The one where I visited Helmsley Castle

I had a lovely trip out on Friday. I’d arranged to meet my author friend Eliza J Scott but I’d just bought a new (to me) car after being a one-car-family for about seventeen years.

I picked her up on Thursday so this was her first proper run-out and what perfect whether I had for our outing. Music up, sunglasses on, absolutely fabulous. Officially, it wasn’t spring when I visited, but it certainly felt like it.

Eliza and I met in Helmsley and our first stop was for a drink and scone at a cafe Eliza recommended called Mannion & Co. I didn’t even bother to peruse the menu, going straight for the scones. However, after we’d been there a while, brunches and lunches began appearing for other customers and they looked divine. Must go back and sample something different.

Eliza went for a fruit scone with jam and cream and I chose a cheese scone with chutney and herb mascarpone cheese as that sounded a little unusual. It was delicious but those scones were enormous! Eliza’s was like a scone on top of a scone!

The cafe was very close to Helmsley Castle so we decided to go inside. As you can see from the pics, the sky was blue and the sun was bright and we ended up plonking ourselves on a bench and chatting.

It’s always good to catch up with author friends as there’s so much to talk about and the hours tend to whizz by. We had a quick shoot round the castle at the end to grab some pics before heading home.

Helmsley Castle is owned by English Heritage. I’ve only been once before and we’re talking many years ago when I was in my late teens. My best friend from school had a summer job cleaning in a hotel in Rosedale and she was staying in a static caravan on site. I borrowed my mum’s car one day to visit her and we had a little tour around including Helmsley Castle.

Hope you’ve enjoyed my sunny tour round Helmsley Castle. Wishing you a fabulous week.

Big hugs
Jessica xx

The one with the Whitsborough Bay tour round Scarborough’s North Bay

We made a decision to aim for one family day out each weekend but couldn’t go very far this weekend just gone. The munchkin was on a Duke of Edinburgh practise walk from one end to the other of Scarborough’s sea front (about 4 miles) on Saturday afternoon and we were expecting a plumber to quote for some work on Sunday.

As we needed to pick the munchkin up at the end of her walk, we decided to go early and have a wander round North Bay. It was a very cold and windy day – preparing for Storm Malik – and I took quite a few pics to show different parts of North Bay from my books.

STANLEY MOFFATT

Freddie Gilroy is an oversized statue of a former soldier who sits on his giant bench overlooking the sea at South Bay. You can read more about who he is and the story of the statue on this Wiki page.

He’s so iconic that he had to feature in my Whitsborough Bay stories but, as Whitsborough Bay is fictional, I needed to change his identity.

In my stories, he’s Stanley Moffatt, a fisherman who was saved by the RNLI. He’s first mentioned in The Secret to Happiness and features in Snowflakes Over The Starfish Café and the forthcoming Spring Tides at The Starfish Café.

As you can see, Freddie’s (or Stanley’s) bench looks a bit wet. It hadn’t been raining. This was from the earlier overtopping caused by the high tide and the wind so I took these photos very quickly while keeping an eye on the sea just in case.

You see the buildings on the top of the cliff? That’s where Danniella rents her flat from Aidan in The Secret to Happiness, although her flat would be a smidge further round off camera.

THE SEA

The dangers of dodging waves is one of the themes I explore in The Starfish Café series. In Snowflakes Over The Starfish Café, I talk about bollards being put up on the slipway after several tragedies. Although the details have been changed slightly on one of these, it is based on a true story from 2005 which resulted in the slipway near Freddie being permanently closed. Signs remind the public of the dangers of the sea yet people still take chances.

When we were down on the seafront on Saturday, it was a couple of hours after high tide. There were a few high waves and some spray but we stayed well back because we’re not daft.

The photo above shows the slipway that is permanently closed. Without giving spoilers, this is where an incident in Jake’s childhood occurs in Snowflakes Over The Starfish Café.

THE BEACH HUTS

Scarborough’s North Bay beach huts are gorgeous. Painted lime green, sky blue, red, orange and yellow, I decided not to change any aspect of them and they appear in my books exactly as they appear on North Bay.

