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Parcevall Hall Weekend - October 2020

Despite some Footprints members being affected by local lockdowns, the Parcevall Hall weekend did take place and 6 Footprints members attended the event. Chris (organiser), Peter, Jonathan, Debbie, Jackie and Andrew.

Welcome to the ