A Weekend Filled With Memories

While living abroad, one of the things I’ve most missed is being able to spend time with my mum. Sadly we lost my dad years ago, and I will always wish I hadn’t been so far away for the last years of his life. But mum is still here and now that I’m home, I want to make sure we get to spend time together when possible. This weekend just gone is exactly what I had in mind. It was a weekend I planned as mum’s birthday treat, but which ended up being just as much my treat.

Let me explain. When we were kids, we had magical holidays – the kind of holidays that stay with you always. The kind that define who you are in some deep and profound way without ever being expressed. Here is how I have always thought of those holidays …

My parents believed that country air and family ties were what mattered most in life, so for our holidays they took my brother and I to a magical place, where we got to sleep in a tent and where all there was to do was play in the river and hang out with a gaggle of cousins and aunties and uncles and eat potatoes roasted over an open fire and laugh. There was a lot of laughing.

(Click to make bigger. My dad is the one in the silly bobble hat and my mum is in the bikini on the ground with my brother and me to her left)

Here’s how mum says it really happened – my parents didn’t have enough money for much in the way of holidays and so they went camping with my dad’s brothers and sisters and their families. When the campsite they planned to use was full, they found an empty field in a far-flung part of the Yorkshire Dales (long before James Herriott made that part of the world famous) and the farmer agreed to let them camp there. After that, mum and my dad and his brothers and sisters and their husbands and wives and children all went back twice a year to the same field because a) it was gorgeous and b) it was cheap.

Needs must and all, and it was just a field by a river, but to me it was the happiest place on earth. The place where we got to float in the river on dingies and paddle and fish and where I never had to wear a dress and where there was always someone to have fun with. Especially my cousin Jane, who was a tomboy like me and didn’t think I was weird for liking boys’ stuff more than girls’ stuff, and who could imagine the same adventures as me. I don’t care if we only went there because it was cheap – I wouldn’t trade those memories for a hundred luxury holidays on a hot beach somewhere.

(Me paddling)

(A successful day’s fishing!)

(Having fun with my dad on the river)

So anyway, for mum’s birthday, I booked us into a hotel in Reeth, the nearest decent-sized village to the place we used to camp. But this is where it became more my treat than hers, because she drove me up to Reeth the long and windy way, showing me her favorite places all the way up the Yorkshire Dales, through Wharfedale and over into Wensleydale and then up over the wild moorland and into Swaledale, which is “our” dale and the one we will always think is the most beautiful.

It was an amazing ride on a beautiful summer’s day. Here are some of the photos I snapped.

The Dales start off gentle and green

And then things get a bit wilder

And then once you get up onto the tops it’s just you and sheep and views for as far as you can see

The finally we dipped down into Swaledale and it was just as magical as I remember although my photos could never do it justice. You kind of have to be there.

Mum and I revisited the old campsite. Here’s then

And now

And then we made for Reeth and the lovely hotel where we were staying. This was the view from our window

The room was lovely, but the food was even better. If I tell you it was a four course meal and that this was the dessert menu

You’ll have some idea of how full we were by 10 pm. (Yes, the spiced toffee pudding with butterscotch sauce and ginger ice cream was every bit as good as it sounds and worth every Weightwatchers point!)

I wish we could have stayed longer, but I console myself with the thought that it’s all only an hour and a half up the road now, so I can go back any time I like.

I think mum enjoyed her birthday trip – and I’m positive that I did!


12 thoughts on “A Weekend Filled With Memories

  1. Your Mom is beautiful! Loved your pictures and childhood memories. My parents always took us camping too and yes, they are some of my most cherished times spent with family. We grew up poor, but I had no idea because no one ever told me and to be honest I had everything I ever needed ( I’m not talking about material things). Thanks for sharing your Mom’s birthday week-end with a virtual stranger 🙂

    • How funny Pam – you had the same experience as me although thousands of miles apart. As kids we don’t know about ‘rich’ and ‘poor’ – we just know how we felt and how I felt was happy. We’re both lucky to have been loved and given all the things that matter.

  2. It was a lovely, lovely weekend, crowded with so many recollections of so many happy times. I’ll treasure the memory of it forever.
    Thank you,

  3. I have read this with tears in my eyes – your wonderful family once invited me to share that field with them, only a family tragedy took me away early. The few days I was with you all are all that you recolect and more. Swaledale has forever been my prefered (not allowed to have favourites!) dale and that holiday iced the proverbial cake.
    My overriding memory of your dad was his distinguised qualification in ‘O’level chip-butty’ and the fun that surrounded him, we were like you and had little in the way of money and material things when we were younger but with such brilliant parents we never knew.
    Please pass my love onto your mum and I am thrilled she had a great birthday.

    • I had forgotten that but you’re right of course. It was so sad that you had to leave but I’m glad you were left with a love of the best Dale of all!

    • Mum and I both said that as we drove down through the Dale. It’s just the best one and that’s that. Although honestly, I’m coming to love Nidderdale almost as much…. almost.

  4. Hi Louise Hope you don’t mind me gatecrashing your blog. I read your posts on BE and picked up on your blog. Just wanted to say that we visited Keld which is a little way up from Reeth going towards Kirkby Stephen a couple of weeks ago. Friends of ours have a barn conversion in Soulby just on the outskirts of Kirkby Stephen. They invited us to stay with them for a few days at the start of the kids hols. So four adults and eight teenagers headed out with a dinghy to Keld and rafted down the river. We had a fab day. What a beautiful area of the Dales!
    We as a family moved out to Canada a year ago and very soon realised just what we had left behind. Our two children were not the best age to move (16 and 13) but its only by being away from the UK that you realise just how fantastic it is. We live in Bradshaw, Bolton where we have open moorland on our doorstep so don’t have to get the car out. We can pick up many, many footpaths and walk for hours. Which we do quite often.
    Your memories on camping also resonated with me as those are the type of holidays we gave our two children, although mainly on the North Cornish coast. We have travelled abroad with them on many occasions, Europe, US and of course Canada but when asked they always without hesitation say that their favourite hols were camping. It gave them an appreciation of the great outdoors and space to be kids. No distractions from high tec gadgets just the outdoors – lots of games of rounders, football, kite flying, body boarding and star gazing at night sat outside in our sleeping bags watching the night sky. We saw many shooting stars and of course made our wishes. It was a cheap way of exploring the UK at weekends as well and have camped in the Dales, Norfolk, Northumbria, Cumbria, Scotland and Lancashire.
    What a lovely gift to your mum!

  5. Hi Louise
    Another great post, I am sure your mother was grateful for both the treat and precious memories that you relived on that weekend.

  6. Louise, I have not visited this blog for a while and it is so nice to all your beautiful photos. They make me so homesick. But this post struck a chord in my heart. Especially the line about not trading a 100 holidays on hot beaches…Your camping trips sound idyllic and remind me of my own childhood, also done I know for reasons of economy. How very very special to be able to revisit with your mother. Thank you for your posts and keep them coming. For now at least I am treading in your footsteps through your photos but hope to be home soon.

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