The English are defined by their summers. By the time we get to June the first complaints strike everyone’s lips – When will it ever stop raining? We’ve not had much of a summer? We need a bit more sun!
We spend the winter months hoping for the right weather to take part in all the things we love. Things like walking around other people’s gardens, touring around other people’s houses, walking through places we have never been before to discover the things we have never known. And every weekend from June to October there are many private houses, grand and small, which open to the public just one or two days a year to raise money for charity, and although they can be enjoyed in the rain a hot sunny day makes the outing more exciting.
For the last seven years summers have been dull, August particularly dismal, the moment term ends in July the rain comes every single day. And recognising that the weather might follow a similar pattern this year we decided to take every possible advantage to adventure out in June. Last Sunday we made the acquaintance of Kirklinton Hall and the wild surrounding landscape which the guide describes as gardens. Once it was a palace but now the empty shell of this beautiful building sits like a sandstone crater at the side of a meandering river, conjuring up dreams of what might have been. Ruins have such impact, such enigma attached.
We met the owners, distributing the mandatory tea and cake, and talked of their plans to re-build the hall, to re-instate its former glory. And we learned something of its history. Once there was a castle, just beyond the gardens, but being on the fringes of the Debateable Land it met its demise in the fierce Border Wars back in the sixteenth century. Anyone familiar with those lawless times will be interested to know the stronghold then belonged to the Musgrave clan. But when the current building was raised England and Scotland shared a ruler. Its final claim to fame is that it sheltered a more dubious London family, the Kray twins. The house was an unlicensed casino in the fifties and sixties and whenever the ‘twins’ found it necessary to ‘lay low’ they hot-footed it to Kirklinton. If only walls could talk?
Our day was only tested by the Faerie Glen. We set off down to the woods with the map provided and tried to identify the whereabouts of the host of faeries known to inhabit the trees. Reuben (aged 2) and Oscar (aged 4) crawled and climbed through the undergrowth in search of the little ladies but I think they heard them coming. We only managed to find about half the resident population, but what memories! We followed the path by the river until we came to a natural ‘beach’ where the boys paddled and played while we lazed in the sunshine and watched the buzzards wheel overhead. Such stuff as summers are made of.
If you want to learn more about Kirklinton Hall you can go to: www.kirklintonhall.co.uk