Thursday, August 09, 2007

Knaresborough Revisited

Yesterday I went to Knaresborough as I wanted a day trip out.

I knew the roads and major attractions would be busy (damn those school holidays) so I stayed local and Knaresborough is only a 30 minute drive away.

In February maybe. Yesterday it took me well over an hour to get to the car park and even that was after going off my planned route almost from the get-go. I was merrily driving along on the A61 Harrogate Road and enjoying both the sunshine and Radio 2, when after only 7 minutes, I came upon stationary traffic just before my turnoff at Harewood House.

We moved a few feet in the next 7 minutes so when I reached the turnoff to Wike, I took it and went this alternative way to Wetherby. I wasn't in a rush but I never see the need to sit in traffic when there is a way to avoid it.

I'd no further problems till I got to Knaresborough itself and suddenly I came upon stationary traffic again. This time is was being caused by a policeman who had taken over the duties of the traffic lights at a busy junction but he didn't seem to be giving enough time to those of us on the main road and so a line of vehicles had built up stretching back about a mile. As most cars were passing him, their drivers tried to tell him that he wasn't helping the traffic flow at all but with his arms flapping about like a hummingbird in full courtship mode, he wasn't taking onboard any advice from anyone.

"Move along now, nothing to talk to me about here" said Knaresborough's Barbrady, as he directed traffic and landed 3 light aircraft.

Parking at the top of the town or anywhere on the main street was out of the question and so I headed down the hill to the car park across the road from The Worlds End pub.

This quaint name has to be down to good Old Mother Shipton, the local prophetess who said the world would end in 1881 and loads of other things that were mostly added to her prophecy list AFTER she died. Even I would be a prophet under those conditions.

But being a load of rubbish hasn't stopped a few canny businessmen turning it into a bit of a tourist trap and so if you want to spend some time and money, they will happily take both.

But the pub is very nice and in a prime location at the side of the road bridge from which you can get wonderful views of the River Nidd as it flows under the famous railway bridge. However the more pictureque views are from the castle which looks down on both the river and the railway bridge from the other side so for now, here is my first photo from the road bridge.

As you can see, this is a popular stretch of the river for boating although unlike in America, few Brits have their own and so have to hire them on arrival.

And once we used to rule the seas !!

Anyway after I'd taken a few pics, I took the narrow road down to the west bank of the river and went to one of the locations where you could hire one of the rowing boats for an hour.

I seem fated to photograph lines of rowing boats this summer but these ones actually did have some artistic value given their uniformity. Unlike the ones in Windermere last week, these boats were only different in one way - the numbers painted on their sides.

I wanted to climb onboard and take a photo from the middle of one, but both their unsteadiness and the fact that their owner looked like an ex wrestler dissuaded me from making the attempt.

The image does kinda hurt your eyes after a while so, as with looking at the sun, don't stare at it for too long.

Of course like with the sun, it's perfectly ok to stare at the photo once it gets dark.

A handy little tip there.

Just as well they had plenty of boats as rowing on The Nidd seemed to be very popular. I guess it brings out the MAN in some people (mostly men I have to say) and so many of the boats were being rowed by men out to impress their women but given the physique of most of them, a trip to the chiropractor would've been on the cards today.

The family men had their role sorted and they had no need to impress anyone. They were happy to sit back and let the kids do the hard work. That way the dad's arm muscles were left relaxed enough to lift a few pints in the pub later than night while the kids were fast asleep at 7pm - totally knackered but happy.

I moved on and went up a steep cobbled street towards the railway station which naturally put me at the same level as the bridge. I noticed that some of the houses had false windows painted in between real ones - quite bizarre but in a good way. As well as making the facade more impressive (if one of your criteria for impressive facades is the number of windows), the artwork was somehow in keeping with this funky town.

Oh and you thought it was just a boring window painted onto the wall ? Oh gosh no. The witty, and probably drug crazed owners, have inserted characters and animals into their artwork.

In this case a character is seen pouring water onto the luckless people below...........well you'll have to imagine the people below as they must be the people who stand looking up at the fake window.

Wow for a few moments I was a living part of this creation. Cool. My next stop, an equity card.

Of course as with all my photos, you can see a larger version if you click on it. Makes seeing the window a lot easier.

Oh ok then......I'll make it even easier............................

As I walked around the town later. I noticed more of these false windows and best of all was where one was above another and the bottom one had a zebra with the body and legs of a giraffe behind it and then in the upstairs window they'd painted the rest of the neck and the head.

Now that was cool. Still bizarre of course.

But back to the railway station. I'd opened a small gate at the end of the cobbled road and found myself on the edge of the tracks with another gate across from me and the continuation of the street. To my left was the station platform and to my right the tracks stretched off over the bridge. I wondered if a train was due anytime soon as I thought it would make a good photograph from this vantage point. I walked about 10 paces to the right along a narrow wooden boardwalk to the bottom of the steps leading up to the sigmal box.

