Wednesday, 30 June 2010

A meeting with Mr Darcy and Alan Titchmarsh's favourite Yorkshire garden

An eclectic mix of things to see and do this week with open gardens at a garden I can highly recommend having visited it last year, a Shakespeare classic just right for this time of year and a community village open day near Danby which we are going to try and get to ourselves. I've also discovered a new cinematic experience in the Lounge at Malton Cinema where a friend and I found ourselves on Tuesday evening:

Jacksons Wold garden is open for the National Garden Scheme on Sunday, July 4th, from 1pm-5pm. We visited this garden last year and were really impressed. It has been evolving since 1984 when Sarah and Richard Cundall moved here. It's a three-acre site with plenty of different areas to enjoy; a walled garden, woodland paths, a kitchen garden with an Elizabethan-style knot garden, perennial borders and a wild flower meadow. Not only all this but it also has a lovely setting with panoramic views toward the Yorkshire Wolds and has been praised by gardening guru Alan Titchmarsh as one of his favourites. Oh, and the Chalk Barn tea room too is worth staying on for!

A Midsummer Night's Dream at the Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, until July 31st. Chris Monks directs Shakespeare's popular comedy charting the magical antics of four star-crossed lovers .

Botton Village Open Day on Sunday, July 4th, from 11am-5pm. The Camphill Trust at Botton Village near Danby opens its doors once again with musicians, haycart rides, treasure hunts, crafts and a BBQ. The village was established as a charitable community in 1955 where adults could live with other non-handicapped people as a family and develop their full potential. Super setting right up on the moors.

The Wind in the Willows at Helmsley Arts Centre of Friday & Saturday, July 2nd & 3rd at 7pm. Exciting new version of the family classic. Physical theatre and humour abound with Dominic Goodwin starring as Toad.

The Buddhist Retreat and Meditation Centre at Kilnwick Percy, nr Pocklington is holding its Summer Fayre on Sunday, July 4th from 10.30am to 4.30pm. Live entertainment and magic, the biggest inflatable slide in Yorkshire, water slide, stalls, talks and tours and meditation is on offer. And all this is free entry. It's a few years since I visited this lovely place but I remember being made so welcome. The centre is housed in a beautiful old building and set in 40 glorious acres of grounds and parkland.

Malton Cinema is showing Letters to Juliet, Wild Target and at the weekend How to Train your Dragon, Tooth Fairy and Furry Vengeance.  And for all the millions of Twilight fans out there (not just its teen market - it appears that their mums are getting in on it too!) there is a special preview on Saturday & Sunday, 3rd & 4th July before the film is released on the 9th.

A Single Man in the Lounge at Malton Cinema
I missed this film when it came out earlier this year so was thrilled to see its reappearance at Malton Cinema this week in the Lounge as part of the film club. I was curious to catch it for two reasons. I'd read the previews and it sounded visually sumptuous having fashion designer Tom Ford as its director.
Secondly, it stars Colin Firth, who I was lucky enough to meet just before Christmas when I was working on a film that was being shot in Leeds, The King's Speech, that he was starring in. I was obviously hanging about in the right place at the right time as I found myself chatting to him and his co-star Helena Bonham-Carter in between takes. And believe me, he is as handsome in the flesh as he is on screen with a personality to match.
In A Single Man, he plays an English professor who is mourning the death of his male partner. His grief is almost too much to bear at times as he tries to continue with his own life, now without purpose. There are glimmers of hope in his friendships, a boozy English divorcee played by Julianne Moore, and one of his students who tries to befriend him. The cinematography is indeed sumptuous. Every aesthetic detail has been thought through with care. It did remind me a little of those Chanel perfume adverts that are on TV from time to time in its beautiful but unreal take on the world.
The Lounge at Malton Cinema is a little room downstairs with a screen on which the films are shown. It costs £2 a ticket. It's worth booking your seats as you're more likely to get the comfy armchairs that we both sank into with our glasses of wine. The lady in the box office did say that if there was ever a film anyone wanted to see, they could ring up and the cinema would put it on for the film club in this room. What a wonderful little set up! I think this would make for a great evening out with a group of friends. It's clear that the people who run Malton Cinema do so with a lot of care for their customers. It's definitely a place worth supporting and so much nicer than the big out of town venues.

Here's a photo of Colin and Helena that I took on set. The location was the Queen Street Textile Museum in Burnley. It's a fascinating place anyway but looked spectacular with all the bunting and decorations up. The king in question in the film, by the way, is King George VI, the Queen's father.

