Grassington Dickensian Festival : snow in the Yorkshire Dales.
Grassington Dickensian Christmas Fair.
I had been trying to get to Grassington Dickensian Christmas Fair for several years so Christmas 2010 was going to be the year I got there. I could almost taste the mulled wine, see the blazing braziers and torchlit procession and hear the choir singing Christmas carols.
So obviously there was no way a little bit of snow was going to stop me.
When I say a little bit of snow, what I really mean is somewhere between 20 - 30 cms of snow which is not inconsiderable to us wimpy Brits who like to winge if the sky is cloudy. (We're internationally reknowned for our weather-watching habits and, I suspect, internationally mocked).
The trouble is that despite the 2009 winter having more snow than usual we continued to think it was just a one-off so we weren't geared up for another one in 2010. We'll nail it next year though.
The pitfalls of driving in the Yorkshire Dales in snow.
I thawed out my car after a frosty night amongst the low-lying water meadows of beautiful Bolton Percy near York and set off up the A1 heading for Harrogate.
Optimistically taking the Skipton road out of Harrogate I was quite unprepared for the quantity of snow I suddenly came across as I climbed up to the Yorkshire Dales which sit on a section of Britain's boney backbone, The Pennines.
In retrospect I was desperately naive … as a native Yorkshire woman I really should have known better.
I missed the turnoff from Blubberhouses that cut through to Greenhow Hill. Well, not so much ‘missed' as 'couldn't find it', buried as it was under almost a metre of pristine snow.
So I pressed onto Bolton Abbey where I skidded into the car park of a tea-room to take stock of the situation and take charge of a cup of tea, the traditional British remedy to crisis, and a large scone with jam. This, I reckoned, was definitely a crisis.
Yorkshire Dales in the snow … make sure your journey is necessary.
The road from Bolton Abbey to Grassington is called The Scale. It is often incredibly narrow and very bendy, add deep snow piled up against the dry stone walls at either side and it gets even narrower.
As I gloomily munched my scone I listened in to the waiter's conversation and gathered that The Scale was passable, but only just, so I needed to decide whether or not to go on.
On the face of it it looked like sheer folly and remembered newsflashes of idiot drivers stuck in the snow rose in my mind. What would I say when they interviewed me? ‘But I really wanted to go to Grassington Christmas Fair,' sounded like a lame excuse, even to me.
Despite this depressing thought I decided that I really did want to be that foolish. Not that I didn't have second thoughts as I puttered along ... third and fourth thoughts even.
Grassington at last.
Frankly the trip was hair-raising and I would have killed for a 4x4 but it was also unbelievably beautiful and I just had to stop and photograph my way along, trying not to get hopelessly stuck in the snow piled up at the roadside.
The sun shone on farms and distant hillsides, glittered in trees and everything was monochrome except for the vivid blueness of the sky.
Being bred in God's Own, as we conceitedly call it, I am well used to traveling round the Dales but snow ... deep, pure snow ... added another dimension to its beauty and I was glad I took the chance.
Eventually, after adroitly avoiding the few other demented road users I met and the drystone walls lurking beneath the snow drifts, I trickled into Grassington. The sun was shining and there were people everywhere, significantly most of them were wearing wellies.
Leaping out of my car excitedly into the deep snow of the car park I yanked my wellies from the boot of my car, put them on and had only gone three steps before my socks had been eaten by the boots and my feet were bare.
The necessity of proper socks for Wellington boots.
So my first stop was at a shop selling outdoor wear where I bought the most amazing pair of walking socks which had both the size woven into them and even an L and an R so I could tell which foot to put which sock on.
I was well impressed and found I could ignore the fact that as my feet are very small these socks were probably made for children. Now, adequately socked and booted at last, I set off to discover what Grassington's Dickensian Fair was really all about.
Grassington … jewel of the Yorkshire Dales.
Grassington is one of the undisputed summer jewels of the Yorkshire Dales and it is just as spectacular on a snowy day, but in a different way. Despite the snow, its cobbled streets and square bustled with just enough people to make it interesting but not uncomfortably crowded.
The Christmas stalls sold everything from little cheeses sealed in brightly coloured wax coatings to hog roast baps, succulent with apple sauce, sage and onion stuffing and crisp crackling. The shops sold crafts of every sort, antiques and art and the spiced fragrance of mulled wine and gingerbread drifted all around. And in every inn window people looked out at the snow and the visitors and smiled in their comfort.
There was definitely a feeling of all the most romantic aspects of a Victorian Christmas in the crisp air.
Leaving Grassington as the snow fell.
As I wandered my way round the village, in and out of the numerous little cobbled lanes, or 'folds' as these alleyways are called here, savouring the long-ago-Christmas feeling, I eventually became aware that the sun was going down and that the snow clouds were advancing again.
Sadly it was time my adventure in the snow ended before I was trapped in the village. Not that I felt that that would be such a bad thing as there were plenty of warm and hospitable inns and quaint and cosy cottages offering bed and breakfast.
It had started to snow again by the time I had turned my car onto the road again heading for Pateley Bridge and I was nervously aware that the roads would become very slippery too.
A last break in the clouds as the sun was just setting on my way to Ripley had me stopping for one last photo memory of the day before I hurried back down towards Knaresborough and the safety of the lowlands of the Vale of York.
But I promised myself that I would return the following year and then I would definitely stay for the weekend to sing carols and wander through streets lit by flaming torches.