missed, and yet if one goes over the moors it is impossible really to explore the recesses of the dale. The old road from Richmond to Reeth avoids the dale altogether, except for the last mile, and its ups and its downs make the traveller pay handsomely for the scenery by the way.
But this ought not to deter anyone from using the road; for the view of the village of Marske, cosily situated among the wooded heights that rise above the beck, is missed by those who keep to the new road along the banks of the Swale. The romantic seclusion of this village is accentuated towards evening, when a shadowy stillness fills the hollows. The higher woods may be still glowing with the light of the golden west, while down below a softness of outline adds beauty to every object. The old bridge that takes the road to Reeth across Marske Beck needs no such fault-forgiving light, for it was standing in the reign of Elizabeth, and, from its appearance, it is probably centuries older.
The new road to Reeth from Richmond goes down at an easy gradient from the town to the banks of the river, which it crosses when abreast of Whitcliffe Scar, the view in front being at first much the same as the nearer portions of the dale seen from that height. Down on the left, however, there are some chimney-shafts, so recklessly black that they seem to be no part whatever of their sumptuous natural surroundings, and might almost suggest a nightmare in which one discovered that some of the vilest chimneys of the Black Country had taken to touring in the beauty spots of the country.
As one goes westward, the road penetrates right into the bold scenery that invites exploration when viewed from 'Willance's Leap.' There is a Scottish feeling—perhaps Alpine would be more correct—in the steeply-falling sides of the dale, all clothed in firs and other dense plantations; and just where the Swale takes a decided turn towards the south there is a view up Marske Beck that adds much to the romance of the scene. Behind one's back the side of the dale rises like a dark green wall entirely in shadow, and down below half buried in foliage, the river swirls and laps its gravelly beaches, also in shadow. Beyond a strip of pasture begin the tumbled masses of trees which, as they climb out of the depths of the valley, reach the warm, level rays of sunlight that turns the first leaves that have passed their prime into the fierce yellows and burnt siennas which, when faithfully represented at Burlington House, are often considered overdone. Even the gaunt obelisk near Marske Hall responds to a fine sunset of this sort, and shows a gilded side that gives it almost a touch of grandeur.
Evening is by no means necessary to the attractions of Swaledale, for a blazing noon gives lights and shades and contrasts of colour that are a large portion of Swaledale's charms. If instead of taking either the old road by way of Marske, or the new one by the riverside, one had crossed the old bridge below the castle, and left Richmond by a very steep road that goes to Leyburn, one would have reached a moorland that is at its best in the full light of a clear morning.
The clouds are big, but they carry no threat of rain, for right down to the far horizon from whence this wind is coming there are patches of blue proportionate to the vast spaces overhead. As each white mass passes across the sun, we are immersed in a shadow many acres in extent: but the sunlight has scarcely fled when a rim of light comes over the edge of the plain, just above the hollow where Downholme village lies hidden from sight, and in a few minutes that belt of sunshine has reached some sheep not far off, and rimmed their coats with a brilliant edge of white. Shafts of whiteness, like searchlights, stream from behind a distant cloud, and everywhere there is brilliant contrast and a purity to the eye and lungs that only a Yorkshire moor possesses.
A short two miles up the road to Leyburn, just above Gill Beck, there is an ancient house known as Walburn Hall, and also the remains of the chapel belonging to it, which dates from the Perpendicular period. The buildings are now used as a farm, but there are still enough suggestions of a dignified past to revivify the times when this was a centre of feudal power.
Turning back to Swaledale by a lane on the south side of Gill Beck, Downholme village is passed a mile away on the right, and the bold scenery of the dale once more becomes impressive.
Two great headlands, formed by the wall-like terminations of Cogden and Harkerside Moors, rising one above the other, stand out magnificently. Their huge sides tower up nearly a thousand feet from the river, until they are within reach of the lowering clouds that every moment threaten to envelop them in their indigo embrace. There is a curious rift in the dark cumulus revealing a thin line of dull carmine that frequently changes its shape and becomes nearly obliterated, but its presence in no way weakens the awesomeness of the picture. The dale appears to become huger and steeper as the clouds thicken, and what have been merely woods and plantations in this heavy gloom become mysterious forests. The river, too, seems to change its character, and become a pale serpent, uncoiling itself from some mountain fastness where no living creatures besides great auks and carrion birds, dwell.