Brundibar Children's Opera and Ampleforth and Ryedale Concert Choir
I enjoyed two evenings of music last weekend, firstly with my eldest son at Brundibar Children's Opera, a performance by The Ampleforth Children's Choir put together through a singing partnership between Ampleforth College and The North Yorkshire Music Service and staged at St Martin's, Gilling. Moreover my son enjoyed this short opera, which was first performed by children in a Czech concentration camp and is written specifically for children's voices. The tale was easy for a young audience to follow, a triumph over tragedy theme, with music drawing on both classical and folk traditions. The 100 or so children taking part sang beautifully and they genuinely seemed to enjoy performing.

My Saturday evening took place in the beautiful surroundings of Ampleforth Abbey where The Ampleforth and Ryedale Concert Choir were performing Handel's jubilent The Dettingen de Te Deum and the moving Adagio for Organs and Strings by Albinioni. The choir comprises of members of the Schola Cantorum and Schola Puellarum at the college with soloists from around the country. However, many of those singing didn't come from a professional music background but again this was a professionally executed performance of music that fitted perfectly with the serenity of the setting. I believe the community part of the choir is looking for male singers so if it is something you have always wanted to do then follow the above link and I might see you there next year!
If there are events on or other places you would like to recommend please leave me a comment and I will happily include them here.

Sunday, 27 June 2010

Tapestry of Yorkshire

Here's a link to a feature I wrote on Yorkshire for the August/September edition of Britain magazine, the tourist board's official publication. It wasn't easy condensing Yorkshire into a couple of thousand words but I hope I've whet readers' appetites and brought back happy memories for others of past visits.

Also tied in with this feature is a review I did for Britain of the Feversham Arms Hotel and Verbena Spa in Helmsley where I was lucky enough to be offered a stay late last year. It really is a beautiful hotel, very stylishly put together but with a relaxed charm about the place too.

Monday, 21 June 2010

A knights' tournament, children's opera and a taste of the Edinburgh Fringe

Midsummer Night already! - and at least the sun is shining again. As we move towards summer and the beginning of the holidays there are lots of things happening in the coming weekends.

Here's a few suggestions for this week:

Summer Art Exhibition & Yorkshire Wolds Wildlife Festival at The Robert Fuller Gallery, Fotherdale Farm, Thixendale, from this Saturday, June 26th - Sunday, July 11th. Open every day 11am-4.30pm. Also includes live falconry displays and night forays to find owls.

Sheriff Hutton Castle Medieval Picnic on Saturday, June 26th at 2pm. Maypole dancing, tug of war, dog competition, craft stalls, guided talks, wacky races. Take a picnic along to this local event that is well worth supporting as it is in aid of Supporting Impact Young Heroes, helping youngsters whose lives have been affected by cancer.

Napoleonic weekend at The Ryedale Folk Museum on Saturday and Sunday, June 26th & 27th. With re-enactors, local historians, military demonstrations and traditional crafts.

Ali Cook and The Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre at Helmsley Arts Centre on Friday, June 25th at 7.30pm. Two of the hottest tipped acts of this year's Edinburgh Festival bring their shows to Helmsley before heading north.

Wind in the Willows at The Kirk Theatre, Pickering on Thursday, June 24th at 7pm. New adaptation of Kenneth Grahame's classic novel by Yorkshire-based Ratatat Theatre Company.

Ryedale Live! Comes to Helmsley at Helmsley Arts Centre on Saturday, June 26th at 7.30pm. Local musicians get a the chance to perform alongside more established artists.

Keene at Dalby Forest and Simply Red at Dalby Forest on June 25th & 26th.

Knights Tournament of Foote at Scarborough Castle on Saturday & Sunday, June 26th & 27th. Four brave knights of England come to preserve their honour at this suberbly located castle overlooking Scarborough's bays.

Sandi Thom Exhibition at Nunnington Hall from Thursday, June 24th - Saturday, July 31st. Scottish musician Sandi Thom shows her photographic talent in a new exhibition. A concert performance on Thursday evening in the Oak Hall launches the exhibition.

Malton Cinema is showing Letters to Juliet and Wild Target from Friday. The film club is showing A Single Man from Friday, Sex and the City 2 and Robin Hood until Thursday, Kite Runner until Thursday. For the kids Tooth Fairy, Furry Vengeance and How to Train your Dragon is on over the weekend.

