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Friday, 23 April 2021

Castle Howard

Growing up in Scarborough, you would have thought that I would have been to Castle Howard many times. I only remember going there once, and that was in 1998 ( I found out by Googling cannon accidents) for one of the evening concerts... a Last Night of the Proms with fireworks. I remember enjoying it but for no reason at all, we've never been back there and have never visited the house, gardens or estate. And I remembering hearing in the news, the next day that someone got injured by one of the Cannons.

Well, as we are staying in the Howardian Hills, which take their name from Castle Howard, it seemed like a visit there was in order. 

The road in is narrow, mainly straight and has grandiose arches, some that are very narrow. We were glad we were in the car and that Zerubbabel was safely on the campsite, though I believe there is an alternative route for big beasts, like her. Parking was easy... accessible parking is right at the front. The lines are faded to almost nothing though, so it was a bit of a guessing game. 

As with everywhere else, they've got all the Covid measures in place. We felt particularly safe here. Nowhere felt really busy, but then it is midweek. Weekends will be busier, I'm sure. So we showed our prebooked ticket, picked up a map of the estate and headed off to see the Atlas Fountains, which I was very much looking forward to. We took a bit of a long route to get in, only to find they are currently out of action, being maintained... which was rather disappointing. 

The upside of the fountain maintenance was that there was a gigantic hose pipe attached to a tap along the path. Where it had leaked it formed a crystal clear pool of water, where Liggy had a big drink. Not only that, she remembered it, and was clearly excited to get back there later. It's funny, she doesn't normally drink much but she loved this water! 

It was shortly after her first drink that I decided to try out the portaloo accessible toilet, which looked like a good option to avoid going all the way back to the main courtyard every time I needed a wee. Neil checked it out first and pointed out a large (but fast asleep) bumble bee on the side of the toilet. I agreed that it was probably too cold for it to wake up and that I was safe to ignore it... so I took courage and sat down for a wee. Just as I was about to go, I pulled some toilet paper, so I'd have it ready... as you do... and as I pulled it down, there on the paper, was another massive bumble bee. This time, I wasn't expecting it and it nearly gave me a heart attack! Like its friend, it was asleep, but right by my face and so sudden and unexpected, adrenalin kicked in and for a moment, I just panicked. I didn't even pull my pants up... just got out quick!!! It didn't take long for me to sort my clothing and for Neil to remove my new friend... and I continued quickly and decided that the courtyard toilets would be fine for next time.


Castle Howard in the distance, Neil and Liggy (black lab) are standing at the side of a gravel path with an expanse of lawn behind them.

Next stop, was the Rose Gardens, which were vast and very pleasant. We just wandered back and forth, looking at the various plants and watching the gardeners at work. There were some statues too... many statues... but we decided to take a break from our usual statue photography. There was just too much to fit in. We'll come back another day and focus on statue work. 

What we did find, which is becoming a theme this week, was this beautiful peacock. Liggy was a little more excited by it than yesterday, so we didn't make her lie around for too long, but long enough to get some photos.


A male peacock, lying full length on the lawn, showing how long his tail feathers are.

We took our lunch to the picnic area near the big play area - Skelf Island. It looked seriously cool! The sort of place that makes you wish you were a kid again, or there with small children that need supervising. 

The path down to the lake and play area was quite steep and windy. It was hard work keeping my trike under control. I love my trike but having the steering on the back wheel means that when going downhill, you have a tendency to tip forward, taking the steering wheel off the ground, which makes controlling it rather difficult. I've found the answer is to go very slowly. The brakes are good, though extremely noisy so Neil and Liggy left me to it and disappeared off on their own. Charming!

After lunch, we had planned a walk around the edge of Ray Wood towards the other lake. The website said that Ray Wood is unsuitable for wheelchairs due to uneven ground. We clarified this at the ticket office, checking whether it was just uneven ground or steps, stiles, etc as well. Just uneven ground... well, we always like a challenge! You don't spend that much money on a mountain trike to stay on concrete paths, do you?


Path through the woods. It is wide and a hard mud surface but the tree roots and rocks make it uneven.

Unfortunately, soon after taking this photo, there was a path closure with a diversion. Tree cutting was happening and you could see a large tree blocking the path. Sadly, the diversion included steps. They were shallow steps and Neil did say, "I think we could manage this between us," which (thinking back to Sandringham) rang alarm bells that we almost certainly were about to attempt the impossible. So we took a different route, where we chatted with a couple of ladies who were walking the same way. Eventually, the grass path headed steeply uphill and they walked on, and we paced ourselves (went very slowly at my pace). 

At the top of the hill (and a couple more hills) we reached a monument of some kind, which we should probably have paid some attention to, but the views around were exceedingly spectacular, so we gazed into the distance instead and ignored the monument. In the distance was a stone bridge. Our ladies were still there and one of them said she could imagine horses and chariots coming in over that bridge. It certainly was a scene that could tell stories - real and fictional.


Traditional Yorkshire countryside with rolling green hills, trees and a magnificent stone bridge.

While we were up there, we also had a rest and a bit of a treat time for Liggy. She had been very well behaved today! She can be a bit overexcited in new places like this, but today, she was the perfect angel... which really earned her some trout mousse.

Me sitting in my mountain trike with Liggy lying next to me, sunbathing. We are looking lovingly into each other's eyes. One of the two ladies is in the background taking photos of the view.

Liggy has her paws up on my lap and I'm feeding her trout mousse from a small plastic travel tube, intended for shampoo.

From the viewing point, we headed down to the small lake. We had seen a mowed path around and decided it would make a good walk. Getting down to it was interesting though. Far too steep in places for me to manage but that's where teamwork makes the dreamwork! Neil gets into all these attractions for free, as my carer, so it was time to earn his keep and hold on to the back of my chair and stop me from catapulting down the embankments. 

The walk round the lake was peaceful and very pretty with the Hall in the distance. There was what looked like a shallow area at one end, so we let Liggy have a paddle, but it was a bit deeper than it looked and she wasn't keen. She preferred to eat the vast amounts of duck poo on the grass instead. So we picked up our pace a bit until duck poo was less in her face.


View across a small lake with Castle Howard in the distance.

The climb back up to the main paths was quite steep and again on grass. I got part of the way up and there was a kind of rough area of grass that looked perfect to stop and play with Liggy and a frisbee. We always try to find somewhere like this if she has been good. After food, it's her favourite reward. 


Liggy with a red frisbee in her mouth. She is running back to me with it, quite fast, and her ears and tail are bouncing all over the place.

By the end of the day, we had decided that this was a fantastic place for all of us to enjoy being outdoors together. It has many different kinds of walks, things to see and do... and it was very friendly and pleasant. So we decided to become silver friends, which means we can come back when we like for free. I would like to visit again, when the house reopens, and have a look around. 

Final stop, before going back to the campsite, was the farm shop. We had planned meals for everyday except today. The plan for today was to buy a treat from the farm shop. We ended up getting a lamb and mint burger and an Angus beefburger (which we had half each of) and I also bought some fudge, some honey and mustard salad dressing and some garlic infused oil. 

The burgers were absolutely delicious!!!


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