Posts Tagged ‘Boroughbridge’

Aldborough Agricultural Show (24 July 2011)

Tuesday, August 9th, 2011

After a couple of weeks away, we return home to glorious weather; blue skies and really hot.  Normally, we are still away this weekend, so we generally miss the local show – the Aldborough and Boroughbridge Agricultural Show – which is gentle like the North Yorkshire Show and without the crowds and hurly burly of the Great Yorkshire Show.  It is held in fields between Langthorne and Newby Hall.  It is a gentle rural affair, full of that classic English charm of craft and bakery competitions in the main tent, and the serious stuff of horse competitions and the fun of cattle, sheep and dog shows.  Then, there are the cake stands, beer stands, hog roast, WI tea rooms and bouncy castles for the children.  We went for 1 hour and returned 4 hours later, having met lots of friends and generally had a good time.

My favourite things were the shire horses, the parades of cattle and vintage tractors, all so lovingly kept chugging along.  Here are some pictures that tell the day much better than words can describe:

Shire Horse At Aldborough And Boroughbridge Agricultural Show

Shire Horse At Aldborough And Boroughbridge Agricultural Show

Parade Of Vintage Tractors

Parade Of Vintage Tractors

Stockman Snoozing By His Prize Cattle

Stockman Snoozing By His Prize Cattle

Prize Winning Fodder Beet

Prize Winning Fodder Beet

Pots Of Jam At Aldborough And Boroughbridge Show

Pots Of Jam At Aldborough And Boroughbridge Show

Prize Winning Onion Sets

Prize Winning Onion Sets

Walk In North Yorkshire – Battle of Broughbridge

Saturday, July 17th, 2010

I have a confession to make – I am not a big walker that likes to conquer hills and mountains, even if I know I should be striding forth across moorland and up mountains.  I am not a walker that goes into the hills for the beauty of nature; I get that beauty all around me from the wonders of trees and flowers through to birds, insects and even ants – these are all amazing species that look good and have amazing science behind them.  I like to walk for a purpose, to find something out, to seek out interesting places; I am in awe at those who do long, difficult walks, but that’s not for me, perhaps I am simply too lazy. 

So as well as looking for the confluences of some of our local Northern rivers, I am seeking out some of those battlefields that shaped Britain as it is, or perhaps England more so.  What I like about battlefields is that fact that they are really nonexistent, they need to be conjured up in the mind as all you get when you find the site is a field, and often a flat and boring field.  However, there is little genuine interest in how England then Britain was forged as can be shown by the fact that the memorial for the Battle of Boroughbridge was moved in 1852 from Boroughbridge and now stands proud, but forgotten, in the village of Aldborough just outside of Boroughbridge.

Memorial To Battle Of Boroughbridge

Memorial To Battle Of Boroughbridge

The Battle of Boroughbridge was in 1322 and was important for two reasons: (i) Sir Andrew de Harcla, King Edward II’s commander, defeated Thomas, Earl of Lancaster, and his rebel barons, cementing the power of the Crown over the Earl of Lancaster, the second most powerful baron in the country and perhaps at the time the richer person; (ii) it was the first battle to show the power of the longbow in battle, as well as mainly using foot soldiers rather than mounted warriors.  While the former point is generally the one cited in history books, it is the success of using archers that perhaps had the greater impact for England with one of the first great battles in the English memory bank – the Battle of Crécy – happening just over 20 years later in 1346.

The walk is more of an amble than a walk as it is very short, so I actually augmented it by doing it in two stages.  The first part was a walk along the north side of the Ure, where Harcla was positioned and then I drove a short distance and walked along the south bank and towards Aldborough, where the memorial is located.

For the first section, you go over the bridge in Boroughbridge, and just before you get to the roundabout, park your car in a car park just by the river.  From here, you walk back towards the bridge and then pause to look at the bridge as this is the position of the original wooden bridge, even if it is not the actual one; we are standing where Sir Andrew de Harcla would have stationed his pikemen, mounted knights and perhaps 2000 archers to stop less than 1000 attempting to come across.  