Brundibar Children's Opera and Ampleforth and Ryedale Concert Choir

Brundibar Children's Opera, which is being performed at St Martin's, Gilling Castle, this Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, was born out of a dark history. It was written just before World War Two by Czech composer Hans Krasa and was first sung by children in the Terezin Concentration Camp in Czechoslovakia. Despite its sad beginnings, the story is an uplifting tale based on a folk story about two children who outwit a cruel street musician, Brundibar, to raise money for their ill mother. They are helped along the way by a cat, a dog, a bird and other animals.

This fully-staged performance will see 100 local children performing each night in a singing partnership between Ampleforth College and The North Yorkshire Music Service. The music is folksy in line with its roots and melodious and is well suited to children's voices.

On Saturday evening, there will be a performance at Ampleforth Abbey Church by The Ampleforth and Ryedale Concert Choir in a performance of Handel's jubilent The Dettingen de Te Deum. The choir will also perform the moving Adagio for Organs and Strings by Albinioni.

I am taking my oldest son to the children's opera. It is 45 minutes long and I think it will be a wonderful introduction for him, especially as it is being performed by children just a bit older than he is. A friend and I have tickets for the Saturday evening which I am also looking forward to hearing. So lots to look forward to this week.

Brundibar Children's Opera is on Weds, Thurs & Fri, June 23rd-25th at 7pm at St Martin's, Gilling, and The Ampleforth and Ryedale Concert Choir will perform at Ampleforth Abbey Church on Saturday, June 26th at 7.30pm. Tickets for this performance are £10.

Helmsley Walled Garden

I was lucky enough to be invited on a guided tour of Helmsley Walled Garden earlier this week. Like many old walled gardens attached to grand houses, it has had its heyday growing exotic fruits, supplying cut flowers and vegetables for Duncombe Park to which it was once a part, subsequently fell into disuse and was revived back in the mid 1990s.

As walled gardens go, it boasts a fantastic backdrop with Helmsley Castle in its shadow and it is also surrounded by the parkland of the Duncombe Park Estate.

Within its five acres there are gardens within a garden. Various gardeners and horticulturalists have been invited in to work on different areas so you get a different feel wherever you are in it. The hot border will be looking stunning very soon with its array of colourful herbaceous plants. The garden is home to more than two hundred different varieties of clematis which were just beginning to unfold. There are quiet areas too with benches on which to sit and enjoy the space.

The physic garden has an interesting mix of medicinal plants and it's interesting to learn how these were once relied upon as cures for various ailments. There is an emphasis in the garden on horticultural therapy and an aim to benefit those who are disadvantaged in any way within the community. This all stems from the ideas of the lady who founded the garden, Alison Ticehurst, who died suddenly in the garden she loved so much and had obviously but her heart and soul into.

I didn't have children with me on this occasion but it is a child friendly place with lots of interesting things for children to enjoy - an elephant fountain, a swing and a den and plenty of places to hide and discover.

The old greenhouses have also been restored and now house the award-winning Vinehouse Cafe, a vegetarian eatery. I can only speak for the cakes which were delicious and if they are anything to go I imagine the food is excellent too.

The shop here sells garden wares (all made in the UK, many in North Yorkshire and much within the Helmsley postcode) and plants and some lovely vintage garden artifacts that are hard to resist. This is definitely a place to return to and enjoy as the seasons change and the garden evolves.

If there are other events happening or venues you would like to share, please leave a comment for me and I will happily include them in these pages.

Sunday, 13 June 2010

Fossils, Shakespeare and a Mouse Hunt

There's plenty going on this weekend including a fossil festival on one of the best Jurassic coastlines in the UK, an outdoor production of Shakespeare in the grounds of one stately home, a tea party and mouse hunt for young visitors and their parents and a further chance to take a peek into some artists' workshops as the open studios event continues.

Scarborough Fossil Festival from Thursday, June 17th - Sunday, June 20th. Events and activities for all including experts from the Natural History Museum who will descend on Scarborough to share their knowledge on all things palaeontological. See the preview below.

Artrageous in the Summer at Beningborough Hall on Sunday, June 20th. Get your creative juices flowing at these fun art workshops. The hall itself houses a large collection of paintings in partnership with the National Gallery and the popular Making Faces Gallery is always popular with kids as they get to make their own portrait here. There's a playground and lovely walled garden too.

Won't be Long at Helmsley Arts Centre on Friday, June 18th & Sat, June 19th. The 1812 Youth Theatre, made up of young people, aged 9 to 18, is putting on a production telling the story of children who were evacuated from their urban homes to new lives in the countryside.

Much ado about Nothing on Saturday, June 19th at 7pm - an open air production at Nunnington Hall.