In such surroundings as these there were established in the Middle Ages, two religious houses, within a mile of one another, on opposite sides of the swirling river. On the north bank, not far from Marrick village, you may still see the ruins of Marrick Priory in its beautiful situation much as Turner painted it a century ago. Leland describes Marrick as 'a Priory of Blake Nunnes of the Foundation of the Askes.' It was, we know, an establishment for Benedictine Nuns, founded or endowed by Roger de Aske in the twelfth century. At Ellerton, on the other side of the river a little lower down, the nunnery was of the Cistercian Order; for, although very little of its history has been discovered, Leland writes of the house as 'a Priori of White clothid Nunnes.' After the Battle of Bannockburn, when the Scots raided all over the North Riding of Yorkshire, they came along Swaledale in search of plunder, and we are told that Ellerton suffered from their violence.
Where the dale becomes wider, owing to the branch valley of Arkengarthdale, there are two villages close together. Grinton is reached first, and is older than Reeth, which is a short distance north of the river. The parish of Grinton is one of the largest in Yorkshire. It is more than twenty miles long, containing something near 50,000 acres, and according to Mr. Speight, who has written a very detailed history of Richmondshire, more than 30,000 acres of this consist of mountain, grouse-moor and scar. For so huge a parish the church is suitable in size, but in the upper portions of the dales one must not expect any very remarkable exteriors; and Grinton, with its low roofs and plain battlemented tower, is much like other churches in the neighbourhood. Inside there are suggestions of a Norman building that has passed away, and the bowl of the font seems also to belong to that period. The two chapels opening from the chancel contain some interesting features, which include a hagioscope, and both are enclosed by old screens.
Leaving the village behind, and crossing the Swale, you soon come to Reeth, which may, perhaps, be described as a little town. It must have thrived with the lead-mines in Arkengarthdale and along the Swale, for it has gone back since the period of its former prosperity, and is glad of the fact that its situation, and the cheerful green which the houses look upon, have made it something of a holiday resort.
When Reeth is left behind, there is no more of the fine 'new' road which makes travelling so easy for the eleven miles from Richmond. The surface is, however, by no means rough along the nine miles to Muker, although the scenery becomes far wilder and more mountainous with every mile. The dale narrows most perceptibly; the woods become widely separated, and almost entirely disappear on the southern side; and the gaunt moors, creeping down the sides of the valley seem to threaten the narrow belt of cultivation, that becomes increasingly restricted to the river margins. Precipitous limestone scars fringe the browny-green heights in many places, and almost girdle the summit of Calver Hill, the great bare height that rises a thousand feet above Reeth. The farms and hamlets of these upper parts of Swaledale are of the same greys, greens, and browns as the moors and scars that surround them. The stone walls, that are often high and forbidding, seem to suggest the fortifications required for man's fight with Nature, in which there is no encouragement for the weak. In the splendid weather that so often welcomes the mere summer rambler in the upper dales the austerity of the widely scattered farms and villages may seem a little unaccountable; but a visit in January would quite remove this impression, though even in these lofty parts of England the worst winter snowstorm has, in quite recent years, been of trifling inconvenience. Bad winters will, no doubt, be experienced again on the fells; but leaving out of the account the snow that used to bury farms, flocks, roads, and even the smaller gills, in a vast smother of whiteness, there are still the winds that go shrieking over the desolate heights, there is still the high rainfall, and there are still destructive thunderstorms that bring with them hail of a size that we seldom encounter in the lower levels.
The great rapidity with which the Swale, or such streams as the Arkle, can produce a devastating flood can scarcely be comprehended by those who have not seen the results of even moderate rainstorms on the fells. When, however, some really wet days have been experienced in the upper parts of the dales, it seems a wonder that the bridges are not more often in jeopardy.
Of course, even the highest hills of Yorkshire are surpassed in wetness by their Lakeland neighbours; for whereas Hawes Junction, which is only about seven miles south of Muker, has an average yearly rainfall of about 62 inches, Mickleden, in Westmorland, can show 137, and certain spots in Cumberland aspire towards 200 inches in a year.
The weather conditions being so severe, it is not surprising to find that no corn at all is grown in Swaledale at the present day. Some notes, found in an old family Bible in Teesdale, are quoted by Mr. Joseph Morris. They show the painful difficulties experienced in the eighteenth century from such entries as: '1782. I reaped oats for John Hutchinson, when the field was covered with snow,' and: '1799, Nov. 10. Much corn to cut and carry. A hard frost.'
Muker, notwithstanding all these climatic difficulties, has some claim to picturesqueness, despite the fact that its church is better seen at a distance, for a close inspection reveals its rather poverty-stricken state. The square tower, so typical of the dales, stands well above the weathered roofs of the village, and there are sufficient trees to tone down the severities of the stone walls, that are inclined to make one house much like its neighbour, and but for natural surroundings would reduce the hamlets to the same uniformity. At Muker, however, there is a steep bridge and a rushing mountain stream that joins the Swale just below. The road keeps close to this beck, and the houses are thus restricted to one side of the way.
