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Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The Finest View in England Part 3

To the left rises Roulston Scar.
Beside it sits Hood Hill.
Both overlook this serene valley,
and the lovely town of Thirsk.

James Herriot wasn’t alone in believing this to be one of the best views in Yorkshire.  Hundreds of years before Christ, Roulson Scar held a sixty-acre fort, surrounded by a 1.3 mile barrier of timber and stone.  This Iron Age fort, one of the largest in England, would have commanded a view for miles around.  Part of this ancient fort was scraped away when the Kilburn Horse was dug into the South side of the mountain, but signs of its presence remain. 

Next to the flat-topped Roulson Scar sits Hood Hill, apparently named because it resembles a monk’s hood.  While some have suggested an association between the hill and Robin Hood, the name apparently predates the hero of medieval folklore, (not to mention Disney’s 1973 animated feature).  Here mythology and history intermix, telling tales of druids who inhabited the surrounding valley.  In one such story, the Devil disguised himself as a druid in order to gain the priests’ favor, but was discovered, and as he took to the sky in his flight, he left his mark upon Hood Hill. 

"Care for a tow?"

In 1934, the Yorkshire Gliding Club began operating atop Roulston Scar.  As we walked North along the cliff top, our backs to those two hills, several times we heard the faraway sound of engines.  Looking up, we saw a small aircraft towing a glider.  I’ve often wondered what it might be like to fly such a vehicle, to soar above the land, to glide and dip and wheel through the sky like a bird.  Perhaps that’s why I fell in love with dragons, and decided to write a novel (actually, it’ll be a series of novels) about them.  To me, flight represents freedom, and the ultimate triumph over one of Earth’s primary forces: gravity. 

The title character of the 1999 film “The Thomas Crown Affair,” played by Pierce Brosnan (in a remake of the original 1968 movie), certainly made piloting a glider look glamorous.  Then again, the character was a multimillionaire: he owned many such toys, and enjoyed dangerous sports most of us will never attempt.

"After you."

For a man who enjoyed his solitude, I’m surprised that these gliders don’t appear to bother James Herriot.  After all, their "graceful dipping and rising" would draw attention from the beautiful panorama.  Like the farms below, they reveal the distinct stamp of his fellow man.  But the farms are where he worked: he loved the farmers and their animals.  And passing so high overhead, the gliders seem less like birds than lazy insects.  On the day we visited, the gliders were never released, and thus performed no aerobatics.  Perhaps wind conditions were unfavorable. 

The birds certainly enjoyed their flight.  They paralleled us as we walked, winging alongside the mountain, swooping past us, then wheeling about to whisk by again.  While I envied them their abilities, we were enjoying our easy stroll, and, like James Herriot, reveling in the tranquility of a gently altered landscape.  Perhaps on my next visit to Yorkshire I’ll climb into one of the club’s gliders, and join them in soaring over this beautiful valley. 

Unexpectedly, the phrase “When pigs fly” springs to mind.

Enjoying our cliff top stroll,
Dragon Dave

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