They feature in loads of my books. In The Secret to Happiness, Karen’s bootcamp often takes place on the promenade in front of the huts which was inspired by my own experiences of doing two different bootcamps at 6am three mornings a week for a few years. Couldn’t do that now!

Clare walks along here on a visit to Whitsborough Bay in Coming Home to Seashell Cottage and they feature a few times in All You Need Is Love. And I’m sure you can see why.

SEA RESCUE SANCTUARY

Although I haven’t set a story there (yet), I do mention the Sea Rescue Sanctuary in several books, especially The Starfish Café series. In Scarborough, it’s really the Sealife Centre and it’s the pyramid shaped building in the background here (which I’ve changed to domes in my books).

HEARNSHAW PARK

Near Scarborough’s North Bay is the fabulous Peasholm Park, re-named as Hearnshaw Park in my books. Again, it features in several stories, perhaps most notably in Making Wishes at Bay View when Callie walks round the lake with Ruby and discovers the secrets from Ruby’s past.

Dusk was approaching so the pics aren’t the best as it wasn’t quite bright enough to pick out the colour but not quite dark enough to pick out the illuminations. But here you go…

Hope you enjoyed your little tour round Whitsborough Bay.

It’s February tomorrow – how did that happen?! Wishing you an amazing second month of the year.

Big hugs
Jessica xx

The one where we travelled up the coast to Redcar and Saltburn

I’m a bit of a workaholic and, as my job is also my hobby, I do have a tendency to work 7 days a week including evenings although, as I’ve mentioned in previous posts, this time at my desk isn’t always spent productively. I’ve pretty much perfected the art of procrastination!

Anyway, in an effort to break the constantly working thing, we’re trying to have one day each weekend where we go out as a family. A week ago we had a lovely visit to Sandsend and Whitby and on Sunday we decided to venture a little further up the coast to Saltburn.

Saltburn – or to give it its full name Saltburn-by-the-sea – is fifty miles from Scarborough but we’re talking slow coastal roads to get there so over an hour’s drive. It’s still in North Yorkshire but within the borough of Redcar and Cleveland and it’s very close to where I was raised. I was born in Middlesbrough but lived in the market town of Guisborough from when I was was three until I officially left home for my first job after graduating university. None of my family live in Guisborough anymore so it’s not an area we usually visit.

Guisborough is only five miles from Saltburn so we’d sometimes visit the beach there when I was younger and, when I was at college, I occasionally frequented a club there called Philmores which was the place to go if you wanted to get in under-age! It closed in the 1990s and is now a hotel.

As we neared Saltburn, I mentioned that I was curious to visit Redcar which is another six miles or so further up the coast. A similar distance from Guisborough as Saltburn, Redcar was where I went to college. I didn’t fancy doing A levels at the local sixth form, choosing instead to study a BTEC in Business & Finance at Redcar’s technical college (Cleveland Tech). I left college in 1990 and visited a few times in the years that followed as I had a couple of friends who lived there but it has to be at least twenty-five years since I last went and quite possibly more.

It was a particularly cold and grey morning when we arrived in Redcar and we parked at the far end in Coatham where the natural beauty of the beach and sand dunes sit alongside the man-made – Teesside Wind Farm with container ships passing by, and British Steel. The munchkin was not impressed with the industrial setting but hubby and I find the views quite fascinating, especially when the sun made an appearance on our return walk.

While we differed in opinion on whether the view was horrendous or interesting, we were all in agreement that one addition since I last visited Redcar wasn’t the prettiest. My photos really don’t do it justice because they’re too dark but if you click on the Redcar link earlier, you can see the ‘Redcar Beacon’ in glorious purple and golden-yellow colour.

At seven floors and 80ft high, this attraction was built in 2013 and provides panoramic views of Redcar. It looks like a helter-skelter wrapped round an old tower block. To me, it was reminiscent of a mini version of the 1960s built round tower block I lived in at Loughborough University! I wasn’t aware of its existence until Sunday but hubby seemed to think it had come under tremendous criticism.

