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.
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.
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 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!