Away to the south, in the direction of the Buttertubs Pass, is Stags Fell, 2,213 feet above the sea, and something like 1,300 feet above Muker. Northwards, and towering over the village, is the isolated mass of Kisdon Hill, on two sides of which the Swale, now a mountain stream, rushes and boils among boulders and ledges of rock. This is one of the finest portions of the dale, and, although the road leaves the river and passes round the western side of Kisdon, there is a path that goes through the glen, and brings one to the road again at Keld.
Just before you reach Keld, the Swale drops 30 feet at Kisdon Force, and after a night of rain there are many other waterfalls to be seen in this district. These are not to me, however, the chief attractions of the head of Swaledale, although without the angry waters the gills and narrow ravines that open from the dale would lose much interest. It is the stern grandeur of the scarred hillsides and the wide mountainous views from the heights that give this part of Yorkshire such a fascination. If you climb to the top of Rogan's Seat, you have a huge panorama of desolate country spread out before you. The confused jumble of blue-grey mountains to the north-west is beyond the limits of Yorkshire at last, and in their strong embrace those stern Westmorland hills hold the charms of Lakeland.
If one stays in this mountainous region, there are new and exciting walks available for every day. There are gloomy recesses in the hillsides that encourage exploration from the knowledge that they are not tripper-worn, and there are endless heights to be climbed that are equally free from the smallest traces of desecrating mankind. Rare flowers, ferns, and mosses flourish in these inaccessible solitudes, and will continue to do so, on account of the dangers that lurk in their fastnesses, and also from the fact that their value is nothing to any but those who are glad to leave them growing where they are.
The approach from Muker to the upper part of Wensleydale is by a mountain road that can claim a grandeur which, to those who have never explored the dales, might almost seem impossible. I have called it a road, but it is, perhaps, questionable whether this is not too high-sounding a term for a track so invariably covered with large loose stones and furrowed with water-courses. At its highest point the road goes through the Buttertubs Pass, taking the traveller to the edge of the pot-holes that have given their name to this thrilling way through the mountain ridge dividing the Swale from the Ure.
Such a lonely and dangerous road should no doubt be avoided at night, but yet I am always grateful for the delays which made me so late that darkness came on when I was at the highest portion of the pass. It was late in September, and it was the day of the feast at Hawes, which had drawn to that small town farmers and their wives, and most, if not all, the young men and maidens within a considerable radius. I made my way slowly up the long ascent from Muker, stumbling frequently on the loose stones and in the water-worn runnels that were scarcely visible in the dim twilight. The huge, bare shoulders of the fells began to close in more and more as I climbed. Towards the west lay Great Shunnor Fell, its vast brown-green mass being sharply defined against the clear evening sky; while further away to the north-west there were blue mountains going to sleep in the soft mistiness of the distance. Then the road made a sudden zig-zag, but went on climbing more steeply than ever, until at last I found that the stony track had brought me to the verge of a precipice. There was not sufficient light to see what dangers lay beneath me, but I could hear the angry sound of a beck falling upon quantities of bare rocks. If one does not keep to the road, there is on the other side the still greater menace of the Buttertubs, the dangers of which are too well known to require any emphasis of mine. Those pot-holes which have been explored with much labour, and the use of winches and tackle and a great deal of stout rope, have revealed in their cavernous depths the bones of sheep that disappeared from flocks which have long since become mutton. This road is surely one that would have afforded wonderful illustrations to the 'Pilgrim's Progress,' for the track is steep and narrow and painfully rough; dangers lie on either side, and safety can only be found by keeping in the middle of the road.
What must have been the thoughts, I wonder, of the dalesmen who on different occasions had to go over the pass at night in those still recent times when wraithes and hobs were terrible realities? In the parts of Yorkshire where any records of the apparitions that used to enliven the dark nights have been kept, I find that these awesome creatures were to be found on every moor, and perhaps some day in my reading I shall discover an account of those that haunted this pass.
Although there are probably few who care for rough moorland roads at night, the Buttertubs Pass in daylight is still a memorable place. The pot-holes can then be safely approached, and one can peer into the blackness below until the eyes become adapted to the gloom. Then one sees the wet walls of limestone and the curiously-formed isolated pieces of rock that almost suggest columnar basalt. In crevices far down delicate ferns are growing in the darkness. They shiver as the cool water drips upon them from above, and the drops they throw off fall down lower still into a stream of underground water that has its beginnings no man knows where. On a hot day it is cooling simply to gaze into the Buttertubs, and the sound of the falling waters down in these shadowy places is pleasant after gazing on the dry fell-sides.
