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Monday, August 27, 2012

James Herriot’s Wonderful Waterfall

A view upstream along the middle falls area.

In his picture book, James Herriot’s Yorkshire, the real James Herriot (Alf Wight) describes one special hiking trip he took with his son:

“We had to take a look at the famous Aysgarth Falls…I had seen them countless times before, but they still drew me.

“The upper falls are the ones I like best; where I have taken my children since babyhood and where I have returned with fresh enchantment so many times over the years.

“The river here has infinitely varying moods.  It can be a torrent after much rain or snow but in very dry weather there might only be a trickle with children playing on the flat rocks in mid-stream.

“We turned at the end of the bridge and climbed a path to the river’s edge.  It is wonderful here.” 

Exuberant water.

Unlike the rest of his books, which focus primarily upon the people he knew and the animals he treated, this book concentrates on the places in Yorkshire that Harriot loved best.  Aysgarth Falls was clearly one of them.

While James Herriot lived in Thirsk, much closer to the North York Moors, “All Creatures Great and Small” was filmed in the Yorkshire Dales.  I don’t know if any of the TV shows were filmed here, but this was the type of scenery that had formed the overall look of the show.  I could imagine James and Helen crossing the river on her father’s farm that first day they met, when he arrived to set a calf’s broken leg.  Even though they had just met, they held hands to steady each other as they made their way across.  The scene makes clear that the two find pleasure in each other’s company.  Their conversation and mutual interest plant the seeds of their later romance.  

Unlike Herriot, I cannot simply walk over a bridge.

After the debacle at Ritz Cinema, their courting often consisted of taking walks together.  In one episode, they spent an afternoon walking beside a river.  So, while James and Helen were dating, perhaps they strode along the River Ure, and gazed upon Aysgarth Falls, on one of his rare days off. 

Especially not one with such a wonderful view of the upper falls.

As I wandered along the river and the trails on that hot, humid day, I tried to concentrate on the area’s scenic beauty.  Vibrant trees rose up beside the River Ure.  The clock tower of Aysgarth Church, notable for the largest C of E churchyard, rose higher yet in the distance.  Water flowed over rocks, tumbled over the small succession of falls, and ate into the stones of the streambed.  I would have enjoyed the unexpected warmth more had we packed shorts.  I could have appreciated its beauty more had I been in the proper mood to do so.  Still, despite everything that detracted from the experience, I could still agree with James Herriot. 

“It is wonderful here.”

Seeing Aysgarth Falls through James Herriot’s eyes,
Dragon Dave

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