Yorkshire can be grim in winter – so bitterly cold and wet and grey – but when the weather warms up, this place comes into its own and I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. It is a frugaleer’s dream here! This is partly because it’s so pretty and there are so many things to do free or at low cost, and partly because every so often, the interests and hobbies of many of my fellow moor and dale-dwellers err on the side of bonkers. Work has been non-stop, but here is what I have been getting up to on my thrifty weekends.
Picnics! I love a good picnic: a little fresh bread, Wensleydale cheese and a few tomatoes go a long way in the midday sunshine. This picnic was in honour of my friend N (yes, she of the beautiful Chelsea flat furnished by eBay), who was up over the bank holiday.
If you know North Yorkshire, see if you can guess where this picnic took place. Can you? I’ll give you a clue: there is a castle there…
Gardens! This is the Himalayan Garden in Grewelthorpe, which is just north of us. It sells Himalayan plants to gardeners around the UK, and every year the owners open up their gardens to the public for a few short weeks in the spring. This is a woodland garden, with 20 acres of walks set 850 feet above sea level. The terrain is pretty steep, so it’s one for the sturdy. We stumped up £6.50 each for entry: we hadn’t been before and the opening season is very short, so we figured we would get in while we could. This year the Himalayan Garden closes to the public on 23 June 2013.
Tractorfest! This was a vintage tractor festival at Newby Hall, a stately home and gardens a few miles from here. Generally speaking, I have a limited interest in farm vehicles. Thrifty Baby, however, thinks they are the best thing since sliced banana – and his enthusiasm is fairly infectious. Also the people who own the vintage tractors, who bring them to the festival from all over the country, are lovely and were happy to let Thrifty Baby clamber around. The place was a sea of tractors- 500 of them – and the air was thick with roaring engines and petrol fumes. There were stalls selling tractor cushions, tractor biscuit tins – you name it.
The adult tickets were £9.50, with under-fives getting in free, but I turned up halfway through the afternoon and the kindly Yorkshire natives manning the gate decided it couldn’t be thoiled and insisted on selling me a concession ticket instead.
I bought Thrifty Baby a tiny hi-vis vest for £3 because he kept scaring the daylights out of me by scampering off into the paths of the giant tractors that were phut-phutting around.
When the evening drew in, the March of the Tractors began, with a procession from Newby Hall to our Market Square.
Farms! The second Sunday in June was Open Farm Sunday, when farms around the country fling open their doors to marauding children. And it’s free. I like free. We took ourselves off to a farm called Birchfield, which is in the Dales just outside Summerbridge, a village which is also the location of my dream home. At Birchfield they make their own ice cream and have their own ice cream parlour.
Thrifty Baby loved the farmyard animals: the lambs, calves, pigs, chickens and geese. Me? I liked the ‘Caterpillar': a homemade ride, fashioned from plastic barrels and tyres, in a line on the back of a tractor. The Caterpillar whizzed around the farm, with squealing children sitting in the barrels. My husband and I were too big for it and Thrifty Baby was too small, but I hope he can have a go on it next year.
Fire engines! On Saturday the local fire station had an open day, so we went along. Thrifty Baby was given a plastic yellow firefighter’s helmet, but his favourite bit was the bouncy crash mat, which he upcycled into a fine trampoline.
1940s Day! Valley Gardens in Harrogate is an amazing park: it stretches on forever, is beautifully landscaped and is filled with flowers and crazy plants donated by Victorian botanists. On Sunday the Friends of Valley Gardens held a 1940s day around the bandstand. There was a swing band, dancing and some amazing outfits.
I would love to tell you that I went all dressed up, but it was a last-minute decision to go. Next year, perhaps: the day was so popular this year, they are planning to hold it over two days next time around. I dressed Thrifty Baby in a stripy woollen tank top and matching cords (both from the jumble), so he looked the part. There were some fantastic outfits and victory rolls on show. I was inspired. I also dribbled over the old school pram (above), which I wouldn’t be able to fit through the door here, let alone find somewhere to keep it. But it is gorgeous, isn’t it?
Now I am looking forward to the next few Yorkshire weekends: I don’t know what they are going to bring, but I have a feeling they are going to be fun…
P.S. I would have posted this a lot sooner, had I not dropped half a mug of cocoa into my laptop last week. Miss Thrifty: destroying computer hardware since 1983. (SOBS & SHAKES FIST.)
P.P.S. I took most of these pictures on my phone, with Instagram. I am not an Instagrammer-gone-wild, but I do use it as an image bank for posts I am planning. If you use Instagram – or if you want to see a picture of an AMAZING neon pink tractor that I didn’t have space for – you can find me here.