Just beyond the head of the pass, where the descent to Hawes begins, the shoulders of Great Shunnor Fell drop down, so that not only straight ahead, but also westwards, one can see a splendid mountain view. Ingleborough's flat top is conspicuous in the south, and in every direction there are indications of the geology of the fells. The hard stratum of millstone grit that rests upon the limestone gives many of the summits of the hills their level character, and forms the sharply-defined scars that encircle them. The sudden and violent changes of weather that take place among these watersheds would almost seem to be cause enough to explain the wearing down of the angularities of the heights. Even while we stand on the bridge at Hawes we can see three or four ragged cloud edges letting down on as many places torrential rains, while in between there are intervals of blazing sunshine, under which the green fells turn bright yellow and orange in powerful contrast to the indigo shadows on every side. Such rapid changes from complete saturation to sudden heat are trying to the hardest rocks, and at Hardraw, close at hand, there is a still more palpable process of denudation in active operation.
Such a morning as this is quite ideal for seeing the remarkable waterfall known as Hardraw Scar or Force. The footpath that leads up the glen leaves the road at the side of the 'Green Dragon' at Hardraw, where the innkeeper hands us a key to open the gate we must pass through. Being September, and an uncertain day for weather, we have the whole glen to ourselves, until behind some rocks we discover a solitary angler. There is nothing but the roughest of tracks to follow, for the carefully-made pathway that used to go right up to the fall was swept away half a dozen years ago, when the stream in a fierce mood cleared its course of any traces of artificiality. We are deeply grateful, and make our among the big rocks and across the slippery surfaces of shale, with the roar of the waters becoming more and more insistent. The sun has turned into the ravine a great searchlight that has lit up the rock walls and strewn the wet grass beneath with sparkling jewels. On the opposite side there is a dense blue shadow over everything except the foliage on the brow of the cliffs, where the strong autumn colours leap into a flaming glory that transforms the ravine into an astonishing splendour. A little more careful scrambling by the side of the stream, and we see a white band of water falling from the overhanging limestone into the pool about ninety feet below. Off the surface of the water drifts a mist of spray, in which a soft patch of rainbow hovers until the sun withdraws itself for a time and leaves a sudden gloom in the horseshoe of overhanging cliffs. The place is, perhaps, more in sympathy with a cloudy sky, but, under sunshine or cloud, the spout of water is a memorable sight, and its imposing height places Hardraw among the small group of England's finest waterfalls. The mass of shale that lies beneath this stratum is soft enough to be worked away by the water until the limestone overhangs the pool to the extent of ten or twelve feet, so that the water falls sheer into the circular basin, leaving a space between the cliff and the fall where it is safe to walk on a rather moist and slippery path that is constantly being sprayed from the surface of the pool.
John Leland wrote, nearly four hundred years ago, 'Uredale veri litle Corne except Bygg or Otes, but plentiful of Gresse in Communes,' and although this dale is so much more genial in aspect, and so much wider than the valley of the Swale, yet crops are under the same disabilities. Leaving Gayle behind, we climb up a steep and stony road above the beck until we are soon above the level of green pasturage. The stone walls still cover the hillsides with a net of very large mesh, but the sheep find more bent than grass, and the ground is often exceedingly steep. Higher still climbs this venturesome road, until all around us is a vast tumble of gaunt brown fells, divided by ravines whose sides are scarred with runnels of water, which have exposed the rocks and left miniature screes down below. At a height of nearly 1,600 feet there is a gate, where we will turn away from the road that goes on past Dodd Fell into Langstrothdale, and instead climb a smooth grass track sprinkled with half-buried rocks until we have reached the summit of Wether Fell, 400 feet higher. There is a scanty growth of ling upon the top of this height, but the hills that lie about on every side are browny-green or of an ochre colour, and there is little of the purple one sees in the Cleveland Hills.
The cultivated level of Wensleydale is quite hidden from view, so that we look over a vast panorama of mountains extending in the west as far as the blue fells of Lakeland. I have painted the westward view from this very summit, so that any written description is hardly needed; but behind us, as we face the scene illustrated here, there is a wonderful expanse that includes the heights of Addlebrough, Stake Fell, and Penhill Beacon, which stand out boldly on the southern side of Wensleydale. I have seen these hills lightly covered with snow, but that can give scarcely the smallest suggestion of the scene that was witnessed after the remarkable snowstorm of January, 1895, which blocked the roads between Wensleydale and Swaledale until nearly the middle of March. Roads were dug out, with walls of snow on either side from 10 to 15 feet in height, but the wind and fresh falls almost obliterated the passages soon after they had been cut. In Landstrothdale Mr. Speight tells of the extraordinary difficulties of the dalesfolk in the farms and cottages, who were faced with starvation owing to the difficulty of getting in provisions. They cut ways through the drifts as high as themselves in the direction of the likeliest places to obtain food, while in Swaledale they built sledges.
When we have left the highest part of Wether Fell, we find the track taking a perfectly straight line between stone walls. The straightness is so unusual that there can be little doubt that it is a survival of one of the Roman ways connecting their station on Brough Hill, just above the village of Bainbridge, with some place to the south-west. The track goes right over Cam Fell, and is known as the Old Cam Road, but I cannot recommend it for any but pedestrians. When we have descended only a short distance, there is a sudden view of Semmerwater, the only piece of water in Yorkshire that really deserves to be called a lake. It is a pleasant surprise to discover this placid patch of blue lying among the hills, and partially hidden by a fellside in such a way that its area might be far greater than 105 acres.
Those who know Turner's painting of this lake would be disappointed, no doubt, if they saw it first from this height. The picture was made at the edge of the water with the Carlow Stone in the foreground, and over the mountains on the southern shore appears a sky that would make the dullest potato-field thrilling.
A short distance lower down, by straying a little from the road, we get a really imposing view of Bardale, into which the ground falls suddenly from our very feet. Sheep scamper nimbly down their convenient little tracks, but there are places where water that overflows from the pools among the bent and ling has made blue-grey seams and wrinkles in the steep places that give no foothold even to the toughest sheep.
We lose sight of Semmerwater behind the ridge that forms one side of the branch dale in which it lies, but in exchange we get beautiful views of the sweeping contours of Wensleydale. High upon the further side of the valley Askrigg's gray roofs and pretty church stand out against a steep fellside; further down we can see Nappa Hall, surrounded by trees, just above the winding river, and Bainbridge lies close at hand. We soon come to the broad and cheerful green, surrounded by a picturesque scattering of old but well preserved cottages; for Bainbridge has sufficient charms to make it a pleasant inland resort for holiday times that is quite ideal for those who are content to abandon the sea. The overflow from Semmerwater, which is called the Bam, fills the village with its music as it falls over ledges or rock in many cascades along one side of the green.
There is a steep bridge, which is conveniently placed for watching the waterfalls; there are white geese always drilling on the grass, and there are still to be seen the upright stones of the stocks. The pretty inn called the 'Rose and Crown,' overlooking a corner of the green states upon a board that it was established in 1445.
A horn-blowing custom has been preserved at Bainbridge. It takes place at ten o'clock every night between Holy Rood (September 27) and Shrovetide, but somehow the reason for the observance has been forgotten. The medieval regulations as to the carrying of horns by foresters and those who passed through forests would undoubtedly associate the custom with early times, and this happy old village certainly gains our respect for having preserved anything from such a remote period. When we reach Bolton Castle we shall find in the museum there an old horn from Bainbridge.
Besides having the length and breadth of Wensleydale to explore with or without the assistance of the railway, Bainbridge has as its particular possession the valley containing Semmerwater, with the three romantic dales at its head. Counterside, a hamlet perched a little above the lake, has an old hall, where George Fox stayed in 1677 as a guest of Richard Robinson. The inn bears the date 1667 and the initials 'B.H.J.,' which may be those of one of the Jacksons, who were Quakers at that time.
On the other side of the river, and scarcely more than a mile from Bainbridge, is the little town of Askrigg, which supplies its neighbour with a church and a railway-station. There is a charm in its breezy situation that is ever present, for even when we are in the narrow little street that curves steeply up the hill there are quite exhilarating peeps of the dale. We can see Wether Fell, with the road we traversed yesterday plainly marked on the slopes, and down below, where the Ure takes its way through bright pastures, there is a mist of smoke ascending from Hawes. Blocking up the head of the dale are the spurs of Dodd and Widdale Fells, while beyond them appears the blue summit of Bow Fell. We find it hard to keep our eyes away from the distant mountains, which fascinate one by appearing to have an importance that is perhaps diminished when they are close at hand.
We find ourselves halting on a patch of grass by the restored market-cross to look more closely at a fine old house overlooking the three-sided space. There is no doubt as to the date of the building, for a plain inscription begins 'Gulielmus Thornton posuit hanc domum MDCLXXVIII.' The bay windows have heavy mullions and there is a dignity about the house which must have been still more apparent when the surrounding houses were lower than at present. The wooden gallery that is constructed between the bays was, it is said, built as a convenient place for watching the bull-fights that took place just below. In the grass there can still be seen the stone to which the bull-ring was secured. The churchyard runs along the west side of the little market-place, so that there is an open view on that side, made interesting by the Perpendicular church.
The simple square tower and the unbroken roof-lines are battlemented, like so many of the churches of the dales; inside we find Norman pillars that are quite in strange company, if it is true that they were brought from the site of Fors Abbey, a little to the west of the town.
Wensleydale generally used to be famed for its hand-knitting, but I think Askrigg must have turned out more work than any place in the valley, for the men as well as the womenfolk were equally skilled in this employment, and Mr. Whaley says they did their work in the open air 'while gossiping with their neighbours.' This statement is, nevertheless, exceeded by what appears in a volume entitled 'The Costume of Yorkshire.' In that work of 1814, which contains a number of George Walker's quaint drawings, reproduced by lithography, we find a picture having a strong suggestion of Askrigg in which there is a group of old and young of both sexes seated on the steps of the market-cross, all knitting, and a little way off a shepherd is seen driving some sheep through a gate, and he also is knitting.
From Askrigg there is a road that climbs up from the end of the little street at a gradient that looks like 1 in 4, but it is really less formidable. Considering its steepness the surface is quite good, but that is due to the industry of a certain road-mender with whom I once had the privilege to talk when, hot and breathless, I paused to enjoy the great expanse that lay to the south. He was a fine Saxon type, with a sunburnt face and equally brown arms. Road-making had been his ideal when he was a mere boy, and since he had obtained his desire he told me that he couldn't be happier if he were the King of England. The picturesque road where we leave him, breaking every large stone he can find, goes on across a belt of brown moor, and then drops down between gaunt scars that only just leave space for the winding track to pass through. It afterwards descends rapidly by the side of a gill, and thus enters Swaledale.
There is a beautiful walk from Askrigg to Mill Gill Force. The distance is scarcely more than half a mile across sloping pastures and through the curious stiles that appear in the stone walls. So dense is the growth of trees in the little ravine that one hears the sound of the waters close at hand without seeing anything but the profusion of foliage overhanging and growing among the rocks. After climbing down among the moist ferns and moss-grown stones, the gushing cascades appear suddenly set in a frame of such lavish beauty that they hold a high place among their rivals in the dale.
Keeping to the north side of the river, we come to Nappa Hall at a distance of a little over a mile to the east of Askrigg. It is now a farmhouse, but its two battlemented towers proclaim its former importance as the chief seat of the family of Metcalfe. The date of the house is about 1459, and the walls of the western tower are 4 feet in thickness. The Nappa lands came to James Metcalfe from Sir Richard Scrope of Bolton Castle shortly after his return to England from the field of Agincourt, and it was probably this James Metcalfe who built the existing house.
The road down the dale passes Woodhall Park, and then, after going down close to the Ure, it bears away again to the little village of Carperby. It has a triangular green surrounded by white posts. At the east end stands an old cross, dated 1674, and the ends of the arms are ornamented with grotesque carved heads. The cottages have a neat and pleasant appearance, and there is much less austerity about the place than one sees higher up the dale. A branch road leads down to Aysgarth Station, and just where the lane takes a sharp bend to the right a footpath goes across a smooth meadow to the banks of the Ure. The rainfall of the last few days, which showed itself at Mill Gill Force, at Hardraw Scar, and a dozen other falls, has been sufficient to swell the main stream at Wensleydale into a considerable flood, and behind the bushes that grow thickly along the riverside we can hear the steady roar of the cascades of Aysgarth. The waters have worn down the rocky bottom to such an extent that in order to stand in full view of the splendid fall we must make for a gap in the foliage, and scramble down some natural steps in the wall of rock forming low cliffs along each side of the flood. The water comes over three terraces of solid stone, and then sweeps across wide ledges in a tempestuous sea of waves and froth, until there come other descents which alter the course of parts of the stream, so that as we look across the riotous flood we can see the waters flowing in many opposite directions. Lines of cream-coloured foam spread out into chains of bubbles which join together, and then, becoming detached, again float across the smooth portions of each low terrace.
Some footpaths bring us to Aysgarth village, which seems altogether to disregard the church, for it is separated from it by a distance of nearly half a mile. There is one pleasant little street of old stone houses irregularly disposed, many of them being quite picturesque, with mossy roofs and ancient chimneys. This village, like Askrigg and Bainbridge, is ideally situated as a centre for exploring a very considerable district. There is quite a network of roads to the south, connecting the villages of Thoralby and West Burton with Bishop Dale, and the main road through Wensleydale. Thoralby is very old, and is beautifully situated under a steep hillside. It has a green overlooked by little grey cottages, and lower down there is a tall mill with curious windows built upon Bishop Dale Beck. Close to this mill there nestles a long, low house of that dignified type to be seen frequently in the North Riding, as well as in the villages of Westmorland. The huge chimney, occupying a large proportion of one gable-end, is suggestive of much cosiness within, and its many shoulders, by which it tapers towards the top, make it an interesting feature of the house.
The dale narrows up at its highest point, but the road is enclosed between grey walls the whole of the way over the head of the valley. A wide view of Langstrothdale and upper Wharfedale is visible when the road begins to drop downwards, and to the east Buckden Pike towers up to his imposing height of 2,302 feet. We shall see him again when we make our way through Wharfedale but we could go back to Wensleydale by a mountain-path that climbs up the side of Cam Gill Beck from Starbottom, and then, crossing the ridge between Buckden Pike and Tor Mere Top, it goes down into the wild recesses of Waldendale. So remote is this valley that wild animals, long extinct in other parts of the dales, survived there until almost recent times.
When we have crossed the Ure again, and taken a last look at the Upper Fall from Aysgarth Bridge, we betake ourselves by a footpath to the main highway through Wensleydale, turning aside before reaching Redmire in order to see the great castle of the Scropes at Bolton. It is a vast quadrangular mass, with each side nearly as gaunt and as lofty as the others. At each corner rises a great square tower, pierced, with a few exceptions, by the smallest of windows. Only the base of the tower at the north-east corner remains to-day, the upper part having fallen one stormy night in November, 1761, possibly having been weakened during the siege of the castle in the Civil War. We go into the court-yard through a vaulted archway on the eastern side. Many of the rooms on the side facing us are in good preservation, and an apartment in the south-west tower, which has a fireplace, is pointed out as having been used by Mary Queen of Scots when she was imprisoned here after the Battle of Langside in 1568. It was the ninth Lord Scrope who had the custody of the Queen, and he was assisted by Sir Francis Knollys. Mary, no doubt, found the time of her imprisonment irksome enough, despite the magnificent views over the dale which her windows appear to have commanded; but the monotony was relieved to some extent by the lessons in English which she received from Sir Francis, whom she describes as her 'good schoolmaster.' While still a prisoner, Mary addressed to him her first English letter, which begins: 'Master Knollys, I heve sum neus from Scotland'; and half-way through she begs that he will excuse her writing, seeing that she had 'neuur vsed it afor,' and was 'hestet.' The letter concludes with 'thus, affter my commendations, I prey God heuu you in his kipin. Your assured gud frind, MARIE R.'
On the opposite side of the steep-sided dale Penhill stands out prominently, with its flat summit reflecting just enough of the setting sun to recall a momentous occasion when from that commanding spot a real beacon-fire sent up a great mass of flame and sparks. It was during the time of Napoleon's threatened invasion of England, and the lighting of this beacon was to be the signal to the volunteers of Wensleydale to muster and march to their rendezvous. The watchman on Penhill, as he sat by the piled-up brushwood, wondering, no doubt, what would happen to him if the dreaded invasion were really to come about, saw, far away across the Vale of Mowbray, a light which he at once took to be the beacon upon Roseberry Topping. A moment later tongues of flame and smoke were pouring from his own hilltop, and the news spread up the dale like wildfire. The volunteers armed themselves rapidly, and with drums beating they marched away, with only such delay as was caused by the hurried leave-takings with wives and mothers, and all the rest who crowded round. The contingent took the road to Thirsk, and on the way were joined by the Mashamshire men. Whether it was with relief or disappointment I do not know; but when the volunteers reached Thirsk they heard that they had been called out by a false alarm, for the light seen in the direction of Roseberry Topping had been caused by accident, and the beacon on that height had not been lit.
Wensley stands just at the point where the dale, to which it has given its name, becomes so wide that it begins to lose its distinctive character. The village is most picturesque and secluded, and it is small enough to cause some wonder as to its distinction in naming the valley. It is suggested that the name is derived from Wodenslag, and that in the time of the Northmen's occupation of these parts the place named after their chief god would be the most important.
In the little church standing on the south side of the green there is so much to interest us that we are almost unable to decide what to examine first, until, realizing that we are brought face to face with a beautiful relic of Easby Abbey, we turn our attention to the parclose screen. It surrounds the family pew of Bolton Hall, and on three sides we see the Perpendicular woodwork fitted into the east end of the north aisle. The side that fronts the nave has an entirely different appearance, being painted and of a classic order, very lacking in any ecclesiastical flavour, an impression not lost on those who, with every excuse, called it 'the opera box.' In the panels of the early part of the screen are carved inscriptions and arms of the Scropes covering a long period, and, though many words and letters are missing, it is possible to make them more complete with the help of the record made by the heralds in 1665.
A charming lane, overhung by big trees, runs above the river-banks for nearly two miles of the way to Middleham; then it joins the road from Leyburn, and crosses the Ure by a suspension bridge, defended by two very formidable though modern archways. Climbing up past the church, we enter the cobbled market-place, which wears a rather decayed appearance in sympathy with the departed magnificence of the great castle of the Nevilles. It commands a vast view of Wensleydale from the southern side, in much the same manner as Bolton does from the north; but the castle buildings are entirely different, for Middleham consists of a square Norman keep, very massive and lofty, surrounded at a short distance by a strong wall and other buildings, also of considerable height, built in the Decorated period, when the Nevilles were in possession of the stronghold. The Norman keep dates from the year 1190, when Robert Fitz Randolph, grandson of Ribald, a brother of the Earl of Richmond, began to build the Castle.