Midsummer Tea Party and Mouse Hunt - Sat & Sun, June 19th/20th from 10.30am-4pm - Enjoy tea and cakes, a mouse hunt for the kids and the chance to explore the creative architecture of five churches in the area.

North Yorkshire Open Studios continues over the weekend of the 19th/20th June.

Malton Cinema is showing Sunshine Cleaning, Tooth Fairy, Robin Hood, Furry Vengeance, Sex and the City 2, and from Friday, The Kite Runner.


Scarborough Fossil Festival

This weekend's highlight has to be the very first Scarborough Fossil Festival in an event taking place at the Rotunda Museum and neighbouring art gallery. We've really enjoyed visits to both these places in the past and as we live so close to one of the best coastlines in Britain for fossil forays, it's really worth making the trip.

As well as talks that will appeal to older children and adults, there's also the chance to get your own fossils identified by the team from London's Natural History Museum and to see some of their rare geological finds. The talks include information about the Scelidosaurus, Britain's oldest preserved dinosaur, and also a look at how we recreate what dinosaurs looked like.

The North East Geology Trust will  be on hand at Scarborough Library where you can make your own dinosaur and learn more about these ancient creatures.

A series of walks where you can learn about the geology of South Bay will leave from the Rotunda at 10.30am and 2.30pm on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Entry to most of these events is free.


Hovingham Market and Ampleforth Gala

A few friends had mentioned how good the Saturday market in Hovingham is, so last weekend we decided to pop by to see what was on offer.

The market, which was originally given its charter in 1252,  reopened last September after a break of 156 years and it has already got a good name for itself. The car park in Hovingham was teaming by the time we arrived mid morning and the market was in full swing.

The stalls are spread out in the grounds of the village hall with more stalls inside, plus tea, coffee and cake. Whether you are searching for edibles to take home and savour or gifts for friends and family, this is an ideal place to do some searching. I liked the stall selling prints and posters of Yorkshire sayings and illustrated maps of Yorkshire and another selling cheeses and cheese dishes made by a local artist at very reasonable prices. A chap from Wykeham, near Scarborough, also sells a huge range of fresh and dried Oyster mushrooms.

Selina Scott, who has a farm in Coxwold, has a stall selling the most beautiful soft and colourful socks for both adults and children. Again, prices were good and how lovely it would feel to encase your feet in these rather than a pair of traditional walking socks.

I was with my mum and two boys so we had a picnic in the nearby playground which has opened opposite the old site. Its phase one is in place and phase two will include a climbing frame and toddler swings. Sadly, we hadn't bought good paddling shoes with us so splashing in the brook wasn't an option, plus we were onto other things. so needed dry clothes.

We headed on to Ampleforth Gala, an annual village fete aimed at raising money for more playground equipment. For a village event this was quite impressive. There was the usual bouncy castle and face painting but also a circus workshop which the boys loved, especially getting to grips with the diablo. There were feathered and furry visitors in the form of eagles and alpacas too.

Another hit with my brood was the stall where they had to throw a very soggy sock at a target and if it hit the centre it tipped a person (volunteers who seemed quite happy to be doing it)! into a tub of water. Probably a bit unfair but my youngest son was allowed to almost touch the target. Not so fair for the person on the ducking seat!

We rounded off the day with tea and cake at Ampleforth Abbey cafe and a stroll in the grounds. This is review in itself so one I'll return to. (Next Hovingham Market, Saturday, July 3rd at 10.30am-4pm)

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Gardens and the outdoors

As the middle of June approaches it's hardly surprising that much of what's on is happening outdoors this week - open gardens, open air theatre and festivals. However, in true British summer-style, I am typing away to the sound of constant rain and not much in the way of sunshine. But looking on the bright side - the rain can change to sun as quickly as it changed from the glorious weather we had over half term to today's drizzle.

So, here are a few ideas for this week:

Saturday, June 12th from 12noon - 4pm - Ampleforth Summer Gala - Barbecue and beer tent, bouncy fun, falconry, face painting, pony rides. The gala is followed in the evening by Amp'Fest where six of the hottest local bands play the best of Rock and Pop. For more info call 01439 788648 or 07967 961553.

Saturday, June 13th from 1-5pm - 18 Hidden Gardens of Coxwold. £3 admission, children free. Tel Jean on 01347 868356. Lovely village to look round including Shandy Hall, home of 18th century author Laurence Sterne.

Saturday, June 12th from 10.30am-3pm - Hovingham Market - A very popular market where you'll find local produce, crafts and gifts. Refreshments in the village hall.

