A Hike at Hardcastle Crags

Does anyone else keep a mental list of local places to visit when you find yourself at a loss for things to do near home? I try to keep that list present in my mind, but I often find myself with brain freeze when the times arise when we can’t think of something to do. Hardcastle Crags has been on that list since Richard told me about it a couple of years ago. And, with my brother, sister-in-law, and niece visiting, we were fumbling to come up with something to do on a Sunday that didn’t require a long car ride. I impressed myself and Richard by actually remembering Hardcastle Crags, and I believe all of us were impressed with the great day out it provided.

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We parked up and headed off in search of the mill that houses a café. (You do have to pay to park unless you are a member of the National Trust.) We knew we didn’t want to follow the road the whole way there, so we quickly headed downhill to the river and followed the river the entire way. It’s a beautiful and fairly easy walk. There are a few places along the walk where there are stepping stones across the river, so we had fun crossing those.

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When we reached the mill, there were a good number of families enjoying picnics around the river. We had lunch inside at The Weaving Shed Café. The food was simple and good. There are signs in the café saying that they are “off the grid” meaning they don’t receive electricity from the national grid, so they can’t always guarantee that they can serve hot food and drinks. It’s a unique little place, and I like the quirkiness of it. They also have a small gift shop along with the option to tour the mill for an additional cost. We had two kids under two with us, so we decided to forego the mill this trip. There is further hiking past the mill, which I think is more strenuous and that we will hopefully check out some time soon.

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After leaving Hardcastle Crags, we headed into Hebden Bridge to show our visitors this funky little village. We had ice cream (basically a must on every day out with an almost 2-year old and a twenty-something ice cream-obsessed sister-in-law) and enjoyed walking around checking out the shops, the canal, and the lock system. The canal and the locks were of particular interest to my brother and sister-in-law because it isn’t something you see much in the U.S. They even got to see one of the narrow boats go through a lock. I loved to see there was a crowd gathered to watch the boat pass through – oh, the excitement of life in a small village!

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I’d definitely recommend Hardcastle Crags (and of course, Hebden Bridge) for a nice day out in the Calder Valley. The day was a great reminder to explore the beautiful places close to home as well as those further away.

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The War of the Roses

With my husband being an avid cricket fan, he mentioned to me in passing that Yorkshire would be playing Lancashire at Headingley Cricket Ground during the summer for the famous War of the Roses match. The game is called such because Yorkshire’s symbol is the white rose and Lancashire’s is the red rose. I did my research and saw that tickets went on sale at the beginning of February for the T20, so I set myself a reminder to purchase the tickets that morning in February for Richard’s birthday gift. He told me what stand he wanted to sit in and I did the rest.

Flash forward to Friday the 5th of June and it was time for the cricket match. I had told Richard he could take one of the guys if he preferred, but he wanted me to go, which made me really happy because I’ve actually come to enjoy cricket over the past few years. Yes, some of the matches can go on for days (literally), but as I mentioned earlier, this match was a T20, which meant each team bowled 20 overs for a total of 120 balls (6 balls in an over). T20s are fast-paced because each club bats their heart out since they have a limited amount of time to get as many runs as possible.

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The atmosphere at these matches is brilliant with the fans being extremely enthusiastic about their home county. Any event which pits Yorkshire versus Lancashire is bound to be full of banter and shows the fairly intense rivalry between the neighbouring counties.

We arrived about an hour prior to the start in order to grab a pint and some food at the grounds. It was already filling up and there was a buzz in the air, a lot of which was due to the extremely excited Yorkshireman that I am married to! He was filling me in on random facts and bits of information, and I was completely enjoying seeing him so excited.

After finishing off our dinner of sausages and our first round of pints, we made our way to our seats. As we started to come down the stairs in our sections, I was convinced we were fairly high up, but Richard just kept walking down closer and closer to the cricket pitch until we realized that we were in the front row. At that moment, I believe I scored close to 1 million wife points! Richard’s face (okay, let’s be honest…mine too!) was plastered with a giant smile.

Sitting in our seats, we were enjoying people watching when we heard an announcement stating that before the start of the match there would be a filming for one of our favorite shows, A League of Their Own. (Those of you in the U.S. may recognize the host of the show, James Corden, as the new host of The Late Late Show.) We were even more excited now to see some of the cast from the show playing cricket. It was quite hilarious to see these non-cricketers trying to bat. (Well, one of them is a cricketer, but he bowled at them…FAST.) We’re looking forward to when the episode runs next season. Soon after, the match started and my favorite Yorkshireman was in rare form as he cheered loudly for his county’s cricket team.

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One of the things I was looking forward to was hearing the chants from the fans. Many sports teams here have some epic chants, so Richard had said there would likely be some great ones at this match. We could not help but laugh though as the only chant coming from the Yorkshire fans was a very drawl “Yorkshire, Yorkshire, Yorkshire.” It was so blah and had no oomph to it, which was such a stark contrast to the energy of the match.

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Although Yorkshire put themselves in a great position to win after batting first, Lancashire ended up winning by a few runs. The result was disappointing, but we still had an amazing time. I completely enjoyed the experience and hopefully we’ll be able to catch another T20 next summer. I have always liked sports – not all, but most – and with cricket being such an iconic sport here in England, I’m happy that it is something I can enjoy watching with Richard.

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Scenes from the Yorkshire Countryside

The landscape and the views that make up the English countryside are truly beautiful. I’m partial to the Yorkshire countryside in particular and 2015 has brought some of Mother Nature’s best work to our area. We’ve had all sorts of weather since the year began and that weather has left us with some gorgeous scenes that I wanted to share here. I hope you enjoy these photos!