It was, however, in later times, when Middleham had come to the Nevilles by marriage, that really notable events took place in this fortress. It was here that Warwick, the 'King-maker,' held Edward IV. prisoner in 1467, and in Part III. of the play of 'King Henry VI.,' Scene V. of the fourth act is laid in a park near Middleham Castle. Richard III.'s only son, Edward Prince of Wales, was born here in 1467, the property having come into Richard's possession by his marriage with Anne Neville.
We have already seen Leyburn Shawl from near Wensley, but its charm can only be appreciated by seeing the view up the dale from its larch-crowned termination. Perhaps if we had seen nothing of Wensleydale, and the wonderful views it offers, we should be more inclined to regard this somewhat popular spot with greater veneration; but after having explored both sides of the dale, and seen many views of a very similar character, we cannot help thinking that the vista is somewhat overrated. Leyburn itself is a cheerful little town, with a modern church and a very wide main street which forms a most extensive market-place. There is a bull-ring still visible in the great open space, but beyond this and the view from the Shawl Leyburn has few attractions, except its position as a centre or a starting-place from which to explore the romantic neighbourhood.
As we leave Leyburn we get a most beautiful view up Coverdale, with the two Whernsides standing out most conspicuously at the head of the valley, and it is this last view of Coverdale, and the great valley from which it branches, that remains in the mind as one of the finest pictures of this most remarkable portion of Yorkshire.
RIPON AND FOUNTAINS ABBEY
We have come out of Wensleydale past the ruins of the great Cistercian abbey of Jervaulx, which Conan, Earl of Richmond, moved from Askrigg to a kindlier climate, and we have passed through the quiet little town of Masham, famous for its fair in September, when sometimes as many as 70,000 sheep, including great numbers of the fine Wensleydale breed, are sold, and now we are at Ripon. It is the largest town we have seen since we lost sight of Richmond in the wooded recesses of Swaledale, and though we are still close to the Ure, we are on the very edge of the dale country, and miss the fells that lie a little to the west. The evening has settled down to steady rain, and the market-place is running with water that reflects the lights in the shop-windows and the dark outline of the obelisk in the centre. This erection is suspiciously called 'the Cross,' and it made its appearance nearly seventy years before the one at Richmond. Gent says it cost L564 11s. 9d., and that it is 'one of the finest in England.' I could, no doubt, with the smallest trouble discover a description of the real cross it supplanted, but if it were anything half as fine as the one at Richmond, I should merely be moved to say harsh things of John Aislabie, who was Mayor in 1702, when the obelisk was erected, and therefore I will leave the matter to others. It is, perhaps, an un-Christian occupation to go about the country quarrelling with the deeds of recent generations, though I am always grateful for any traces of the centuries that have gone which have been allowed to survive. With this thought still before me, I am startled by a long-drawn-out blast on a horn, and, looking out of my window, which commands the whole of the market-place, I can see beneath the light of a lamp an old-fashioned figure wearing a three-cornered hat. When the last quavering note has come from the great circular horn, the man walks slowly across the wet cobble-stones to the obelisk, where I watch him wind another blast just like the first, and then another, and then a third, immediately after which he walks briskly away and disappears down a turning. In the light of morning I discover that the horn was blown in front of the Town Hall, whose stucco front bears the inscription: 'Except ye Lord keep ye cittie, ye Wakeman waketh in vain.' The antique spelling is, of course, unable to give a wrong impression as to the age of the building, for it shows its period so plainly that one scarcely needs to be told that it was built in 1801, although it could not so easily be attributed to the notorious Wyatt. Notwithstanding much reconstruction there are still a few quaint houses to be seen in Ripon, and there clings to the streets a certain flavour of antiquity. It is the minster, nevertheless, that raises the 'city' above the average Yorkshire town. The west front, with its twin towers, is to some extent the most memorable portion of the great church. It is the work of Archbishop Walter Gray, and is a most beautiful example of the pure Early English style. Inside there is a good deal of transitional Norman work to be seen. The central tower was built in this period, but now presents a most remarkable appearance, owing to its partial reconstruction in Perpendicular times, the arch that faces the nave having the southern pier higher than the Norman one, and in the later style, so that the arch is lop-sided. As a building in which to study the growth of English Gothic architecture, I can scarcely think it possible to find anything better, all the periods being very clearly represented. The choir has much sumptuous carved woodwork, and the misereres are full of quaint detail. In the library there is a collection of very early printed books and other relics of the minster that add very greatly to the interest of the place.