Sunday, June 13th from 2pm-5pm - In the Garden at Helmsley Arts Centre. A kind of gardeners' question time with Paul Radcliffe, former head gardener at Helmsley Walled Garden and Rosanna James, Hands-on-gardener at Sleighholme Dale Lodge. To be held in the garden, weather permitting. Bring your questions, photos to discuss design and layout. Free Entry.

Sunday, June 13th from 10am to 12.30pm at Pickering Library - Drawing is Fun! A family workshop with children's author and cartoonist Steve Weatherill. This is part of the North Yorks Open Studios. £5 -booking is essential. Tel 07731 019566 or email See below.
Saturday, June 12th from 10am-3.30pm - Mini Paper Shoes with Serena Partridge at Helmsley Arts Centre. During this workshop which is also part of the open studios event, textile artist Serena will help you create a miniature pair of shoes using a variety of papers and trims. £5 booking essential. Contact Jean Kershaw on 01439 771109 or email

And if the rain is here to stay, Malton Cinema has Robin Hood, Sex and the City 2 and Creation showing this week.
Helmsley Arts Centre is showing I am Love on Wednesday, June 9th at 7.30pm. A film, starring Tilda Swinton as a wealthy Milanesewife of a Russian businessman who embarks on an ill-advised affair.

Lee Miller's War - May 1st - June 20th 2010
We took the kids for an afternoon out to Nunnington Hall over half term. Although there isn't a play area as such here, the garden is just a lovely place for them to run around, play hide and seek and of course, make a wish at the wishing tree. But what has always impressed me about Nunnington is the top quality exhibitions it puts on here. We saw a great photographic exhibition by the rock star Bryan Adams a couple of years ago which really showed another side to his talent.

Their recent exhibition is a series of photographs by the photographer Lee Miller. Miller was a a top fashion model in New York in the 1920s before she moved to Paris to work as a fashion photographer mixing with among others the groundbreaking artist, Man Ray. Her photos currently on display at Nunnington are a world apart from the Parisian catwalk. During World War Two she became a war correspondent for Vogue magazine, an assignment that saw her covering the Blitz in London but also events at the Nazi concentration camps at Buchenwald and Dachau. There are some thought provoking photographs here, frozen images of the dying days of the Nazis. They are not always easy to look at but they are moments that actually happened  - and not so long ago.

North Yorkshire Open Studios - June 11th/12th/13th and June 19th & 20th
Over this weekend and next, hundreds of artists will throw open their doors as part of the North Yorkshire Open Studios, giving us the chance to meet the artists and see their work in the place they are creating it. From harbourside huts in Scarborough and remote locations on the North York Moors it's a chance to experience some excellent local talent.

I like the work of Ian Mitchell. His linescapes are slightly Hockneyesque in their minimalism but I always find that despite his stripped down detail each of the places is still recognisible. His studio is at 1 Sliptop Cottage in Staithes, which is always worth a visit at any time.

Sue Slack's colourful representations of the local landscape are also easily recognisible. Her studio is at Barn Studio, Sunny View, Lockton on the North York Moors.

Jennifer Tetlow is a sculptor in stone who creates very tactile works of animals and birds. She is also based in the NY Moors at Lastingham Lodge, Low Street, Lastingham.

At Rosedale Abbey Gillies Jones crafts art in glass. The studio is behind the village churchyard at Rosedale Abbey.

Clare Belbin runs the Camphill Trust in Malton and works around the theme of nature. Her work is on display at Greengate House, Greengate, Malton.

Sculptor Peter Coates, who has a studio in Brawby, makes work in stone, wood and metal in relation to the surrounding landscape and architecture. His work can also be seen at the garden at Scampstson Walled Garden.

There are also a number of other artists whose work is on display under one roof at the South Street Gallery in Scarborough and also at the Woodend Creative Workspace at the Crescent in Scarborough. Woodend is an interesting place to visit in its own right - it is here that the famous Sitwell family once lived, including Edith, Sacheverill and Osbert.

There are also some events and workshops that link up to the event. I've listed these under the what's on section above.
Coming up......Just a few things happening in the next week or two:

North Yorkshire Open Studios continues over the weekend of the 19th/20th June. Much ado about Nothing on June 19th at 7pm - an open air production at Nunnington Hall.

Midsummer Tea Party and Mouse Hunt - June 19th/20th from 10.30qam-4pm - Enjoy tea and cakes, a mouse hunt for the kids and the chance to explore the creative architecture of five churches in the area.

Scarborough Fossil Festival from June 17th - 20th. Events and activities for all including experts from the Natural History Museum who will descend on Scarborough to share their knowledge on all things palaeontological.