The second meeting of the season was opened promptly by Chairman Richard Wright at 1030 a.m. who advised of four apologies.
He introduced new member George Cram and also Jim McPhail , a returning member from late 2017 but due to absences abroad had not attended many meetings. Both men gave the audience a brief overview of their backgrounds with a common employment connection to the oil industry noted.
Our Chairman then shared a “Dutch Inspired” initiative with members for solving the problems sometimes experienced in Harrogate Town Centre.
Today saw a popular returning and regular Speaker to the Forum Mr Roger Oldfield with his talk ” Racehorses, Cheese and Waterfalls”.
Members then enjoyed a superbly illustrated and well presented history of Wensleydale, an area close by and familiar but not to the degree that Roger would impart. We were taken on a historical tour detailing the development of Wensleydale, its name , population, buildings and industrial heritage including racehorses, cheese and beautiful waterfalls. Wensley, a small hamlet, which used to be a thriving market town until the adverse impact of the Plague in 1563 drastically reduced the population. The evolution of its name was explained including why, unlike many other Dales, the River Ure was not part of said name.
The likes of John Wesley and Charles Kingsley identified Wensleydale as ” the most beautiful of the Dales” and “…the richest spot in England”. Wallace and Gromit are now synonymous with Wensleydale cheese and the popular ” All Creatures Great and Small ” books were based on Alf Wight’s Veterinary Practice in the Dale.
The history of the area was formed by its pre-history (B.C.), Roman influence, Norse settlers and then the Normans. Great Abbey’s , like Jervaulx, were built and also Castles (Bolton and Middleham). The Dissolution of the Monasteries, the growth of villages like Askrigg, Hawes, Middleham, Aysgarth and Leyburn all received an airing. Horse racing took place at Middleham from 1733 on the High Moor and race horse training is an important part of that local economy to the present day.
Roger then took us through where the various classes of people lived; Nobility in Castles, Upper Classes in Manor Houses, Monks in Abbeys and the rest in villages and towns. Families such as the Scropes and Metcalfe’s were an important part of the Dale’s Heritage with Mary Queen of Scots being imprisoned for a short time at Bolton Castle, Blind Jack Metcalfe of Knaresborough fame being acknowledged and also the Knight’s Templars.
Some superb slides of the various waterfalls in the dale such as Aysgarth Falls were shown and the industrial background including railway impact explained particularly the history of Wensleydale Cheese up to the present day Creamery in Hawes. Roger concluded by describing Wensleydale as the “Queen of the Dales”.
It was apparent that members had thoroughly enjoyed the morning’s entertainment, some questions were taken and the Vote of Thanks on behalf of the thirty attendees was given by Roger Bancroft.
NEIL RAMSHAW SECRETARY