Delphine Woods - Enthusiastic, budding author
Yorkshire House Sit (Part 1)
Driving up a miserable, drizzly, densely packed M6, with the clouds low and the windscreen wipers screeching with each swipe, our summer holiday in the Yorkshire Dales didn’t seem to start with much promise.
Following the wiggly blue line on my iPhone, I instructed Luke to navigate his way over blind hills, through thick foggy moorland, betwixt dry stone walls mere inches from our side mirrors, and finally up the steepest concrete drive I think I have ever seen. Finally, on our third attempt to climb the alp-like incline, we sputtered into a lush green garden surrounded by high trees. In the middle of this sat a cute stone cottage with a magnificent glass room attached to it. Water features stood proudly around this architectural house and, even in the unusual August gloom, the view from this Yorkshire eyrie was amazing. Dipping below the house lay a little burbling stream, with a moss covered stone bridge which lead to rising rolling farmland fields, patchworked with more dry stone walling and the occasional grey-brown farm house.
We sat with our hosts, discussed our previous house sits, our jobs, where we were travelling over the next few months, then heard about their wondrous trip to Wyoming which would include a pack-horse trip into Yellowstone Park for 5 days! We toured their charming property, were introduced to the outdoor goldfish and then the indoor aquarium of tropical fish – whom we then were shown how to clean properly – then finally sat down to a wonderful fish pie made by the hosts. They soon left for the airport, and after wishing them a warm farewell, finally the previously elusive cat, Percy, made his sodden appearance outside the big glass doors. He moaned for a bit, wondering who we strange people were, then curled up on my lap and stared at me with those beguiling green crocodile eyes of his – I think we might be friends.
But after all that excitement, it was time to go to bed. After figuring out the best position for the aerial, Luke snuggled down to watch the Olympics whilst I snuggled down to read my book, then eventually turned off the light and fell into blissful sleep.
I woke with the sun slipping through the opened curtains and found a black, white and red woodpecker pecking at the telephone pole just metres from our window. Later, whilst I checked my phone, propped up on my pillow, the same woodpecker came and jabbed at the window ledge and lent us a magnificent view of his beautiful plumage.
I emerged from the bedroom and found Percy purring his way down the attic stairs and into our room, where he jumped on the bed and sat authoritatively on Luke's chest for some minutes, before they both fell back to sleep.
I fed the tropical fish, emptied our food bags, boiled myself a cup of tea, put out the host’s washed laundry and finally fed the birds outside and watched them all descend. So many birds! Blue-tits, coal-tits, great-tits, chaffinches, goldfinches, greenfinches, sparrows, red-breasted robins, pigeons, ravens and three of next-door’s chickens – a female pheasant also appeared a little later on. By three- thirty that afternoon the sunflower seed feeder was empty!
Once Luke was awake, breakfasted and after I had showered and dressed, we headed out to explore the area on this sunny and gusty morning.
This time we could see the miles of rolling fields and moorland that surrounded us as we wound our way into Hebden Bridge. Finally, we managed to park near the train station and walked along the river through the park and into this quaint, northern town.
The area had been hit badly by flooding last year. Some buildings we passed were empty and in the process of renovation, with workmen eating some chips before picking up tools again for the afternoon. A beautiful bookstore which smelt of forest trees and ink, packed with local interest books, brilliant unheard of picture-books and well-loved bestsellers, had a sinister sticker on the window reminding everyone of the flood-level of the previous year – it was almost to my shoulder height.
Yet despite this tragedy that stripped shops of its goods and owners of their possessions, the floods had somehow been subverted into something positive. In almost every window, shops displayed their new town motto, which was, in laymen’s terms, basically saying how the floods had brought everyone together, and together, everyone would get through this tragedy – they are Yorkshirefolk, after all.
And indeed, it certainly looked as if Hebden Bridge was in full blown recovery. We slipped into many gorgeous shops, one of our favourites being Spirals Fair Trade Eco Store where we ogled the gorgeous multi-media artwork pieces and the soft cotton clothes, and we peered into bustling cafes and restaurants, noting which we would have to try very soon. We ended up in an eco café and shared a bacon, chorizo, mozzarella and pesto panini, followed by pecan pie and chocolate and banana cake – yum! After another leisurely stroll in the blustery sunshine and after being accosted by a young man in the square (I’m not sure what he wanted, other than urgently needing to say hello to me), we slumped in the car. We made a quick stop in the Co-op for fresh food supplies, then puntled back to our eyrie after a delightful diversion through the cobbled street of Heptonstall, the place where the legendary Sylvia Plath is buried and so where we promised to visit sometime soon.
A week later, we have experienced a mix of weather. We have sat outside lathered in sun cream and insect repellent, puffing in the heat of August’s high midday sun, and then we have huddled inside, fan heater blowing at our icy feet.
Luke has often ventured out on his bike, covering an average of 13 miles each time across winding country lanes that dip and heave like mini mountains. I honestly don’t know how he managed to peddle up one section of particularly steep tarmac, where the van needed to be dropped into first in order to ascend around the two hairpin bends, but then, he is a very fit and focused young man!
Meanwhile, I have stayed mainly within the confines of the house, steadily reading through my many books, writing sections of my next novel and doing the occasional yoga sequence.
The cat and fish are mercifully all still alive and well. We had one very unpleasant morning, however. In the middle of my now familiar morning routine, I happened to notice a bloody mess on the kitchen floor. On further inspection, it seemed the cat had brought in remains of some animal babies, we assumed rabbits, but to my horror and dismay, I eventually saw a little movement in one tiny pink body. Together, Luke and I got it off the floor and wondered what to do. Despite my hopefulness, the reality was that this little creature would never survive. Reluctantly, Luke went outside and put it out of its misery.
Yet, despite this awful event, our house sitting is going rather well. Our highlights include a wonderful meal at Il Mulino Italian restaurant where a 2.5 course meal each and 4 drinks came to only £35, a couple of walks to the Lower Gorple Reservoir and surrounding Yorkshire Dales where fluffy ginger calves stroll, a wonderful baguette at The White Lion in Heptonstall one late, scorching afternoon, and a nice pub meal at The Pack Horse after a 3km walk on an equally hazy and beautiful evening. Other than eating out, we have generally spent our time watching TV and films and reading our books.
One thing to say though, don’t go to Halifax (no offence to anyone who may like the place)! We ventured there one morning, planning to spend roughly 4 hours in the town, only to be confronted with a tumbleweed town, that generally smelt of cigarette smoke and weed. Poor Halifax, perhaps there are gems hidden somewhere outside of its town centre, alas, we did not find them.