I’ve just had a quick look on TripAdvisor and didn’t need to scroll through the reviews as the low-rating conveyed the strong opinion, as did this 1-star rating: “This structure is an abomination, a giant carbuncle on a seafront that has enough already. Whoever approved it’s construction was either insane or the recipient of a bung”. Hmm! I’m sure the views are fabulous.

When I was at college in Redcar, there were four of us who’d hang around together. At dinner time, we wandered into town and ate our packed lunches in some old wooden shelters on the seafront, regardless of the weather. Brr! Sometimes we’d grab a drink or snack in Woolworths or M&S as we cut through them to get to the front. Woolworths has long gone and M&S is also no more. It was weird seeing the back of the buildings as one of the buildings hadn’t changed at all since my college days of 1986-88, but I couldn’t decide if it had been Woolworths or M&S. I can barely remember what I did from day to day so thinking back thirty-four years is a stretch too far!

The seafront has changed with fresh paving, new shelters and some artwork. I didn’t think to take any photos although I don’t have any from my college days to compare them to as those were the days before mobile phones so we didn’t tend to take snaps.

Redcar town centre was pretty much unrecognisable. Like most town centres these days, there were lots of empty shops, but there were quite a few people around. I nipped into The Works. My brother had posted a photo a couple of weeks earlier of the shelves in the Redcar branch after my nieces rearranged them but there was only one copy of New Arrivals at Hedgehog Hollow left which was lovely to see.

We walked back along the beach and took a drive via Markse-by-the-sea and onto our original destination of Saltburn. The sun which had made a brief appearance in Redcar had gone so I’m afraid the photos are a bit dull and grey. It was late afternoon so it was only a brief visit and wander along the cliff top.

Whenever I think of Saltburn from childhood, I think of the extremely windy road to get down to the beach and the pier. I love piers. Opened in 1869, it’s 450m long and is the most northerly pier still in Britain today, which I hadn’t realised.

The funicular wasn’t in operation, being out of season, so we didn’t get a chance to ride on that. We decided not to wander down to the pier as we needed to get something for tea before the shops closed, but hopefully we’ll go back another day to have more of a wander.

I tried to get a selfie of me with the funicular and pier behind me but I still haven’t perfected the art of the selfie. My head just doesn’t work with the angle and I always look cross-eyed but here you go…

The munchkin is brilliant at doing selfies but I think that’s a generational thing. It’s like they were born instinctively knowing how to do it!

Hope you enjoyed my pics from a little further up the coast. It was good to visit Redcar again after all these years but strange to see how much had changed/how little I recognised. Hopefully we’ll have another trip out this coming weekend – destination as yet undecided – so watch this space!

Hope the last week in January treats you well.

Big hugs
Jessica xx

The one where Whitsborough Bay Harbour looks so pretty

On Monday night we took our dog, Ella, for a walk along Scarborough’s South Bay. The less commercial of the two bays – North Bay – is actually my favourite but South Bay has the pull of the harbour and the lighthouse and both of these look so pretty lit up at Christmas.

So I won’t witter. I’ll just show you some photos of Scarborough aka Whitsborough Bay looking all Christmassy and gorgeous. They’re not the best photos in the world – still haven’t mastered taking them on my phone despite having had the same phone for years – but it should give you a feel anyway…

Big hugs
Jessica xx

For the Whitsborough Bay fans, you see the shops/cafes/pubs all lit up? Behind that is the Old Town which is mentioned in several of my books. Seashell Cottage which appears in the Welcome to Whitsborough Bay series is in the Old Town and Jake from Snowflakes Over The Starfish Café lives in Lighthouse View there.

The large building above left is The Grand which is The Ramparts Hotel in my books (and very much a 5-star hotel which The Grand hasn’t been for a long time). The arcade next to it with the red lights is The Olympia which appears in my second Starfish Café book, Spring Tides at The Starfish Café (out 5th April) renamed as the Golden Galleon.