Even though the door was open and I could hear movement inside, I didn't want to suddenly appear in the box itself so I shouted up, asking if anyone could help me. Nothing. I tried again and this time Mr. Grumpy McEmployee came to the doorway and when I asked for the time of the next train in any direction, he started shouting that I was trespassing. I was truly shocked but as the deed was already deeded, I asked again about the trains. His keen eye obviously had me marked as a troublemaker who would most likely lie down on his tracks and mess up his station when my inert body was hit by the 2:15 from Upper Mucklington as he then said "I've got CCTV cameras here you know"

Now I was in a panic as I'd not washed my hair since Monday. "Ok" I answered, slowly separating the K from the O to show I wasn't intimidated by his threat of modern technology. "But what about the trains" ?

Showing all the customer relation skills that single out railway employees nationwide, he said the information I sought was on a board back on the platform walls. He wasn't quite as eloquent as that but I got the message. I think I'd just met Officer Barbrady's older brother.

I decided I didn't need a photo of a train badly enough to go to the platform and so I left Mr. Jobsworth to his flask of tea and ham sandwich......just ham, nothing else. You know the type.
No fancy la-di-da butter/mayo/lettuce/tomato in MY sandwiches, thank you very much.

Looking back at the signal box I did see a small red sign saying something like "No Trespassing On The Railway Line" but for one thing, it said nothing about walking on the wooden boardwalk to the signalbox steps and for another thing, the sign needed to be on the gate where you could actually see it. Mutter, mutter.

The street led on up to the edge of the town and the castle, which was my destination.

I've been many times to Knaresborough and with every visit, I take photos from the top looking down at the river and the viaduct railway bridge. It's just so darn purty.

But this time my eye was initally taken by a boxum woman dressed in period costume who was sitting on a low part of the castle wall and was talking to a raven. Yes you read right. Talking to a raven. Now whether said raven was taking any notice of buxom period woman is another matter altogether but it certainly was a crowd stopper.

In this photo, the pair seem to have had a falling out, maybe words were said, and the raven has turned it's back on her.

Buxom lady, who had Igraine on her name badge, took the opportunity to talk to passers by.
I suspect that wasn't her real name as it just happens to the name of the mother of King Arthur of Round Table fame.

But who knows ? Anyone who is prepared to sit all day with 3 ravens and talk to them from time to time may well have changed her name from Betty Buxomwench to Igraine Roundtable-Smythe. She looked the type.

Of course I might be totally wrong and she might have been Mrs. Jobsworth and if so, my heart goes out to her. But I don't think so......she had a lovely friendly face and a personality to match.

She was just perfect for talking to kids and Japanese tourists, none of whom would have a clue
what this strange woman in a red frock was doing at Knaresborough Castle with 3 ravens.

If I interpreted the situation correctly, one excitable Japanese passerby thought he was in the presence of JK Rowling herself and the ravens only added to that impression. Is he in for a legpulling when he shows his snaps back at work !!

And then it was back to that view from the castle. Like I said, I've stood in the same spot many times over the years and taken the very photos of the very same view. And it never ceases to impress me. I'll simply lump 2 photos together as they just take you closer to the bridge.

Some time later I took an even closer photo of the bridge and looking at it now with these other 2, I see the bridge stonework appears as a different colour - not sure why that would be but I WAS messing about with the camera settings and that had to have caused it.

Never mind, it's a nice photo so I'll keep it.

They really knew their business back in ye olden days when building these castles of ours. Whoever picked the locations had an eye for more than making sure the castle would be hard to attack and easy to defend.

Goes to show that the oft used realtor phrase "location, location, location" was just as important back then as it is now. If one was unlucky enough to be selling a castle NOT on top of a hill, I can just imagine the advert...............

Property ? One almost new castle for sale. Hardly damaged really but needs a bit of work to make it habitable. Expect high heating bills (due to lack of roof), any furniture would need to be waterproof (again due to lack of roof) and expect huge cleaning bills (yes due to missing roof AGAIN). Excellent stone built construction with numerous arrow slits to be used to fend off unwelcome IRS visitors. Battlements good for pouring of boiling oil etc.
Location ? Deep in a valley - but this is reflected in the asking price.
Views ? Unless you look upwards, none really.
Price ? Make me an offer. Please.

Just isn't going to work is it ? No, castles are always built with views to die for.........and attackers usually did. No wonder they've lasted so well and are such tourist traps today.

Back in Knaresborough and I went out of the castle gates ( there really isn't very much of the actual castle left apart from one tower area in the corner and the low walls) and into the town. It was market day and although it was only 3:15pm, a lot of the stalls were gone and the rest were in the process of joining them.

