Herbaceous borders at Newby Hall are a treat

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I try to take time off when I can on Mondays and Tuesdays, but the pressure to do odd jobs here and there, catch up on paperwork and even buy food, put a great deal of pressure on a limited time opportunity. This was the case when, in a day peppered with torrential thunderstorms and running errands, time seemed to slip away at an alarming rate so that, by Monday evening, I had achieved only a fraction of my planned chores.

When Tuesday dawned, early cloud had the promise of burning off later on and so I decided to combine a delivery with a delivery. The fact the delivery was up near Thirsk in the flatlands of North Yorkshire, where the Vale of Mowbray meets the Vale of York, made the decision that much easier.

That part of North Yorkshire is an old stomping ground of ours, going back to the time when we lived in Stockton-on-Tees and made that part of the world our own. Our eyes were always drawn to the high ground of the North York Moors, the western escarpment of which rises abruptly above the Vale of Mowbray at Sutton Bank, the view from the top of which is one of the finest in England.

But travelling between Burnley and Stockton-on-Tees, the brick-built red pantiled roofed towns and villages of the lowlands became familiar to us, and Wifey and I feel a strong bond to the area. Nevertheless, it is a vast area, and it is impossible to do everything and so, time after time, you go past a place and think “We must go there sometime” knowing it will probably never happen.

Such was the case on Tuesday when, driving past Ripon to get to Thirsk, we (yet again) saw the signs for Newby Hall and Gardens and, true to form, said “We must go there sometime” before driving on. Despite a dodgy forecast warning of heavy showers, the day just got sunnier and sunnier and so, after successfully making our delivery (to a Burnley lad) at Thirsk, and with lunchtime beckoning we stopped at a pub for lunch.

Sat outside in the sun, dining alfresco, and slowly sliding into “relaxed mode”, the idea of a 10-mile tramp across the moors became increasingly less appealing. Actually, I fancied a siesta but, rather than waste our day, we elected to have a more relaxed day and instead of miles of toil in the sun, decided that at long last Newby Hall warranted a visit.

I had long been aware of the herbaceous borders at Newby and under the summer sun they were at their best. Delphiniums, Monkshood, Salvia, Veronicas and Achilleas were all looking gorgeous and beautifully maintained. The stars, however, were the Heleniums (pictured). Each large daisy-like flower has a prominent central disc borne on an erect stem and colours in yellows, orange and red.

What added to their undoubted charm were the vast numbers of bees, in a whole range of varieties, including some black and yellow bumble bees I’d never seen before. For those less comfortable with these creatures, there was no need for concern as there was no hint of malice, every bee displaying a similar relaxed air of contentment as I had over lunch.

Under the hot sun, presumably these bees had gorged themselves on nectar, possibly become slightly drunk on fermented nectar, and were carrying out their work at a very relaxed, sleepy pace. Even when I stroked their backs they barely seemed to care. Happy days in the sun.

The hall itself is well worth a visit, too, being beautifully kept and furnished throughout, and the guided tour was worth going on. But the combination of sun, lunch and heavy air pressure was draining me and slowly my legs were turning to lead. I was growing tired.

Returning to the car, parked under the cool shade of a huge beech tree, Monty was dozing contentedly, but I was feeling guilty. The walk I had ‘promised him’ in my mind had not been forthcoming and I really couldn’t be bothered. Perhaps later.

We drove back towards Pateley Bridge the sun still shining then I remembered the path along the riverside from Glasshouses to Pateley Bridge. Easy going, good surfaces and, above all, loads of swimming for Monty.

It was a contented bunch that arrived back home. We had enjoyed a superb day, seen not a trace of rain, eaten well and even given the dog a decent walk (and swim), all in a lovely part of the world. Not only that, next time we drive through Ripon, instead of “We must go there sometime”, it will be “Do you remember when..?” and of course we will. A superb day out.