Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Swan Rescue

Another of our Yorkshire holiday trips was a visit to Lightwater Valley Theme Park, once again courtesy of Tesco Clubcard vouchers.

Two things made an impression on our arrival at the park – the lovely countryside setting and the amazing animatronic dinosaurs at the entrance.

On entering the park properly, the first area that we came to was filled with fairground rides, although we soon realised our favourite of these (the dodgems) was missing. What did grab our attention was the birds of prey centre, which we thoroughly enjoyed. Containing many species of owls and other birds, and even a small snake section, this made for interesting viewing and a change from the rides.

A wide selection of rides are on offer at the park, a good number that are suitable for younger children, as well as some more daring thrill rides. The park setting is great for picnics and the little train that runs round the park is a good way to view what’s on offer.

The Lightwater swan rescue begins!
One of the more traditional attractions available is the pedalo ride, little boats in the shape of swans. We fancied a relaxing trip across the lake, so we climbed aboard. The boats hold four people and are operated by a steering wheel as opposed to a tiller. This should have been straightforward, but unfortunately we were assigned a boat that malfunctioned.

A short way into our ride the steering would no longer allow for a right turn. “Never mind”, we thought, “We’ll just do a circuit bearing left.”

But no! It then refused to go in even a straight line (having jammed) and would only send us round in small circles. As we started to drift into the bank, we waved at the attendants on shore – who promptly ignored us!

For some time we debated how best to remedy our situation, until finally another family came along and offered to tow us in. This was not as easy as it sounds, as both boats kept drifting, but after a concerted effort, we made it back to dock – some 40 minutes after setting out!

The young girls managing the ride were still oblivious to our plight, and looked blankly when we tried to explain. However, we eventually managed to persuade them to contact maintenance and left it in their hands.

Looking back we found the situation slightly comical, but at the time it was extremely annoying!

Our saviours!
Apart from this blip, we quite enjoyed our day; Lightwater Valley is a bit different from other theme parks that we have visited.

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

A Tale of Two Abbeys

On our recent holiday to North Yorkshire, we visited two sites of Abbey ruins, both managed by English Heritage. Clutching our new membership cards, acquired with Tesco Clubcard points, we were eager to make use of the benefits.

The majesty of Byland Abbey

Having visited the well-known Whitby Abbey on a previous occasion, we had planned to visit Rievaulx Abbey, having seen it on the BBC programme Secret Britain. However, before we got round to making that visit, we stumbled across a sign for Byland Abbey, which we had not heard or read about, but decided to explore.

The route took us along windy country lanes and we half expected to find a minor ruin at the end of it – a heap of stones or partial wall – but how wrong we were! As we rounded the final corner a stunning sight met our eyes!

The ruins are actually quite substantial, certainly ample enough to give you the feel of what the original abbey would have been like. There is also a small museum on site, housing a model of how the abbey would have looked in its heyday. The setting was quite something too, surrounded by peaceful countryside and overlooked by neighbouring hills, making it a very tranquil spot. Following this visit we knew that Rievaulx would have to go some to beat it.

The day arrived of our planned Rievaulx visit, so we packed up our picnic and followed the signs from Helmsley to the more publicised ruin (it’s given twice the space of Byland in the English Heritage handbook and has a large gift shop and café, whereas Byland just has a small kiosk). Our initial reaction was slight disappointment at the location – the abbey appeared to be shoehorned into quite a small area, whereas Byland enjoys more space. It’s true that a larger part of the original structure is intact, yet it somehow didn’t seem as impressive as we felt it should.
This also has a museum/exhibition that’s slightly larger than the one at Byland, but there was no model of the original abbey as we’d expected. We do know that the museum was about to close for refurbishment (strange at peak visitor time) so maybe it will undergo an improvement.

We still enjoyed our visit to Rievaulx, but felt it was a bit of an anti-climax after what we’d been lead to expect, whereas Byland was a surprising little gem.

Exploring Rievaulx