On the opposite side of the road and just before you go over the bridge, you cross over and go through a gate onto Milby Island.  Milby Island is not a natural island, but was created when a short strech of canal was built to by-pass the Ure at this stage, carving out a section of the earth to become Milby Island. 

It is a short pleasant stroll amongst the sycamores and hawthorns to Milby Lock at the tip of the island, however before you get there and about 500 yards in, you can look across to a beech tree that I reckon is the line across which Lancaster tried to ford the Ure.  The usual local historical view is that the point at which Lancaster and his troops tried to ford the River Ure is further on at the tip of Milby Island, which then of course was not an island; as you can see from the photo, the anglers were out in force having a fishing match this Sunday morning.  I crossed over the lock and walked a short bit further along the river and looked back at the Ure and Milby Lock before retracing my steps.  For variety, I then walked along the north side of Milby Island beside the canal that was dark and shaded in the sunny light, and then after passing several narrow boats, walked up some steps and came out opposite the car park.  A motor boat had passed by in the canal, chugging along to the lock, while the narrow boats here were a little bit bedraggled compared to the brighter and happier looking ones that I had seen recently at Ripon.

Fishermen By Milby Lock on River Ure

Fishermen By Milby Lock on River Ure

Milby Lock In Yorkshire

Milby Lock In Yorkshire

Boroughbridge Canal In Yorkshire

Boroughbridge Canal In Yorkshire

For the second part of the walk, I drove to a gate beside Boroughbridge Primary School and walked down to beside the river and then walked along the Ure and into Aldborough on top of the local flood levee.  At the start of the walk, you can walk down to the river’s edge and try and work out for yourself where Lancaster and his troops would have attempted to cross the River Ure.  My favourite point is somewhere between the copper beech tree and the tip of Milby Island, however we will never know for sure. 

River Ure Crossing At Boroughbridge

River Ure Crossing At Boroughbridge

In Aldborough itself and by the village hall, you can see the original memorial to the Battle of Boroughbridge that used to stand in Boroughbridge.  As I walked, I was amazed to be the only person out and about for a walk here, but the sand martins were flying around, as was an oystercatcher.  The fields were beginning to turn to a golden yellow and the elder flower were out in the lane coming into Aldborough – I must collect some and make some elderflower cordial.

The backdrop to the Battle of Boroughbridge was fairly simple – Thomas Plantagenet, Earl of Lancaster, who was also the King’s cousin, had fallen out with King Edward II because of his weak rule (he was eventually deposed by his wife Isabella in 1327) and his favouritism for Piers Gaveston at Court.  In fact, Piers Gaveston had been granted land all over England including the Manor of Aldborough just beside Boroughbridge.  Along with many others, Lancaster had forced King Edward II to banish Piers Gaveston in 1311, but he returned from France in 1312, so Lancaster and his army attacked King Edward and Gaveston at Newcastle, defeated them and the King went south to raise and army while Gaveston fled to Scarborough, where he surrendered to the Earl of Pembroke.  On his journey with Pembroke, however, he was captured at Oxford by the Earl of Warwick and taken to Warwick Castle; then on 19 June 1312, he was taken to Blacklow Hill and murdered.  King Edward II swore vengeance on all those implicated in Gaveston’s murder, which included primarily his cousin, the Earl of Lancaster, who was also the second most powerful person within England.

In the period from 1312 to 1322, the differences between Lancaster and the Crown widened as King Edward led a failed campaign against Scotland in 1319.  In November 1321, Lancaster mustered a large force at Doncaster and pushed south, however Edward crossed the River Severn and succeeded in obtaining the surrender of several marcher lords and then one of Lancaster key retainers, Robert de Holland, switched sides to the Crown.  King Edward advanced northwards and after a stand-off at Burton Bridge on 10 March 1322, he was forced to retreat towards Dunstanburgh Castle in Northumberland.  Before he get get there, however, Sir Andrew de Harcla coming from the north was to block Lancaster’s retreat northwards at Boroughbridge.

