| What is firm but not dry and hard; a delicious creamy-white,
flaky and with a fresh, clean, slightly honeyed aroma? Why—it's Wensleydale
cheese, of course.
At the very mention of it, and hearing that Hawes Creamery had just opened a Visitor Centre, we turned the bonnets of our cars towards Wensleydale. The BBC weathermen did their best to discourage us but their "heavy showers" held off until our programme was complete.
We were able to negotiate a party rate; we had Alice Amsden and Julie Andrews—repeat, Julie Andrews—as our enthusiastic and informative guides. They led us back through time to the days of Jervaulx Abbey. They introduced us to an old-style Dales kitchen and to rudimentary cheese-making. We were able to watch the current cheese-makers from an observation platform. And then came the tasting, with cubes of traditional mature, smoked and blue cheeses. Some of our members had coffee and (let it be whispered) buttered scones.
At Gayle Mill, beside the beck which, hitherto, most of us had known only for the sporty nature of its ford and its hungry waterfowl, we entered the fascinating world of early industrialisation, our guide being Brian Alderson, the owner.
This mill, which had recently been scheduled as an Ancient Monument, turned out to have been built in 1784 as a "cotton factory". It was now confirmed to be the earliest mill to survive unaltered. The turbine, which was built by Williamson Bros. of Kendal in 1878, is the oldest in situ turbine anywhere in the world. After running ninety-six years without maintenance, the turbine then needed some small pins replacing.
Brian led us in turn to the three floors of the mill and we were fascinated to see the original internal timber construction of North American pitch pine for the roof and floors.
With protracted stays at our first two features, lunchtime shrank from two hours to one hour. We reassembled at Coleby Hall, Askrigg, where Eleanor Scarr told us something of the history of this mid-17th century, E-plan house and then allowed us to tour some of the rooms, from ground floor to attic.
Finally, we had an appointment with Janet and Peter Leyland at West End House, Askrigg, a house which was said by Pevsner to be of fifteenth century origins. The panelling in the main living room is said to have come from Lady Anne Clifford's Pendragon Castle, in Mallerstang. Peter told us about the history of this old residence. We then admired the work of Janet, a multitalented artist.
West End House, Askrigg, the home of artist Janet Rawlins, where our Wensleydale tour ended.