The one where I travelled to Narnia

When I was little, one of my favourite books was The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by CS Lewis. I read it stacks of times and was completely captivated by the idea of four evacuees entering the land of Narnia through a wardrobe. So magical! I was therefore very excited that this year’s theme for Christmas at Castle Howard was ‘Christmas in Narnia.’

Each year, Castle Howard – a gorgeous stately home between Scarborough and York – is dressed for Christmas and it’s seriously impressive.

Castle Howard in the summer

In 2019, when we had no idea that a global pandemic was about to change the world beyond recognition, I visited with my bestie and fellow author Sharon Booth. The theme was ‘Masquerade’ and you can read about it/see my photos in a blog post I wrote at the time here. On the back of that, I knew Narnia would be pretty special.

Castle Howard last night

We were originally booked to go to ‘Christmas in Narnia’ a few Saturdays back but Storm Arwen hit and Castle Howard made the decision to close for safety. There are so many trees in the grounds that there was too great a risk with the high winds. Worried that we couldn’t go, I panicked and re-booked pretty much the only slots available – an after-school visit last night – but received an email later saying to bear with them as they would be squeezing in some extra slots for those who’d had theirs cancelled so we could probably have done a weekend after all.

The imagination and attention to detail that goes into creating these Christmas themes is quite astonishing. There’s actually a Channel 4 series running at the moment called ‘Christmas at…’ which documents how various stately homes transform for Christmas. It started with the ‘real Downton Abbey’ – Highclere Castle, then Warwick Castle and, spookily enough, Castle Howard was aired last night. My in-laws mentioned this when we collected the dog from theirs … and I promptly forgot. I need to watch it on catch-up.

Visitors need to book and there are 15-minute time slots to keep a steady flow moving through the house. Some whizz through and others pause to take in all the detail and there are no staff moving you on; the flow happens naturally.

Four of the bedrooms were dressed for each of the four siblings, Susan, Lucy, Edmund and Peter. Susan’s room was clamorous, Lucy’s full of toys, Edmund’s as a ‘war camp’ and Peter’s grand and representing courage.

Lady Georgiana’s Bedroom aka Susan’s Room
Lady Georgiana’s Dressing Room aka Lucy’s Room (photo credit Mark Heslington)
Castle Howard Dressing Room aka Edmund’s Room (photo credit Mark Heslington)
Castle Howard Bedroom aka Peter’s Room

I absolutely loved the move down the old passageways with all the snowy-looking flowers, candles and lights.

Antique Passage through Narnia (photo credit Mark Heslington)

Then we reached the wardrobe of fur coats through which Lucy first enters Narnia, and the lamppost where she meets Mr Tumnus. Note the fawn’s red scarf tied around it – lovely detail – and his packages on the ground.

We soon arrived in the Great Hall with the most enormous Christmas tree – 28 feet high – which is frozen in time awaiting Christmas returning to Narnia. Wouldn’t have liked the job of dressing that!

As we passed through the Great Hall, we reached the Garden Hall where the White Witch is on her sleigh and there’s a box of Turkish Delight waiting to tempt Edmund.

(photo credit Mark Heslington)

The Music Room was an imagining of Mr Tumnus’s home where Lucy enjoys tea with the fawn. There was so much to look at here and I loved the detail of the undecorated trees symbolising the forest coming into his home (although they’re not in my photo).

The next room had even more detail. The Crimson Dining Room showed the woodland animals celebrating as they sensed victory for good over evil. There were animals everywhere and toadstools under the table. Absolutely gorgeous.

(photo credit Mark Heslington)

The Museum Room becomes the Professor’s study

When we visited the Masquerade decorations, the Long Gallery was packed full of figures and bridges and a ‘river’ but it was more understated this time with the colours of the Northern Lights now that Aslan is back and triumphant. Before we meet the great lion himself…

(photo credit Mark Heslington)
(photo credit Mark Heslington)
Christmas has returned to Narnia (photo credit Mark Heslington)

In the courtyard near the visitor’s entrance, there was a fire pit. Hubby had a coffee and the munchkin and I had a couple of giant marshmallows to toast. They were absolutely amazing.