The Bridge In Boroughbridge From the North End Like Harcla

The Bridge In Boroughbridge From the North End Like Harcla

Having spent the night in Ripon, Harcla marched his force towards Boroughbridge, where they set themselves up on the north side of the River Ure.  Harcla put pikemen and knights on the north end of the bridge, which in those days was narrower and made from wood but still at the same location as today.  Then somewhere between half a mile and a mile downriver, Harcla positioned pikemen in a schiltron formation at a ford across the River Ure.  Both positions were supplemented by archers beside each crossing.  In total, Harcla is recorded as having 4,000 men, but it is likely that this figure has been inflated over time.

Lancaster’s plan was to attack with his smaller force using cavalry to cross the bridge, however it is unlikely that mounted cavalry could have crossed the bridge in numbers.  Sensing this, many of his men disappeared in the night and come the morning, Lancaster was quickly defeated and surrendered.  Lancaster was taken to Pontefract Castle and executed, together with many of his followers.  King Edward remained very unpopular, was usurped by his wife and finally killed in 1327 probably by suffocation although the more popular account is that of Thomas de la Moore that records:

“On the night of 11 October while lying on a bed [the king] was suddenly seized and, while a great mattress… weighed him down and suffocated him, a plumber’s iron, heated intensely hot, was introduced through a tube into his anus so that it burned the inner portions beyond the intestines.”

Short Walk In Boroughbridge – Yorkshire

Wednesday, June 23rd, 2010

Saturday evening saw the roads quieten off as everyone hunkered down to watch England in their first match at the South African World Cup.  The constant background noise from the A1 disappeared as it only ever does on Christmas Day – England hoping for glory, 30 million people preparing for disappointment, which came when Robert Green fumbled his save from a half-hearted shot from Clint Dempsey of the USA.  So England start with a 1 -1 draw and the heartache begins, yet we can still dream.

I went on a very short amble before the football to walk past the Devil’s Arrows in Boroughbridge.  These are 3 large sandstone grit menhirs that comprise what was once a line or series of 4 or 5 megalithic structures from around 2000BC, which were mined from Plumpton Rocks by Knaresborough.   In the 1560s, William Camden described “foure huge stones, of pyramidall forme, but very rudely wrought, set as it were in a straight and direct line… whereof one was lately pulled downe by some that hoped, though in vaine, to find treasure”. 

While they have been called many names, they are now generally known as The Devil’s Arrows, as (so the story goes) the devil felt slighted by Aldborough a settlement near to Boroughbridge, so he flung these stones at Aldborough from How Hill, near Fountains Abbey outside of Ripon, but being a poor shot or a bit of a wimp, his arrows fell short.  It is, also, claimed that you can raise the devil by walking around the stones 12 times in an anti-clockwise direction – who knows?

Three of the stones still stand close to the edge of Boroughbridge near housing and roads called Arrows Terrace, Arrows Crescent and Druids Meadow.  The missing two are thought to include one in the grounds of Aldborough Manor and another in the structure of the bridge over the River Tutt within Boroughbridge itself.

Many theories abound as to their purpose, but I like them for their mystery and the fact that they are just plonked their inconspicuously in a field and by a house within Boroughbridge.  History stretches back thousands of years in this region and will continue for thousands of years in the future, and we will toil on and survive whatever is thrown at the region by the devil or the Romans or Vikings or Kings and Queens of Northumbria or England or passed by ukase from London.  Soon the actions and demands from Parliament in London will become lost in time, a mystery, but life here will continue undiminished, unaffected and timeless.

One of the Devil's Arrows

The Largest Devil's Arrow

This is a very gentle walk.  I parked my car opposite Charltons, the Renault car dealer, and then walked about 50 metres before turning left into Roecliffe Lane.  Crossing over, you walk past modern housing that fills the space between Horsefair and the Devil’s Arrow fields.  At the brow of the small hill, you cross over to the largest arrow that stands 6.9 metres high (22 feet 6 inches) beside the road.  I like to touch the stone and feel if there is any power that emanates from it, but it never does as that’s just New Age garbage; I do the same with trees and similarly feel nothing unlike the tree-hugging Fins who think that it centres their souls. 

