Monday, October 05, 2009

Potterings At Pickering

First of all, my apologies if I haven't been feeding through all of your comments. After my (insert rude words) e-mail crashed, I lost the notifications of postings too, and then I was away, and it all went to hell in a handcart. I am hoping that normal service will now be resumed (whatever normal is!) Also please bear with the odd formatting. It looks fine in draft, but in my browser there are some odd gaps between the photos. Life would be boring if everything ran to plan I guess!

Sorry for the title. I couldn't resist it following on from Conquest at Kenilworth!
Actually it's more than just Potterings at Pickering. I was away in early September combining a family break with a spot of retrospective ground research in Yorkshire for To Defy A King. As many of you know, To Defy A King is about William Marshal's eldest daughter Mahelt and her marriage to Hugh Bigod, heir to the Earldom of Norfolk. It's a follow on from The Time of Singing, but it is also very much a stand alone novel. It ties in with The Scarlet Lion too and includes details of which I wasn't aware at the time of writing TSL.
Just click on the photos if you want to enlarge any.
The Bigod family in Roger II's and Hugh's day had estates in Norfolk, Suffolk, Essex and Yorkshire. They had 60 villages in the latter shire. The main holding of the family in Yorkshire which was held personally in demesne, was Settrington. It was held from the Crown for the service of nine knights and came into the Bigod family through marriage in the early part of the 12th Century. Hugh Bigod II was given Settrington by his father Roger in 1199. Perhaps so that the 17 year old youth could have an income of his own, perhaps to teach him the responsibility of governance, and perhaps to help out with the administration - or maybe all three.
Having set scenes at Settrington, I wanted to visit and pay my respects and walk the landscape to make sure I hadn't made any terrible mistakes. Whenever I stand on a piece of ground, I often think of one of those speeded up time capture films. This ground, this space even, has always been there in whatever form, and we just occupy it for a small moment in time. Even so we leave a footprint. So I'm aware that I am perhaps standing where Hugh and Mahelt once stood, and before them, who knows, a Roman, a Celt, a tree, a dinosaur!
Anyway, we spent a glorious afternoon in Settrington, walking the dog, taking photographs and enjoying the quiet beauty of a Yorkshire Dales village. The manor was held by lords of the Bigod name until the sixteenth century when they were disastrously involved in the Pilgrimage of Grace revolt against Henry VIII and effectively lost their lands. Francis Bigod was hung, drawn and quartered for his part in the rebellion. He was just 29 years old. However, genetically they continued to survive down the female line and numerous families in the region have Bigod ancestry in their blood.

A rather fine apple tree

Gates to Settrington House and as
close as I was going to get to
Hugh and Mahelt when in Settrington.

We were staying self-catering in the village of Nawton between Helmsley and Pickering, and this too was a Bigod holding, although not in demesne as their tenants were the Counts of Aumale for the service of four and a half knights.

Stubble field at Nawton, once a
Bigod holding.

We visited Pickering Castle, which is an excellent example of a motte and bailey construction.
The dog (11) loved it and romped all over the place like a puppy.

Artists Impression of Pickering Castle
in the 14thC

view of stormy skies from the top of the

Riveaulx Abbey was also on the agenda as it was virtually next door to where we were staying and even in its ruined state gave a strong feel for the power of the Cistercian order of monks who founded it and lived and prayed there - 650 of them in the 1160's from early beginnings of just 12.

Sunlight slanting down on the abbey ruins

medieval floor tiles

Taz goes exploring.

Riveaulx Moor. The North Yorkshire
Moors are the largest expanse of
heather moorland in England.
There you see, the Scots don't have a
monopoly on the heather!
Reminds of the Alfred Noyes poem The Highwayman. 'The road was a gypsy's ribbon, looping the purple moor.'

We also visited Middleham Castle. Not because of Richard III I have to admit, but because Hugh Bigod's brother in law, Ranulf, was once lord of this keep. The dog, who had loved Pickering, and pottered happily around Riveaux, was having none of Middleham and dragged my husband out at a rate of knots the moment we arrived at the West Range.
It was rather cold and dark there, but it was a warm day for September and I was quite happy about the chill air. the dog however, stayed outside and could not be persuaded to venture back in. He planted his bottom on the ground and refused to budge.
Most of the buildings were of a later date than 'my' Ranulf's, but still, it was interesting to see where he and his wife Marie Bigod had once lived - not to mention Richard III :-)

A very odd and somehow creepy statue
of Richard III at Middleham. behind him, just round the corner to the left is the West Range which Taz decided was seriously scary.

Can we go now please?

Houses in Middleham village

While on our Yorkshire week we went from Pickering to Whitby via steam train. This was courtesy of Santa and Holly Claus - and I would like to say thank you very much to readers Jean and Jim Brooks for being so hospitable and kind! Here they are in their Christmas personas aboard the Santa train!

Everyone say "aaarrrrrhhh!"
"Pirate" ship sailing out of Whitby harbour

I have also to thank Jean and Jim for recommending Lord Stone's Cafe at Chop Gate. If anyone is walking or hiking in that area, then do visit. It's a terrific tea shop and cafe very close to the Cleveland Way and some of the most spectacular views in England - the kind that make your eyes sting with emotion because they are so beautiful and so restorative for the spirit (even if they knacker your knees from the climb!). Did Hugh and Mahelt ever see the view from here? I like to think they did.

Just breathtaking


Taminator said...

Verra cool photographs! And a seriously creepy statue of RIII. Wonder what had Taz so spooked?

Jan Jones said...

Brilliant set of photos, Elizabeth! Really looking forward to To Defy A King

I reckon Taz knew a thing or two about Middleham.

Carla said...

Lovely photos. I do like the North York Moors, especially when the heather is in bloom - magical.

Nadine, Chewy and Lilibell said...

Breathtaking pictures! One of these days I'll hopefully make it over to England, it has been a lifelong dream of mine.

Maybe Taz sensed some spirits?? That was the first thing I thought of!

Nina said...

Amazing. How beautiful the pictures are.

Lynette (South Africa) said...

This is my first visit to your site in a few months, I'm loving catching up! What beautiful countryside, and how wonderful to "share" the ground - be in the same place - with the people you write about. Thank you for allowing us insights into your creative process. I can't wait for "To Defy a King".

Elizabeth said...

The photos are great. It looks like you had amazing weather! Some people believe that animals have a "sixth sense" so to speak when it comes to ghosts and whatnot. My only experience with this comes from a farm I used to work on that had a family cemetery in one of the fields and when riding, my horses would always step lightly and spook easily in the area. You probably know this, but the original idea of the steeplechase comes from England where riders would race from one churchyard to the next with the idea that the horses would automatically stop or veer at the next burial place. It's interesting to think that animals might have this innate ability to sense things we humans sometimes miss. Thanks for the great pictures of England! Can't wait to visit there again :)