I really enjoyed our evening. I’d loved to have lingered in some of the rooms for even longer to catch all the detail and I’m looking forward to seeing what they come up with next year as the two times I’ve attended have been brilliant.

Hope you enjoyed the pics as much as I enjoyed my marshmallow!

Big lion hugs
Jessica xx

The one where I’ve collaborated with Lucy Pittaway for an amazing Christmas giveaway

I am so excited to have joined forces with my publisher, Boldwood Books and my favourite artist, Lucy Pittaway, to bring you a fabulous Christmas giveaway.

One lucky winner will receive a framed 18″ print of their choice from Lucy’s Open Collection and signed paperbacks of the four books released in my Hedgehog Hollow series so far, including the newest one – A Wedding at Hedgehog Hollow – out on 6th January.

You can view Lucy Pittaway’s open collection here. Whether it’s sheep, cows, hedgehogs, houses, cyclists or something else that draws your eye, you’ll be spoilt for choice!

You can read the blurbs of my first four Hedgehog Hollow books here although if you’re not familiar with the series, there will be spoilers if you read them all so maybe just read what the first book – Finding Love at Hedgehog Hollow – is about!

I’m really excited about joining forces with Lucy Pittaway for this giveaway as, not only is she an amazingly talented artist, she’s a lovely person too who I’ve had the pleasure of meeting a couple of times recently. We already knew there were some spooky connections between us but were astonished to discover how parallel our lives have been. You can read all about this in a blog post on Lucy’s website here.

As explained in the post, Lucy’s artwork heavily influences the storyline in Starry Skies Over The Chocolate Pot Café.

The full details of the giveaway can be found on Lucy Pittaway’s Facebook page here but I’ve posted the stills from the video here to give you an overview of the offer.

For the full T&Cs and to enter, you’ll need to check out Lucy Pittaway’s website here. The closing date is midday on Christmas Eve and the winner will be announced later that day. What a special Christmas gift! Obviously you won’t get your prize in time for Christmas. My fourth Hedgehog Hollow book isn’t released until 6th January so I’ll be bundling up my share of the prize after then.

Please note that delivery will only be to a UK mainland address so if you’re based overseas, you absolutely can enter providing you have a friend/family member in the UK to whom the prize could be sent for safekeeping.

Hope you enjoy the article about our parallel lives. Good luck!

Big hugs
Jessica xx

The hedgehogs are back in The Works

I was delighted to get the news a couple of months ago that a fourth title of mine – Starry Skies Over the Chocolate Pot Café – was going into The Works so I absolutely wasn’t expecting to have another title in there but I have exciting news…

I have another book available on The Works right now – New Arrivals at Hedgehog Hollow.

I was planning to share this news as soon as the book appeared online but it hasn’t appeared on the website yet. However, my great friend and fellow author Jo Bartlett, spotted a copy in her local branch of The Works today in Broadstairs, Kent so it’s out there in some stores and will hopefully appear online really soon.

A Jessica sandwich of book my books with fellow Boldwood authors Lisa Hobman and Rosie Clarke in Broadstairs, Kent

New Arrivals at Hedgehog Hollow is the second book in the Hedgehog Hollow series. The first book – Finding Love at Hedgehog Hollow – went in during the summer so it’s fabulous having book two following its lead.

New Arrivals at Hedgehog Hollow can be read as a standalone book and I know plenty of readers who’ve loved it and followed the story well without reading the first book, especially as I provide a handy ‘story so far’ at the beginning. But I personally think that readers will enjoy a much richer reading experience and get to know the characters so much better by starting with Finding Love at Hedgehog Hollow and reading the series in order.

As I’m with a small (but rapidly growing) independent publisher, you won’t find my books in supermarkets or book shops so it’s a real thrill to see them on the shelves of The Works. I nipped into Scarborough’s branch on Thursday and the hedgehogs weren’t there and I was in the Beverley branch today and they weren’t there either so I’ll try Scarborough again next week and hopefully be able sign copies again.

If you spot either book in your local branch, please do share a photo with me on Facebook or Twitter. I love seeing them in the wild (no pun intended for the hedgehogs!)

