Posted by: Kirsten | Friday, 10 August 2007

Over Hill, Over Dale…

Aysgarth Falls in Yorkshire Dales Nat'l Park, England Fountains Abbey, Yorkshire, England
Aysgarth Falls,
Yorkshire Dales National Park
Kids’ scavenger hunt at
Fountains Abbey, Yorkshire, England
(part of The National Trust
and a World Heritage Site).

I had a recent business trip to England and had a chance to see Yorkshire Dales National Park and the surrounding area. Wearing my tourist hat, I saw many fascinating and beautiful sites during my week there. Farms, fields, hills, valleys, rivers, caves, castles, abbeys, mansions, hamlets, trails, rock walls and rocky promontories — it was a picture postcard come true. And since I’ve been driving on the wrong side of the road these past 28+ years, driving through the English countryside was like being 16 all over again — slightly overconfident in my abilities, excited by the opportunity, and perhaps even a little frightened now and then.

Wearing my parent and HSR (Homeschool Rangers) hat, I saw opportunity after opportunity to show my kids a bit of the old country that could help them learn about the history of their own. This was the way America used to be not that long ago — a simpler time when having a job as a sheep farmer or stonemason or cobbler was commonplace.

Yorkshire Dales National Park has only been around a little over 50 years, and it’s not a National Park in the same sense as places like Yellowstone or the Everglades.  Most of the land is privately owned, and has been for hundreds of years.  However, the National Park system of the U.K. attempts to preserve the landscape as it is — a pastoral scene that hasn’t changed much in a long time.

If you like to go on hikes, this is the place to be, with miles and miles of places to walk for a very long time if you felt up to the challenge. Even on misty and rainy days, people were out in large numbers strolling through the countryside, stopping in the villages for a pint (beer or ice cream, your choice) after a half- or full-day’s jaunt. You might find yourself sharing a pasture with sheep, hiking along one of the many old Roman roads, watching bowling on the lawn at the local town green, or dipping your net into the local rivers for a chance at a slippery stream critter.

There were also many unexpected surprises around just about every bend, including the Wensleydale Cheese factory, museum, and gift shop, which just happens to be Wallace and Gromit’s favourite! The National Park site I visited at Aysgarth Falls, the National Trust site at Fountains Abbey, and commercial caves were all stocked with kid activity booklets, games, scavenger hunts, and room to run and explore. So, if you find yourself on holiday in jolly old England, be sure to spend some time in Yorkshire and the Dales.  For relaxation, enjoyment, AND educational opportunities, you absolutely can’t go wrong.

— Jon

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