It was a typical small town market with stalls selling clothing, cds and dvds, household products, cakes and confectionery, crockery and jewellery.

The more specialist fish and meat stalls or vans had closed up and left except one van which had been selling fish from Whitby. It had a side panel which opened up to become both counter and awning and by now the owners were disposing of the ice used to keep the fish fresh.

It was all very English and I enjoyed walking slowly around the remaining stalls in the summer sunshine.

Then it was back to the castle as I wanted to return to the car park a different way. I took the steep path and steps down to the river and took one last photo of the view towards the bridge from that point of view.

There are a few cafe areas alongside the river as you can see here and their tables were packed with people taking the weight off, as we'd say here.

This gave them the best access to the river and I stayed there for some time and no one was rushing to leave their chairs and move on. Who could blame them ?

It was a very pleasant scene with a few swans and other wildlife mingling with the rowing boats out on the water. The limp flag shows there was no wind at all and it was warm without being hot.

I wanted to be on the road and home by 5pm as the trip would be a nightmare at rush hour. With this in mind I headed along the path you see on the extreme right - it went under one of the viaduct arches and on to the road bridge beyond and then I was back at The Worlds End pub. My circuit was complete.

When I got to the huge 'leg' of the viaduct, a boat went by and it just summed up all the other boats out on the river.

The mother and daughter sitting at the back relaxing and enjoying being taken for a ride - or a row. Mother would be back in charge when they got home but for now, she was happy to literally take a back seat.

The son trying his best not to take them all into the riverside greenery and only doing so by zig-zagging along and not impressing anyone. He'd be going to university in October and would be wanting to show he could take care of himself but wasn't quite ready for a car just yet and would probably get a bicycle in the meantime.

And dad. He's let himself go just about as much as he feels he can. The jacket has come off but the shirt and tie remain......well he's not quite ready for the t-shirt and shorts. Oh no. Maybe when they go to Cyprus for a week in September but not in England. One has standards. But the hat is fine. Shows a casual attitude but with some decorum and class.

The clothing reflects their characters and the waters of The Nidd reflects the rest.

Once up on the main road, I resisted the lure of Mother Shipton again, left the car park and was home in time for tea. It's great to have towns like Knaresborough nearby and I try not to take it for granted.

I'm sure I'll be back again and if that's not a prophecy, then it's a pretty safe bet.


Daphne said...

Knaresborough was always pronounced Canaries' Brough in our house when I was growing up. For a good few years I thought that's how it SHOULD be pronounced.
Have you considered changing your blog's title to My Criminal Activity? First it was Loitering near an Ice Cream Van and now it's Trespassing on the Railways. There's a cell in Armley Jail with your name on it.

Jennyta said...

I loved reading this post and the photos are lovely. We saw windows like those in France but I didn't get close enough for any photos. I've linked to your blog and will be back to read more soon.

Silverback said...

Daphne.......don't forget the speeding fine recently. I mean give me my due - I'm a hardened criminal now.

Jennyta......thanks for those kind words. I've only been to Paris so know nothing else about France. I know many European countries did this painted windows malarky but so far I've not tracked down any reason for it....apart from them having a sense of humour.

Anonymous said...

with regard the buxom lady at Knaresborough castle, I am the said lady, and yes my name is Igraine, I love my job that is done voluntary and i felt alittle hurt by some of your comments. I am not a jobs worth.

Igraine .H.M.Keeper of the castle ravens said...

I have just realised I did not give you my correct title. Igraine Hustwitt'Skelton H.M. Keeper of the Knaresborough castle ravens

Silverback said...


I'm truly sorry if any of my comments hurt you but to be fair, I never said you were a jobsworth. Far from it, as I said you were wonderful with the kids and tourists.

Where the jobsworth thing came in was that I'd mentioned the signalman at the railway station as being a jobsworth and I said I hoped for your sake that you weren't MARRIED to him. That's where I think the confusion has come from when I said Mrs Jobsworth.

You do a wonderful job and the fact that it's voluntary makes it all the more wonderful.


Igraine said...

Dear Ian,
thank you very much for your kind words, it is I who should apologise, having just re read your blog I realise the mistake was mine. My husband thinks it hilarious that you refered to me as the buxom woman in period dress. Like said japeanse tourist, I will never live it down. Two of your photos. me on the wall with ravenelf, and the one of Gabriel on the top of the column are great, the other makes me look more like Mother Shipton who has been forced to endure sucking lemons.Sorry if I came across as abit pretenious about my title, I am a sensitive soul, when not casting spells. Only jesting, carry on with your words of wisdom, and enjoy your retirement.
Igraine, which in all honesty is my middle name, my first name is Janette, dad was mad about the actress Janette Scot, which is strange because he has always called me Janet. Oh no you don't think he was really mad about Janet Street Porter.One never knows.

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