Starry Skies Over the Chocolate Pot Café appears to have completely sold out online but there should still be copies in store. I think they’re also selling through quickly in store. There are none left in the Scarborough branch, there was one left in Beverley today and any other selfies I’ve seen only seem to have 1 or 2 copies on the photo which is exciting (I put the one copy below in front of someone else’s books for the photo opp!)

Go hedgehogs go!

Big hugs
Jessica xx

One copy of Starry Skies left in Beverley The Works (East Yorkshire)

Our Yorkshire Dales Adventure Part 3 – All Things Bright and Beautiful

This is the final part of my blog about our family week away in the Yorkshire Dales. Apologies it’s a day late – something urgent cropped up yesterday (work-wise).

Still staying with the James Herriot theme, I’ve selected another book title – All Things Bright and Beautiful – which is, of course, part of the hymn from which All Creatures Great and Small comes.

I’m focusing on an eclectic mix of beautiful things for this part, whether that’s beauty in nature, food, or simply things that make me happy.

Gayle Beck which runs off the River Ure passes through Hawes and we were staying in a holiday cottage just round the corner from it called The Old Surgery. It was a brilliant location, right at the edge of the town centre so very accessible for everything.

On Sunday morning, the day after we arrived, we went for a little wander and I took a photo of the waterfall – probably one of the most photographed sights in Hawes. As you can see, there was a gentle but steady flow of water. Very beautiful.

As the week progressed and the rain persisted, the flow strengthened…

And by the time we left, it was a raging torrent!

There used to be a mill across the beck from our holiday cottage on the other side of the bridge that that waterfall above flows under. There was an old enlarged photo in the cottage showing what it used to look like with the mill wheel. On the bottom photo, you can clearly see the wall around the wheel although the wheel itself is long gone. What’s particularly interesting is that there appears to have been a wall across the beck, presumably to keep the water higher for the wheel to turn. That’s gone too.

Hawes has a few lovely gifts shops and a particular favourite was one called The Mulberry Bush which stocked Jellycats (I love them) and some gorgeous Christmassy gifts.

A shop I always love to visit is Bear Cottage. It’s an interior designs business but it stocks some lovely gifts and I like to have a hug with the two bears outside although I was conscious this time of not putting my paws on them in this strange Covid world so I had to do a sort of hover thing!

There was a gorgeous bear inside too although it wasn’t so easy to get his photo. I wished I could have taken him home. He’s so gorgeous.

Mid-week, the rain was so torrential with no sign of let up so the munchkin and I left hubby back in the cottage with Ella (our sprocker spaniel) and took a walk to the other end of the town to visit the Wensleydale Creamery.

There’s a visitor centre there and a visit includes cheese-making demonstrations but we were on a mission for a cream scone! We were the only ones in the café at first. The scones were still warm – mmm. I’m not a massive fan of fruit scones, preferring a plain or cheese one. They had cheese but I wanted jam and cream so it had to be fruit. I will eat some of the fruit but then I hit the point where I have to remove it as it’s too much. If you’ve read Snowflakes Over The Starfish Café you’ll know what I mean when I said I did a Mrs Sultana.

Various pictures by my favourite artist, Lucy Pittaway, were displayed around the café and I was particularly pleased to see two of the images from ‘The Home Collection’ hanging right next to each other as, combined, they remind me so much of my Hedgehog Hollow series. I have the print of ‘Happiness is Homemade’ with the hedgehogs surrounded by wildflowers, just like in Thomas’s meadow. The three-storey house in ‘Dream Big’ reminds me of the farmhouse as shown on the cover of Finding Love at Hedgehog Hollow.

Lucy Pittaway’s art also inspires part of the storyline in Starry Skies Over The Chocolate Pot Café.

The gift shop at The Creamery is lovely and we had a good browse (and little purchase) before stepping back out into the torrential rain.

In the afternoon, we went over to the Dales Countryside Museum a few minutes’ walk from the cottage. It’s all about the people and activities in the Dales over the years and there are lots of activities to keep young children amused – or 14 year olds on a wet miserable day! 

