Friday 30 April 2021

The Familiars

It's a while now since I picked up The Familiars by Stacey Halls in The Works. To be honest, I don't know what drew me to it, it certainly isn't a genre I'd usually choose but I'm so pleased I bought it as I really did enjoy it.

"In a time of suspicion and accusation, to be a woman is the greatest risk of all...

Lancashire, 1612, Fleetwood Shuttleworth is 17 years old, married and pregnant for the fourth time. But as mistress at Gawthorpe Hall, she still has no living child, and her husband Richard is anxious for an heir. Then she crosses paths by chance with Alice Gray, a young midwife, who promises to help her give birth to a healthy baby.

When Alice is drawn into the witchcraft accusations that are sweeping the north-west, Fleetwood risks everything by trying to help her. As the legendary Pendle witch trials approach and Fleetwood's stomach continues to grow, time is running out and both their lives are at stake..."

This is a story of fiction set amongst the facts of the Pendle witch trials, of which I knew very little about. Since reading this book, I now want to learn more about the true stories of the Pendle witches and I'd love to visit the area in Lancashire where it all happened. Characters, places and events in the book are real but the story is not, but that doesn't make it feel any less real.

I really do need to step out of my comfort zone more where books are concerned. I find that the books I wouldn't usually reach for are some of the ones I enjoy the most. I'd definitely recommend this one.

Monday 26 April 2021

Last Week

I don't think Mick could have picked a better week to take off work, the weather was glorious, with the temperature just dropping a little on Wednesday but that was okay. We really made the most of his time off with some days out and a little relaxation at home too.

On Monday we headed off to Scarborough on the east coast. It was wonderful to see the sea again after more than a year. You can read about our day in my Vitamin Sea post.

We were in North Yorkshire on Tuesday visiting the market towns of Helmsley and Pickering, though we didn't visit on market days. The towns are always nice to wander round though.

Afterwards we visited a couple of villages in the North York Moors. We enjoyed seeing all the new life around, particularly all the cute lambs.

It was overcast when we woke on Wednesday so we decided to visit a few shops close to home in the morning. I don't wear much make up but I needed a couple of things so a trip to Boots was in order and I couldn't pass The Works without popping in. I picked up a few crafting supplies, and I couldn't leave that pretty bee themed writing set behind. Things are such good value in The Works. I bought some new books on their three for £5 offer, two of them have the same title but are by different authors and have totally different stories, it will be interesting to read those. We came home for a spot of lunch and then headed out to Otley, a market town on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales. We were going to have a walk along the river but it was still cold when we arrived so we just had a stroll around the town instead. We passed the crematorium on the way home so we took some flowers to leave at the family memorial stone we have there.

On Thursday we decided on another trip to the coast, this time Whitby. We love strolling round the little shops in the Old Town. Again, it was fairly quiet though not as quiet as we'd found Scarborough on Monday, certainly a lot less busy than it usually is in Whitby though.

In the afternoon we had a drive up the coast to Sandsend so that Archie could have a run on the beach but we hadn't checked the tide times and unfortunately, the tide was in. Actually, Sandsend was really busy. We like it there as we often have the beach to ourselves but there would have been no hope of that on Thursday, we couldn't even get a parking space. Instead, we headed back down to Scarborough where Archie got to have his paddle.

Friday, another day, another beach. We made it to Sandsend, but again, it was busy. We've noticed places getting busier as the week has worn on. Archie's grown tireder as the week's gone on too, so it was a case of an hour at Sandsend and then we drove into Whitby for some lunch and then went on to Thirsk for a mooch.

We may not have been away from home for a holiday but our staycation was wonderful. Plenty of days out and time spent together. I think Archie enjoyed it too, though he's probably enjoying the rest he's getting at home now after such a busy week.

Thursday 22 April 2021

Vitamin Sea

It's been over a year since we've visited the coast, the last time was March 2020 just before the first lockdown. We could have visited since, restrictions were lifted and then put back in place twice, but we've kept away from crowds. I've had a yearning to see the sea though, so with Mick being on holiday from work this week, we decided that a trip to the seaside was in order.

Monday dawned sunny, bright and warm so we decided to head straight off on Day 1. We did have a few doubts as we passed by York and a mist rolled in but that soon passed us by and the sun shone again. We really couldn't have asked for a sunnier day.

