Saturday, 28 June 2014

Yorkshire's smallest city

Yorkshire is a very specific county. God's Own County. The Texas of England. A county so big, it has to be divided into four administrative areas (North, South, West and East Ridings). Its biggest cities are Leeds, Bradford, Sheffield, Hull, York. Ten times smaller than York is Ripon, a city by virtue of its 12th Century cathedral. A jewel of a city in a county with attractions enough to fill an average-sized nation.

Ripon is worth a visit. Fly to Leeds-Bradford Airport, then take the number 36 bus to the end of the line. Ripon is, of course, a walking city; and a spa. That's 'spa'. Not 'SPA' or 'S.P.A.'. 'Spa' as in 'Bath Spa', 'Royal Leamington Spa' or 'Harrogate Spa'. Or indeed 'Francorchamps Spa'. But never all upper-case.

Below: the western elevation of Ripon Cathedral. Built on the site of an earlier church, work on the cathedral commenced in 1069, just three years after the Norman Conquest. A plain facade, an example of Early English (after Romanesque, before Gothic).

Below: Ripon is a market town, market day's on Thursday. Overlooking the marketplace is the town hall. The quote comes from Psalms 127:1 - unless the Lord watches over the city, the Wakeman (the title of Ripon's mayor before 1604) stays awake in vain. Each day at 9pm, the Ripon Hornblower blows the ceremonial horn; until dawn keeping the peace in the city was the responsibility of the Wakeman. If there was any crime in Ripon as the city slept, the Wakeman would be held financially responsible. Note the two yellow bikes attached to the railings on the first floor.

Below: in the marketplace, the historic Century cabmen's shelter, built in 1911 by Boulton & Paul of Norwich (who just 26 years later were manufacturing the Defiant fighter plane that fought in the Battle of Britain). Traditional red telephone boxed have been retained on the market place.

Below: another period piece in the marketplace - part of the celebration of Armed Forces Day (28 June), a WWII vintage Jeep stands in front of the Hawksmoor-designed obelisk in the centre of the square.

Below: between the market place and the cathedral runs a steep hill, home to many shops, bars and restaurants. Turn left, along Kirkgate, for the cathedral, carry on right for Duck Hill.

Below: to the west of the market square, is Westgate, leading to the more recent, Victorian-Edwardian, part of town.

Below: Victorian shops on North St. Coming off it - Allhallowgate, yet another street with 'gate' in the name - along with Blossomgate and Fishergate.

Below: a row of Victorian terraced cottages on Church Lane. Housing emblematic of Brictorian Britain.

The Edwardian baths and swimming pool, dating back to 1904. Ripon Spa, drawing on sulphurous waters from a nearby spring, has come and gone (closing in 1947). The name remains in the hotel in which I stayed - a charming, atmospheric place, but with gaps in the windows wide enough to slip a finger through, I'd not recommend the Ripon Spa Hotel for a winter break.

Ripon has a canal - the Ripon Canal. Below: an idyllic scene, taken from the towpath towards the Rhodesfield Lock. Opened in 1773, the 2.3 mile-long canal connected the city with the River Ure, allowing coal from Durham to be brought in by barge.

Below: the end of the Ripon Canal, terminating in a small basin just large enough to turn a barge around in. Can you spot a yellow bicycle in the picture?

Left: the stables and paddock at Ripon racecourse. The horses are led out of the stables to be paraded around the paddock, where punters can examine the form of their chosen bet from close up. Although horse-racing in Ripon dates back to the 17th Century, and Ripon saw the first ever horse-race for women jockeys (1723), this course was only opened in 1900. Ripon is one of eight racecourses in Yorkshire (out of 57 in Britain). It was the venue for the conference at which I was speaking.

Yorkshire is rich in tourist delights, and visitors will find a vast amount to see and do, whatever the weather (I had three days of light rain and drizzle).

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