| Sunshine, roses, ancient stones and colourful tales—these gave
our second visit to Wensleydale its special appeal. The sun was like a blowtorch.
Roses (both white and red) bloomed in the grounds of historic dwellings.
The tales included accounts of the huge Metcalfe clan, sufferings of early
Quakers, a visit to Bainbridge of J B Priestley—and the loss behind the
reredos of Aysgarth Church of a small brush being used in spring-cleaning.
We mustered in the huge (1.8 hectare) churchyard of St Andrew's at Aysgarth to hear John Kirby talk about the features and folklore of a church which has the long, low profile familiar to us at Kirkby Malham and Giggleswick. Though superficially Victorian (it was rebuilt in 1866), the church had ancient foundations. John showed us the head of an Anglian cross of the Northumbrian type. We were astonished to see an oaken screen brought to Aysgarth from Jervaulx at the time of the Dissolution and subsequently coloured to recall its medieval magnificence.
Our motorcade travelled via Carperby and Woodall to where three yellow milk kits on a wall-top signified the start of the track leading down to Nappa Hall, which we were visiting through the courtesy of Mr and Mrs Thompson. We strode through an arch to enjoy the enchantment of a fifteenth century hall which has no less than two towers. The grey stones of this old home of the Metcalf (originally no "e") family were offset by a floriferous display, free-range hens and a pattable pony. Some members, hearing that bed and breakfast facilities were available, determined to return to Nappa!
Notes compiled by David Hall were used during a tour of Bainbridge, where houses wink at each other across a capacious green and children find the old stocks irresistible. J B Priestley and his wife, Jacquetta, stayed at the "Rose and Crown" on several occasions. Local people initiated J B into the skills of catching crayfish in the Bain (which, at rather more than two miles, is the shortest river in the land).
June Hall (currently on holiday in Norway) had set up in Countersett Meeting House an exhibition on early Quakerism in the dale. Robin West, who with his wife Pat has lived at nearby Countersett Hall for ten years, told us about the recent history of the place and then led us through the principal rooms of his historic home, which in the seventeenth century was the dwelling of Richard Robinson, the first Quaker in Wensleydale. George Fox stayed at the hall in 1677, sleeping (it is said) in a small room in the upper storey of the porch. Pigeons were once kept at a higher elevation; we hoped that their cooing had not kept him awake.
The 1996 outing will be over t'Buttertubs Pass to Swaledale.
Countersett Hall (drawing by Janet Rawlins).