Scarborough is probably our closest seaside town and we really like it there so that's where we headed. I think Archie's missed the sea too as the minute he was let off his lead he couldn't wait to go for a paddle.

He was in and out of the sea. I couldn't believe the weather, beautiful sunshine, not a cloud in the sky, and even though it can usually be quite windy at the coast there wasn't even a breeze. It was really warm.

Restrictions have now been lifted but I'm in no hurry to visit crowded places so I was a little apprehensive about visiting the seaside but I needn't have worried, there were no crowds.

Even the town itself was very quiet. Children returned to school after the Easter holidays on Monday so I'm sure that helped. It was definitely less busy than I'd been expecting.

Beach treasure.

We had a walk around the harbour.

I love looking at all the boats.

Scarborough has a working harbour and a thriving fishing industry. Fishing trips can be taken from the harbour as well as pleasure cruises.

There's always a gull who is happy to stand a pose for a photograph.

Mick and I shared a bag of chips for our lunch and Archie may have snaffled one or two. Then we had an ice-cream. Well, you can't visit the seaside without indulging can you. They were huge!

Then it was back on the beach. We had to walk those ice-creams off.

It was just what the doctor ordered. We couldn't have picked a better day weather wise and I came home feeling fully refreshed. Archie was zonked all night!

Sunday 18 April 2021


Our last holiday was to Cornwall in 2018. We usually have a summer holiday each year but when my mum died in 2019 I felt we couldn't leave my dad alone and so we went without a holiday that year. After then losing my dad in June last year I felt in desperate need of a holiday, I could have really done with getting away from it all after such a difficult couple of years but the coronavirus pandemic put paid to that. So here we are, three years on since our last holiday and not only have we not been away but we haven't had many day trips out either owing to lockdown and restrictions.

Mick hardly took any holiday from work last year, he was left with lots to take at the end the holiday period which runs from the 1st of April to the 31st of March, but he's been so busy at work over the last couple of months that he's ended up carrying some over into this year's entitlement. So he's now got forty three days holiday to take this year.

As you can see, he's decided to take all this coming week off work, and there's nothing else in the diary so we're hoping, now that restrictions have been eased and we're allowed to travel further, to have some nice days out.

I'm missing the sea. The last time we visited the coast was just before the first lockdown in March last year so it's been over a year. Archie loves a good run on the beach too, so we'll probably have a ride out to the seaside. Apart from that we'll just play it by ear. A mix of days out, relaxing at home and getting a few jobs crossed off the list sounds good to me.

As for a proper holiday, I'm not sure whether we're going to bother again this year or not. It will all depend on what happens with the virus. Even though we're allowed to do more things now, I'm still not comfortable being in crowded places. Why take risks if you don't have to? That's my way of thinking.

How about you? Are you thinking of going away this summer?

Wednesday 14 April 2021

Candy Store Ruins

One of the things I've always enjoyed about blogging is connecting with people, I love reading all the comments I receive and I enjoy reading blogs and leaving comments myself. I've made lots of friendships over the years since I've been writing my blogs and I've been lucky enough to meet some of the people I've met through blogging who I now consider to be good friends. One of my oldest blogging friends is Susan who blogs at Granny Smith's Quilting. We've been leaving comments on each other's blogs for many years and we met for the first time in 2014, I wrote about it in my Bloggy Meet Ups post. It's funny really as I have friends in England who I haven't met, yet Susan lives at the other side of the world in Australia and we've met up a few times.

I had a lovely surprise last week when the postman knocked on the door. I was handed a parcel but couldn't think for the life of me what it could be as I wasn't expecting anything. Then I saw the customs label and was even more puzzled as I couldn't think what Susan would be sending to me.

Imagine my delight when I opened it up and found this gorgeous skein of yarn. This is Australian sock yarn, 85% SW merino and 15% nylon which has been dyed by a young man who lives near Susan. His yarn dyeing business is called Maximoo Yarns.

Aren't those colours glorious. And such a fun and apt name for the yarn too, Candy Store Ruins.

Thank you so much, Susan. As I've said before, you do spoil me. I just need to think of the perfect project in which to use this yarn now but it won't be getting knitted up immediately, I shall enjoy just looking, squishing and stroking it for a while first.

Saturday 10 April 2021

Spofforth Castle

On Easter Sunday we decided to drive a little further afield than we have been doing, though we didn't want to go anywhere that was going to be busy so we headed to Spofforth Castle. We've passed this many times but it's the first time that we've stopped and had a look around.