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The Santa Special Steam Train

Yes, Christmas is long behind us, but I can’t not blog about the fun we had on the Worth Valley Railway’s Santa Special steam train. In the autumn, we had talked about looking into a Santa train ride, but it slipped my mind a few times. Then, my parents booked their flights to be here for two weeks in December, and we thought about how fun it would be to do this train ride with all four of the grandparents. I booked in October and they were only able to get all 7 of us on the 3:55 train out of Oxenhope. (If you are interested in this for Christmas 2015, I would definitely try to book in September when the tickets first become available. That’s our plan this year!)

At first, when I saw the nearly £17 (roughly $25) ticket cost for adults, I thought we should maybe give it a miss. But, that is because I thought the 10-mile journey with stops in Keighley and Haworth would be on a train similar to the commuter trains with the TransPennine Express. Oh, how wrong I was! This gave Richard a good laugh and he set me straight by explaining that this was actually a proper old-fashioned steam train, I became extremely excited. Honestly, I could not wait for the 13th of December!

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We arrived at Oxenhope station and it felt so Christmas-y — from the old-fashioned gas-lit lamps lining the platform to the ‘Winter Wonderland’ they had set up in the railway museum. Of course the moment we had to step outside to wait for the train, the rain started, so we kept the little lady covered as best we could and the rest of us anxiously awaited the train’s arrival with the hope of warmth once aboard.

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It was so neat to see the proper steam engine pull into the station (because of the rain I didn’t catch a clear photo of the engine), and it felt as if we had been transported back in time. We boarded our carriage and found our seats then were greeted by the jolliest woman who made sure we were comfortable and ready for a good time. I loved that the carriages had the original seats, upholstery, and luggage racks. Those details along with the Christmas decor really added to the festive nature of the train ride.

Soon, we were on our way and prepped for what was to come – a visit from Rudolph, Scrooge, and Santa and his elves. Well aware that we had a one-year old with us, the hostess on our carriage was kind enough to let us know there would be loud singing once Scrooge arrived as we needed to scare him off with our Christmas cheer in the form of Christmas carols. We would quite certain it wouldn’t bother our girl, but it was nice of her to forewarn us just in case. As we suspected, she was completely fine with the additional noise plus she loves music, so I think she enjoyed watching us sing along.

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I can’t remember at exactly what point they came through the carriages with mince pies and sherry for the adults, but that was a big hit with our parents…particularly our mothers who seemed to let that sherry go right to their heads! Hilarious. Our little lady surprisingly loved the mince pie. They do have a very specific (and almost spicy) taste to them, but she finished one on her own!

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Soon enough, Santa came through the carriage with an entourage of elves. It was a pretty impressive operation to ensure that each child received a gift appropriate to their age. Our girl got a great gift set that came with a book about an eskimo and a stuffed penguin like the one in the book. She LOVED the penguin!

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We were so happy with the entire train journey and our sweet girl seemed to enjoy it, especially the food part of it! We’re definitely planning to make this an annual tradition and look forward to making more memories on the Santa Special steam train in years to come!

Things That Are Ace, Vol. 1

Many bloggers have a series highlighting things they like, and since moving to England, I’ve acquired quite a few favorites that I’d like to share. So, in what is now about 43rd attempt to get back to blogging, I’d like to start a similar set of posts. The first in this series is a locally-inspired one.

Just Jenny’s Ice Cream

Oh. My. Goodness. If you live in West Yorkshire, get yourself to one of their stockists immediately. About a month ago, I was at our local farm shop and noticed the mini tubs of Just Jenny’s in their freezer, so I picked up two for Richard and I to enjoy that evening as an after dinner treat. Richard loves his vanilla ice cream, so I went with the Just Vanilla for him and I decided to try the Honeycomb flavor. His response, “How have we never tried this before?!” Honestly, this ice cream is incredible! Richard and I have come to the conclusion that we will always have Just Jenny’s in our freezer for visitors from here on out. If you check out their web site, you’ll see that the ice cream is made from milk and cream from the cows on their farm in Barkisland, and they only use natural flavors and locally-sourced ingredients. You can’t argue with that. This ice cream is the real deal.

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Farm Shops

As I mentioned above, I discovered Just Jenny’s at our local farm shop. Farm shops are something special. There are a few farm shops near us, but our favorite is Far Barsey Farm Shop in Barkisland. All of their beef is raised from their own herd while the other meat and poultry they sell are raised locally. We bought our Christmas turkey as well as our bacon and sausage for Christmas breakfast from them. And that Tour de France party we had? All of our burgers and sausages were purchased at Far Barsey. We had a vegetarian in the group, so I picked up a cheese and onion quiche for her and she raved about it’s deliciousness! Some of my favorites from Far Barsey are the mango and chili marinated chicken, the Figit Pie (filled with pork, sage, and apple), and their bacon and sausage. Okay, I basically love everything from there. Everyone who works there is so nice as well, which makes visiting the shop an even better experience.

The Larder Delicatessen (Or, ‘the deli’ as it is referred to in our house!)

The Larder is located in Ripponden and has become a Saturday morning breakfast staple in our house…sausage and egg with brown sauce on ciabatta for Richard and bacon (well done), avocado, hold the red onion, and light mayo on a granary baguette for me. (Leave it to the Yank to request a lunch sandwich for breakfast!) Their lunch sandwiches are incredible as well, and their selection of deli salads, meals, and side dishes (all made in house) are delicious. You can walk into The Larder without a clue as to what you are having for dinner that night and walk out with your entire meal as well as homemade bread, cheese platter, and wine sorted. It’s amazing the deliciousness they have been able to fit into such a small shop. And like Far Barsey, the staff are always friendly.

If anyone reading is local, I hope you’ll check out some of my favorites…if you haven’t done so already! And, if you are ever in the area, definitely add these to your list of must do’s!