United Kingdom, Part 2

Thursday 4 October 2007 (continued)

Ambleside is a typical Lakes District town with wall to wall grey stone houses. Very picturesque and an absolute tourism magnet with visitors from the UK and overseas.

Our accommodation was a B & B called Rothsay Garth on Rothsay Street. It was a family affair, with our main contact one of the daughters. We met another Australian couple there who had been in the UK for a month and only met one pair of Australians. We're not sure where they've been hiding, because we've met so many Australians here! We're pretty much like a blanket, over everything.

Today has been a little overcast, but the forecast for tomorrow is for fine weather and we're looking forward to a nice day.

Ambleside, Lakes District, Cumbria
Hillside view back to Lake Windemere at Ambleside, Lakes District, Cumbria
Highland Cattle, Lakes District, Cumbria

We had a quiet evening, dinner at an Indian restaurant and a bottle of South African wine.

Next morning we thought that we might head off to see Hadrian's Wall and then head down to Yorkshire. This was a trip which would take us through Cumbria into Northumberland and then through Durham.

Friday 5 October 2007

The first leg of the trip took us up a steep and narrow pinch with the most magnificent views of the hills.  Above is a composite of the view back down to Ambleside. Left are some Highland cattle which were next to the gate where we stopped to take these pictures. 

Ullswater, Lakes District, Cumbria Ullswater, Lakes District, Cumbria
Ullswater, Lakes District, Cumbria

It was impossible not to be enthralled by the scenery, and while I'd like to take full responsibility for the artistic merit of these images, frankly, it's almost impossible to take a bad picture in the Lakes District of Cumbria.

Much of the foundation of Hadrian's wall is still in place, despite the material which has been scavenged for local buildings, so Margaret has been able to tick yet another achievement off her list.  The wall follows the high ground for the most part and as well as a ditch on the Scottish side, there were other earthworks which are still in evidence.

The picture to the right shows a surviving part of the wall with a square tower.

We stopped off at the Visitor Centre at Birdoswald where there are substantial ruins of one of the major parts of the wall.  It included barracks, training halls, granaries and gates.

Hadrian's Wall
Remains of Roman Buildings at Birdoswald

It was very interesting, particularly when you take into consideration the sheer industriousness of the Legions who constructed the wall.

We followed the wall through on the A69 to Newcastle Upon Tyne, then took the A1 South to Harrogate.

In Harrogate we arranged accommodation at  Dragon Avenue - not to be confused ,by the way, with Dragon Court, Dragon Street, Dragon Parade or Dragon Way! There are enough dragons here to keep St George busy for three or four weeks.

The house is only ten minute's walk from the shopping centre and after striking out at a pub that stopped serving meals at 7pm, we had dinner in a very nice Thai restaurant.

[Above - Remains of Roman buildings at Birdoswald]

The owner came out to have a chat with us after I'd ordered a bowl of fresh chilli. Apparently it's not a common occurrence. I'm not sure what he thought when I ordered and ate the second bowl! The meal was excellent and the staff attentive without being intrusive, so all-in-all it was a very enjoyable experience.

Martin, co-owner of the B & B saw the composite picture above with Lake Windermere in the far distance and asked me for a copy.  He wants to put it on his web site! I put my copyright mark in the bottom right-hand corner and emailed it to him.

[Right  - Gouthwaite Reservoir]

Saturday 6 October 2007

We weren't able to stay another night at Dragon Avenue so we went to the Tourist Information Centre to arrange an alternative. That done, we headed off for the Nidd Valley and points west.

First stop was Middlesmoor, which I thought might give Margaret an impession of the bleakness and implacability of the moorlands.  Unfortunately for this plan it was a magnificent day, and while we got to see some of the extent of the moors, they looked terrific!

Pately Bridge is unchanged, only the signs for the various businesses really.

Dacre and Dacre Banks are also substantially unchanged, but taking the back road down from Dacre I was really disappointed to find that Carr's Lodge Farm where grandfather Stephen Downes lived with his aunt was so changed as to be unrecogniseable.  The Wesleyan Church with grand-uncle Walter Houseman's plaque is unchanged, but that is about as far as it goes.

Springs Farm now hosts two "plastic" buildings which are totally out of keeping with the original farmhouse and environs, so I can only imagine that Moira and Ron Ashworth no longer control the farm. (later confirmed) The laneways which were quite well-kept when I was here in 1989 are badly overgrown.

[Left - Pately Bridge]
[Below - The bridge at Pately Bridge]

Worse, the house that grandmother Rosa Houseman was born in at Padside Green has been pulled down and replaced with a single-story house, or bungalow as they'd call it.

I didn't take photographs. I'd prefer to live with the pictures that I took in 1989, as they captured the houses as I want to remember them.

We took a run to Darley, which was far more extensive than either of us expected and there are only two reasonable venues for the Houseman Family Reunion there tomorrow, so it should be easy enough for us to find.

There are partridges all over the West Riding, in the paddocks, on the road, on the stone walls, on the roads....  Lunch on the hoof you could say - or, more correctly - on the claw!