The Devil's Arrows

Grooves On The Devil's Arrows

This megalith soars upwards, and you can see the grooves that are perhaps relics from when the local tribes cut and dragged the stones to here, and you look up to the trees and the sky, seeing the awesome space that stretches above us towards infinity; frightening, so I return to earth and contemplate the understandable.

I crossed the road and before following the footpath down to John Boddy’s Timber, I walked around the wheat field to the other 2 standing stones – one of these is stranded in a sea of short wheat stalks, while the squatter final stone is in the grasy verge.  This one is a bit squatter and also has the grooves that you could see on the first larger stone.  It’s a decent view back along the three stones.  Now you walk back, then take a small ginnel into the housing area.  Here I paused and watched a thrush and a tiny wren jumping about in the hedgrow and singing out their songs to anyone who wanted to hear, but there was no-one but me.

View Back Along The Devil's Arrows

View Of The Devil's Arrows In Boroughbridge

You are in a housing estate with pretty, neat little bungalows made from red brick and tidy gardens of all shapes and sizes and styles.  This is Druids Meadow that stretches from Roecliffe Lane to Valuation Lane.  Valuation Lane runs alongside John Boddy Timber where you can get all sorts of fancy woods that have been used to refurbish Windsor Castle and York Minster, for example. 

Valuation Lane Through To Horsefair

Valuation Lane Through To Horsefair

As you get to the end of Valuation Lane, turn right back up Horsefair and passing the Methodist Chapel and St Helena to get back to the car.  Horsefair was originally the Great North Road and was a busy staging post and postal area, plus the area of the traditional June horse fair, the Barnaby Fair, where there was a fortnight of horse-trading followed by three days of cattle, sheep and hardware trading plus time for pleasure.

The demise of the milkman

Thursday, February 18th, 2010

Our milkman has decided to call it a day – bad back is his reasoning – and no-one wants to take over his route around Boroughbridge. 

I suspect that the weather has also caused havoc for him; I know that rounds have been taking at least twice as long at night and other milkmen have been slipping and falling over in the freezing temperatures.  I wouldn’t want to be out in the depths of the night with temperatures sometimes below -10oC.

Last year was also another bad year for milkmen as Dairy Farmers of Britain went into administration in June 2009.  So I guess that means we will need to start going to the local shops for milk.

There is a note of nostalgia in my views about milkmen.  They are one of those quaint little strands that makes England what it is, but we cannot and must not stand in the way of progress, I suppose.  However I shall miss the neat array of glass bottles sitting on the doorstep, the routine of putting out the bottles to be reused (very green compared to big plastic bottles), while my ears will no longer be subconsciously woken up by the sound of the milk being delivered.

Electric Milk Float

Electric Milk Float

While our milk here has never been delivered on an electric milk float.  That high pitched whine of the milk float was one of the sounds of the English cityscape and much like the sound of the cuckoo is disappearing from our landscape.  I loved the sound of the milk float when I lived in London.

There’s a whole site on milk floats at http://www.milkfloats.org.uk/index.html with sounds and videos at  http://www.milkfloats.org.uk/media.html.  My favourite audio file is http://www.milkfloats.org.uk/delivery.wav.

The demise of the milk man reflects the rise in the grocery multiples who dominate the shopping habits of Britain and, I guess America and every major economy now – Tesco is big in Thailand and Eastern Europe.  We like the convenience of driving to an out of town supermarket, piling the car up with all kinds of goodies and then trundling back home, or we love the convenience of shopping online and getting our groceries delivered by Tesco or Ocado or Asda.

Times change.  It may be nothing but the previous milkman also ran the village Post Office, but that closed about one year after he stopped doing the milk round.

Is this the end of rural England, or is rural England really just a myth that we all think made England what it is?