More research for the Yorkshire Dales guidebook today, and several unexpected, quirky delights: an astronomical observatory with yet another solar system scale model; Yorkshire’s other most famous other brewery town; a bit of the Himalayas in the Dales; and another sculpture park with another miniature Stonehenge.
After a very pleasant chat about bikes and touring to a father and son who were at How Stean Gorge for a day of adventure stuff (NB thanks for the tea, Andy and Harry), I hauled myself up the road from Lofthouse from Nidderdale up and over the moors to Masham.
Tadcaster may be Yorkshire’s biggest producer of beer-flavoured liquid, but its factories don’t compare for character and likeability with Masham (which I’ve blogged about before). The characterful little market town boasts two famous ale producers, Theakston and Black Sheep, both run by branches of the Theakston family.
Again, thanks to the demands of guidebook research, I spent time exploring back lanes, cafes (we recommend Johnny Baghdad’s) and shops (the craft centre in the Market Square represents over 120 artists) more than previous visits, when I’d rather been waylaid by the brewery taprooms (Theakston’s or Black Sheep’s? Maybe that’s not an either/or question.)
It was sad to see Grewelthorpe’s once-feted pub, inevitably called the Crown, has closed. Locals have raised some money for what they think is a ‘credible offer’ to buy it as a community pub – I hope it succeeds.
But my discoveries for today were not pub-related. The first surprise for me was Hackfall, a densely wooded, rewilded area between Grewelthorpe and the River Ure. It contains countless strange ruins and historic rems, and I’ll be back to explore it properly soon. For now, with a heavily-laden bike in tow, I could only make a brief excursionary walk along the top to enjoy the views over the Ure valley.
The second surprise for me was Lime Tree Observatory, a mile or so northwest up the lane from Grewelthorpe at Lime Tree Farm, and open to the public by appointment, who can enjoy the good quality Dark Skies round here.
There’s a stonking 24-inch reflecting telescope here, a planetarium, and – in the farmyards – a scale model of the solar system to add to the two in York that I visited recently. Farmer and astronomy fan Peter Foster is the person to thank.
A mile further up said lane is the Himalayan Garden, another enterprise that started out as a farmer’s private project and became a grand vision. The climate and soil here are similar to the Himalayan foothills, so farmer Peter Roberts cleared the Japanese knotweed and Himalayan balsam that had overrun the area and planted this splendid exotic garden that’s full of pleasant walks and variety.
There are sculptures too – 90 of them, from artists around the world – including a miniature Stonehenge. Which nicely complements two more ‘Stonehenges’ nearby, one being the Druid’s Temple, the other Thornborough Henge. Making this Yorkshire’s other sculpture park (see also Wakefield). It was very much a day of otherness.