We managed to catch a break in the rain with a trip out to Richmond and Leyburn, including a visit to Richmond Castle. There are fabulous views from the castle and the changing colours of the trees looked lovely, but the photos on a gloomy day like that don’t quite do justice to them.

While we were away, we celebrated a special publication day with the release of my very first foreign rights translation – Starry Skies Over The Chocolate Pot Café being translated into Italian. It’s called Festa Sotto La Neve and I hope sales in Italy go well.

And how do you celebrate an Italian publication day? With a takeaway pizza of course! We’re so sophisticated!

I hope you’ve enjoyed seeing the photos from another beautiful part of North Yorkshire, mainly caught during rare breaks in the rain. The ones I posted in Part 2 on our walk were the only day we saw blue sky across the whole week which was a shame and did somewhat hamper our plans for the week, although I’m just grateful for the opportunity to get out and about a bit after so long at home.

Big hugs
Jessica xx

Our Yorkshire Dales Adventure Part 2 – It Shouldn’t Happen to an Author

I posted yesterday about our visit to All Creatures Great and Small country as part of our week-long break in the Yorkshire Dales, and thought I’d continue with the James Herriot theme in this post. It Shouldn’t Happen to a Vet is one of Herriot’s books and I had an incident that shouldn’t happen to an author!

My parents don’t live too far away from Hawes where we were staying and my dad has always loved hiking but doesn’t get much of a chance to go these days. We’d suggested that Mum might like to spend some time in the holiday cottage with the munchkin while Dad, the hubby, Ella our sprocker spaniel, and I went for a walk.

The weather forecast for the whole week was pretty dire all week but it looked as though Monday would be the best day so they drove over then. We waited for a break in the rain after lunch and set off on a 2-hour circular walk – about the maximum we were willing to brave knowing it would bucket it down again. For me personally, there’s no pleasure in walking in torrential rain because the joy of walking is the beautiful scenery and if that’s obliterated by cloud and rain, there’s no point.

It was a lovely walk but we certainly encountered some weather during it! Bright sunshine gave way to torrential rain and then back to sunshine. I caught a rainbow but was gutted to realise that taking the time to do a panoramic shot meant I missed a red squirrel! And I wouldn’t care but the panoramic shot didn’t even work so I could have ditched it and seen the squirrel!

Dad had completed this particular circular walk before and had told us that there’d be various stiles across the fields. What we hadn’t appreciated was that many of these would be squeeze stiles. I’m not sure I’ve come across these before. They’re basically a narrow gap in a dry stone wall with a fence on one side to stop sheep getting through them. Did I mention they’re narrow? Did I mention the name ‘squeeze’ stile. Oh my goodness! They are not designed for short fat authors!

This is what a squeeze stile looks like, but this was actually one of the easy ones. As you can see, the stones are all fairly even and the gap is a reasonable size. I wish I’d taken a photo of one of the really challenging ones…

… although you can probably get a pretty good idea from this picture of me being ‘stuck’ in one.

Some of the stiles were up a step and others were up several steps, and this meant that the amount of wall the walker needed to squeeze through varied. Even where there was a lot of wall to pass through, someone of average height or above would pass through the gap with their legs only. But someone who’s 5 ft 2” like me is trying to squeeze the top of their thighs, their backside and their belly through the gap. And that’s one heck of a challenge when the person is as wide as I am, as you can see from the very flattering photo above!

I had to breathe in for every single stile and even sit on top of one of the walls and shuffle across because the gap was way too narrow. I was at serious risk of being wedged and feared we might have to call out the fire brigade to release me! It definitely shouldn’t happen to an author!

At another point, there was a stile by a gate and a metal pin stuck into the ‘gap’ at one side and the solid wooden gatepost was at an angle at the other, making a narrow gap even narrower. This presented another challenge. I couldn’t squeeze my backside or belly through because of the metal pin, and I couldn’t get my boobs past the sloped gatepost! The men tried to open the gate but the string closing it was too tangled so I had to climb over it and hope it would take my weight. That could have been mortifying, although I’d already had significant embarrassment from the squeeze stiles.