Main door, Fountains Abbey Ruined tower, Fountains Abbey
Ruins from mill side of the river, Fountains Abbey

[Below, right - pedestal for pillar (note the almost life-like quality of the fern carvings!)]

[Above left - Main door to Fountains Abbey]
[Above right - Ruined tower, Fountains Abbey]
[Left - View from mill side of the river, Fountains Abbey]

The day was completed with an extended walk around  Fountains Abbey. As one of the richest Abbeys in Europe this would have been one of Henry's primary targets. The ruins cover an enormous expanse, perhaps 5 acres in all with vast lawns surrounding them.

We were going to walk around the whole area as there's a pathway that follows both banks of the river, but being a pair of crocks, we got about 3/4 of the way around to the bridge and decided to turn around and go back.

It's almost impossible to picture the way that the Abbey would have looked in its hey-day. It would have been so impressive. There are night tours, regular concerts and so on, all helping to keep the ruins from further deterioration. Running out of puff meant that we didn't get to see the deer park or water gardens.

The place we are staying at tonight is even closer to the city of Harrogate, about five minutes walk.

For dinner we had fish and chips - a speciality of the restaurant and, we were told, famed as the best fish and chips in the entire area. A lot of this might be self-promotion, but nevertheless it was pretty good.

We must have walked a fair distance today, as we were both shattered and were asleep by 9pm I think. The body clocks seem to have worked themselves out as we are now waking regularly at 6:30am, our usual waking time.

Sunday 7 October 2007

It seems we won't get a chance to go to York until much later, as we have to return to Rose and Karel's this evening for Margaret's visit to Kensington Palace tomorrow.

Pillar pedestal at Fountains Abbey
Michael Ellison

We got away fairly early and were among the first to get to the Memorial Hall for the Houseman Reunion.  It was our first choice for the likely venue and one which turned out to be correct.

At an early stage I counted 45 people there, and about ten had already left. Shortly afterwards there was an influx of nearly twenty more, so we estimated that more than 100 people turned up during the day.

How did I feel? Quite overwhelmed in fact. I don't have many relatives in Australia and if you were to put them all together in the one spot there might by 25 to whom I am related by blood!

We were very well received and I was able to fill in a lot of the Australian gaps (although I still have more to do).  I was even able to provide information about grand-uncle Walter who was killed in World War One and for whom there is a plaque at the Church near Springs Farm, behind Dacre.

We worked out that the convenors, Gary and Colin Houseman are my fourth cousins. Another fourth cousin, Michael Ellison had taken a picture of George Houseman's gravestone quite recently.  Ruth Bradley, nee Houseman was discussing it with me when Michael came over.

He was in the graveyard of the church at Hampsthwaite taking pictures of family graves, including that of his parents, grandparents and uncle.  He'd taken this picture, thinking that there was no direct relationship to him and couldn't explain why he'd done so.  Now he knows!


The memory of the just is blessed

George Houseman is my mother's grandfather and his wife,  her grandmother, was born Emily Jane Pullan. They are my great  grandparents and great, great, great grandparents to Abigail and Rahni.

Michael was kind enough to lead us to the churchyard prior to us returning home, and identified the graves so that we could take our own pictures.

We met so many people, and it was simply a joy to talk to them and discover that many of them are doing the same sorts of research for the same reasons as I had undertaken mine.

People are at various stages of discovery and the beauty of a day like this is that it puts people in touch with each other, sometimes after many years. It fills in the gaps, makes connections between the various branches and finally - and possibly most importantly - consolidates the sense of belonging that family nurtures.

Gravestone of George and Emily Jane (nee Pullan) Houseman, Hampsthwaite

[Below, left - Ruth Bradley, nee Houseman]
[Below, right - Ruth Simpson]

Ruth Bradley (nee Houseman) Ruth Simpson
Cousins Colin and Ruth

In the turmoil we never got to establish Ruth Simpson's relationship to my line, but after we return I'll get the current family file from Gary and Colin and hopefully we'll be able to work it out.  The family tree was in three separate pieces, each of which must have been three metres or more wide!

I think that Gary spent almost all of his time on the computer updating records, inserting new records and generally being busy. He scarcely had time to draw breath!

He and his wife had done a magnificent job of arranging the reunion, catering and all. It was such a busy time that I really didn't get the opportunity to thank them or Colin and his wife properly for all that they had done. I hope that I can make up for this by thanking them publicly in our travel diary!

[Left - Colin Houseman and Ruth Bradley, nee Houseman]
[Below - the Church at Hampsthwaite]

We forced ourselves to get on the road reasonably early and after a three hour journey (not including a break for coffee) arrived back at chez Dubsky at five past 7.  The trip was uneventful although the traffic was a little dense in places.

I recalled that during my long visit on exchange with the British Army in 1989 many people lived in a flat in the city during the week, going home on Friday afternoon, spending the weekend with their families and returning on Sunday evening. I don't know if that's still the case, or if it was only the military and Defence civilians with whom I dealt at the time.   Judging by the traffic density though, nothing's changed very much.

We've had a great time so far, but we'll appreciate a little rest before perhaps examining the delights of London.

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