Spofforth Castle, situated in North Yorkshire, was a fortified manor house and ruined during the English Civil War.

It was owned by the Percy family, one of the important and influential families in northern England. Reputedly it was here that rebel barons composed the Magna Carta in 1215.

Only the west range of the medieval manor house, which contained the principal apartments, still stands.

Spofforth Castle surprised me, I wasn't expecting much and though it's only a small ruin, it's very well kept, there's interesting information boards, it's free admission and somewhere a bit different to walk Archie.

Archie was eager to enter the ruins, the steps to the ground floor are quite steep but there are various entry points so you don't have to go down these if you don't wish to.

Ruins such as these capture children's imaginations, there were a few families there when we were visiting but as you can see from my photos, there certainly weren't any crowds. 

William de Percy built a manor house here in the 11th century, although nothing remains of this older building.

During the Wars of the Roses, which I wrote about in my last post, the Percys supported the House of Lancaster. Following the Battle of Towton in 1461 the victorious Yorkist side, led by the Earl of Warwick, marched on Spofforth, burning the castle and plundering the countryside. 

The castle lay in ruins for nearly 100 years until 1559, when it was restored by Henry Lord Percy. By this time, however, the seat of the Percys had shifted to Alnwick in Northumberland.

Sampson Ingleby was the last recorded occupant of the castle, he was the castle steward. He died in 1604 and the castle was finally reduced to ruin during the Civil War.

The ruins, primarily the west side of the original castle, are now listed as a grade II listed building and under guardianship of English Heritage.

It was nice to visit when we had blue skies, though there was quite a strong wind blowing.

The castle stands in the beautiful village of Spofforth. Parking is on the roadside in front of the castle and there's a nice green space with picnic benches which is ideal for families or dog walkers. Our visit here followed on nicely from the Towton Battlefield Trail which we visited on Good Friday and I'm sure it's somewhere we'll visit again.

Tuesday 6 April 2021

Towton Battlefield Trail

Good Friday dawned quite dull but by lunchtime it had brightened up so we decided to take Archie for a wander. Towton Battlefield is about six miles away from where we live, there isn't much there apart from the information boards, but it's a nice walk. I wrote about it in my A History Tour In Four Parts post back in 2013.

The Battle of Towton took place during a snow storm on Palm Sunday, the 29th of March 1461, during the Wars of the Roses and it was probably the largest and bloodiest battle ever fought on English soil. Approximately 50,000 soldiers were involved in the battle and it brought about a change of monarch with Edward IV displacing Henry VI, establishing the House of York on the English throne.

A memorial cross, known as Dacre's Cross, stands by the side of the road.

A wreath had been laid just a few days prior to our visit commemorating the anniversary of the battle which had taken place 570 years earlier.

The start of the trail. 

There's well positioned information boards along the trail.

The information boards give a good insight into the history of the battle and other interesting facts.

This area is known as Bloody Meadow. Up to 28,000 men lost their lives during the battle.

The weapons of the time were very different from those used today, though still really quite gruesome.

Artefacts from the battle have been recovered over the years.

Even through it had brightened up, a bitterly cold wind was blowing so we didn't walk the whole trail but it was far enough for Archie. It's nice to be out in the countryside.

The hawthorn is just coming into flower.

There's some lovely scenery, though it's always nicer on a sunny day.

Archie enjoyed his walk. He went to the groomers last week and is sporting a very short haircut, which was lovely for him when the weather was warm, not so comfortable now that the cooler weather has returned.

We've had mixed weather over the Easter weekend, a little sunshine, some dull days and lots of wind. At least we missed out on the snow which some parts of the UK experienced.

Friday 2 April 2021

Long Weekend

It's the Easter weekend, bank holidays today and Monday, giving us a long weekend. As usual for a bank holiday, the weather isn't up to much. We had gorgeous weather on Tuesday and Wednesday, if only it had held.

We don't bother with Easter eggs ourselves but someone in the household wouldn't be happy if he didn't receive one.

This is a special doggy Easter egg. Don't forget, you shouldn't feed ordinary chocolate to your dog as it contains a chemical called theobromine which is poisonous to dogs and other animals.

We don't have anything planned for the weekend. Although restrictions have now eased and we no longer have to Stay at Home, I don't much fancy going anywhere that's busy. We'll just play it by ear, watch what the weather's like and see what we fancy doing.

Have you got anything planned for the weekend?