I spent a lazy, hot May Sunday recently at Bolton Abbey in Yorkshire, and a halcyon day it was too. Bolton Abbey is a lovely beauty spot, attached to an historic building and with lovely woods and a river running through it.
Largely we were drawn back by memories of another pleasant trip there last year. Those memories consisted largely of the phenomenal amounts of wild garlic growing in and around the environs of the Abbey – and of the phenomenal scent of it, drifting every which way to track you down, giving you a good whiff at unwary moments. The garlic plants are beautiful and delicate, as fragile and lovely as lily of the valley or bluebells. Their smell, however, is more liable to put you in mind of a good pasta dinner or a strong, proper Northern England curry. I think the pong was rendered stronger by the constant, pleasant heat and sunshine. (A two week heatwave in the North of England, who would possibly have thought it?)
The waters of the river run smooth and mild in some parts, rough and dashing in narrower sections. In the more sedate areas children and dogs (and a few adults) paddled pleasantly, cooling down in the water. The Strid is a slightly scary section, ranged around with rocks and stones, where the river hurls itself through a narrow waterway, eddying so furiously that it has hollowed out smooth bowls and circles in the rock, like the sockets of the rounded end of a bone. A particular point of the Strid is reckoned by some to be ‘jumpable’ in terms of distance – but not perhaps in terms of safety. People are alleged to have died trying it, and looking at the distance (Jumpable? Says who exactly?) and the fury of the oncoming waters, I am not surprised. Last year we got a sad surprise when we stumbled on one of the little holes hollowed out by the water and realised some little ducklings had been stranded in there, presumably dumped by the path of the waters and then unable to get out. It cast a little shadow over the day, but then that’s ‘nature, red in tooth and claw’ for you. Darwin up to his old tricks again.
Wild garlic isn’t the only flora available for the keen spotter around the Abbey. Pink campion, various kinds of ‘motherdie’ (the Compositae family, all lumped together under this rather morbid term in my childhood), hawkweed, yellow poppies, various types of forget-me-nots – all of them are sprinkled liberally around the place. Ducks appear to be the main fauna, apart from some canine visitors, recently dipped in shallow waters and eager to make new friends…
And regarding fauna, it appears that local farmers are also allowed to let their animals graze over the grassland of the area. Watch out for a wide and interesting variety of poop!
In the main car park fauna of the humanoid variety are busy on hot days getting stinky barbecues going. I can’t personally see the attraction of coming to one of the loveliest areas in the locality in order to burn link sausages over charcoal, but I’m sure they tasted better than they smelled.
It sounds a little childish to say a big highlight of the day was the icecream at the halfway point. But I’ll go ahead and be a child: it was. Huge, creamy, delicious, I wish I could remember the brand in order to recommend it. It was, by the way, the ‘small’ size. The guy in the flash car who asked for the same before me exclaimed to the guy staffing the van, ‘No, mate, I asked for a small cone.’
“That is the small cone, sir,” came the reply. The large one must feed several small children for the day. We preceded it with warm houmous and tomato sandwiches out of our backpacks and flasks of tea and fizzy water. In that heat, and with those views, it was all nectar.
The whole walk around the place was maybe three or four miles, and we were fairly shattered by the time we were done. (I don’t think my other half’s morning run helped on his part.) On the way home we spotted a car bootie in a small local town. Should we? On the whole, the verdict was no. A grand day out, though.