My dad, in the meantime, was as spritely as a mountain goat making easy work of the hills and stiles. He’s 76! 

There were only a couple of normal gates on our walk and one opening with no gate at all. What a sight for sore eyes!

My legs are still covered in bruises and my stomach muscles were killing me on Monday night and the following day from all the breathing in. But I did enjoy the walk. And it was worth it for the amazing views.

We joined the Gayle Beck (which runs off the River Ure) at the south of Hawes. The water was pretty fast-flowing and the ford fairly deep. A couple walking their dog at the other side were obviously looking to cross the ford and let the dog test the depth first. They soon turned round and retreated!

Didn’t stop me having a large cream scone at the Wensleydale Creamery the following day, but more about that in Part 3 coming tomorrow.

Big hugs
Jessica xx

Our Yorkshire Dales Adventure Part 1 – All Creatures Great and Small

The hubby, daughter, dog and I have just returned from a week holidaying in the Yorkshire Dales. We live in North Yorkshire ourselves but it’s such a huge county with lots of slow country roads that you can easily travel for several hours and still not have left it! We stayed n a small market town called Hawes, which we’ve visited several times before.

The Yorkshire Dales is James Herriot country. I remember watching the TV series back in the 1970s/1980s and really enjoying it so I was a little unsure about the C5 remake but, my goodness, have they done an amazing job on it. I absolutely love it and the cast are fabulous. It’s heartwarming, funny and the scenery is simply stunning.

We took a drive to Grassington one day which is Darrowby in the C5 version of the programme. It’s only 22 miles from Hawes but the roads are slow and narrow so we’re talking a one-hour journey! The original series was filmed in Askrigg and Thirsk but there has been more development in these towns in recent years and the roads around them in particular did not lend themselves to the 1930s authenticity of the series.

There’s a great article in the Yorkshire Post online about some of the shop transformations here.

It was a wet soggy day (the whole holiday was wet and soggy) so the photos are a little dull but I had a chance to pose outside the building used for the exterior of Skeldale House where the veterinary practice is based and the vets live.

The actual house used in Grassington doesn’t have pillars outside – these are added for the filming along with metal railings and shrubs – but the location is so recognisable on the top corner of the market square that we knew for sure we had the right building. The scenes inside Skeldale House are shot in a studio.

‘Skeldale House’ is the one on the top right by the lamp post

I also posed outside The Drovers Arms which is really called The Devonshire. If you look closely at the frosting on the windows in the second photo, it says The Drovers Arms.

We actually had our lunch in there (and it was delicious). The walls are covered with photos of the cast. As with Skeldale House, only the exterior here is used. The inside was too modern for filming but the inside scenes are within a pub rather than a studio – The Green Dragon Inn at nearby Hardraw. We’ve been there before but didn’t get a chance to visit this time.

Grassington is a very pretty Dales village with lots of cafes and gift shops although there were quite a few closed the day we visited which was a shame. We didn’t think a Tuesday was a typical day for closures but presumably it’s not busy enough out of season (even in half term) to justify the full-time opening hours. One of the closed shops had some fabulous All Creatures Great and Small signs in the window and a wonderful painting above the door.

Although not featured in the series (or at least I don’t think it is), I couldn’t resist taking this photo of The Cake House. Who doesn’t love the idea of a Cake House? It was a café, but also closed so I couldn’t gaze at or sample the cakey loveliness.

On our journey back to Scarborough at the end of our holiday, we stopped off in Thirsk where some filming took place in the second series. James and Helen queued outside the Ritz Cinema shown here.

We would have liked to visit the James Herriot Museum in Thirsk – the World of Jame Herriot – but, being an indoor museum, dogs can’t go in (except assistance dogs), so we’ll hopefully visit another time.

And if you love All Creatures Great and Small, you might also love my Hedgehog Hollow series. There’s a vet, lots of stunning countryside, and hedgehogs.

Watch out for Part 2 of our Yorkshire Dales Adventure – It Shouldn’t Happen to an Author – coming soon.

Big hugs
Jessica xx