This is England
I miss Canada. This may surprise you, if you have read my previous posts (the one where I ranted about roundabouts, for instance, or the one where I whined about … well, anything) but from the age of 17, I have had a connection and a love affair with Canada. I was always drawn to its stunning, dramatic beauty; its clean, open spaces and laid-back way of life. It was my chosen home for 12 years, and it will always have a special place in my heart (though at the moment we are enjoying something of a long distance relationship).
This picture wasn’t taken in Canada, though. This is England. Now I’m back, I am rediscovering the beauty of this country, and I have to say, I quite like it. I quite like it a lot. This weekend, friend Mia, daughter Kerri, Buddy The Rottie and Hallie the Jet-Setting mutt, drive 7 hours north to visit Mia’s daughter Annie and her boyfriend Alex, in what I had assumed was going to be a sleepy little village in the middle of Up North. All I knew about our destination (Holmfirth in Yorkshire) was that it was used to film Last of the Summer Wine, a TV series about a group of delinquent old codgers who rampaged through the countryside causing havoc and, I suppose, drinking wine. (sounds a bit like this weekend, actually).
I have since learned that it is the longest running sitcom in the world. It ran for 31 series from 1973 to 2010, though I maybe saw two episodes in my life. Hence my ignorance about Holmfirth, which is neither sleepy nor a village.
Holmfirth lies slap bang in the middle of the country, close to Huddersfield, and almost equal distance from Leeds, Manchester and Sheffield. I have never been to any of those places, and I have no idea what to expect, other than the preconceived stereotypical notion that I would find stone-walled fields full of sheep, men in flat caps sitting alone in pub corners nursing a pint of Yorkshire ale, and people talking funny. I was right of course – I do find those things, but I find so much more as well.
I find a place that looks like it should be stuck in its own TV programme, with its pretty stone houses, oak-beamed country pubs, and endless, rolling green fields, but as well as being beautiful, it was buzzing, vibrant and full of energy.
We take the dogs for an eventful walk through some countryside that could have been anywhere in the world – Canada included. It has the prerequisite stone walls, but it also has thick forests of towering pine trees, steep rocky inclines, and a stunningly pretty lake. And it has weather – every kind of weather, as it turns out. When we start walking, although freezing, it is in the glow of a sunny blue sky, and throughout the next hour and a half, we are treated to thick snow flurries, hail and even thunder. It is the kind of fun, invigorating walk that makes you feel lucky to be alive.
If I am overselling the walk, wait until you hear about lunch. Back in town, in a local bar/restaurant, Kerri and I feel it would be rude not to order the Giant Yorkshire pudding with sausage and mash. When in Yorkshire, and all that. “Giant” is not really the right word for it though. Here it is:
Our evening is spent at a trendy wine bar that serves amazing cocktails, a brilliant music venue with a free Bowie-themed night, and a heaving club-type bar with no flat caps in sight.
If that isn’t enough, real estate is ridiculously cheap (compared to the south anyway). Fancy a 5 bedroom barn conversion on half an acre with stunning views across the valleys? It’s yours for £250,000 (around $480,000).
This isn’t a picture of the barn conversion though. It’s a ruined castle at the top of a hill, where we take our hangovers on the crisp Sunday morning. That’s just what you do when you are in Yorkshire.