Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Auto Adventure in the Peak District

It is "half-term" across all of England--a week-long school break that sends children and their families scrambling for things to keep busy. Deanna found an outstanding deal on a car rental so we've "hired" a mini-MPV (basically a compact mini-van) for the week to do some day and afternoon trips. This meant trying to recall how to shift a stick with my left hand, and getting used to being on the other side of the car and the other side of the road. (It also required getting used to Deanna's squeaks, squawks, and iron-clad grip on my arm as sitting on the left-hand side seems to induce an automotive vertigo for her. (OK, OK, maybe I was tending to hug the shoulder a bit tight at first!)

The weather has been absolutely gorgeous here (apologies to those of you still digging out in GR): sunny, warm, and dry. So on Saturday we set out on a tour of the country just west of York, a bit south of Manchester. This first involved a pilgrimmage to the little village of Holmfirth which is a bit of a knitters' mecca since it is home to Rowan wool. (We couldn't stretch a dollar far enough to actually buy anything, but I think Deanna enjoyed just seeing the wool in its natural habitat.) After a fun picnic there, we set off south into the "Peak District," a region right in the middle of England with rolling hills, lots of trees, caves, and more. It was a treat. Here's a few pictures with commentary.
Dee and the kids, looking back across the valley toward Holmfirth.We stopped in one of the many little villages and market towns that dot the slow, winding roads through the peak district. This one had a lovely town square where we sat and enjoyed a coffee. The kids spied an Oxfam store (a "charity shop" like a Goodwill) so we browsed the books and found some deals on a couple kids' books. After ice cream, Jack curled up on this bench with his "Horrible History" book about the Stormin' Normans who came to England with William the Conqueror. We kept pinching ourselves that we could be sitting in a sunny green park in our shirtsleeves--in February! (Thank you global warming! ;-)Though I usually consider all driving to be a version of a NASCAR race, the goal of which is getting from point A to point B as quickly as possible, the wending byways of the Peak District discourage that. So after some "animated conversations" about some "navigational challenges" (OK, OK: I did take the wrong exit!), we just took a leisurely pace and enjoyed stopping off at all kinds of view points and pretty spots. This one had a lovely gurgling brook with a tiny waterfall, with sheep grazing the hillside across the way.They've climbed so high you can barely see them, but this is Coleson and Jackson imitating the sure-footed sheep we saw all day long. Just before dusk we made it to the village of Castleton, which boast a number of caverns. This one was called "The Devil's Arse"! The ruins of a castle were perched on the left hill, and up inside the gorge there were flocks of black birds hovering and constantly cackling. It all felt rather Hitchcockesque. After this it go dark quickly so we made our way home through Sheffield and back to York.

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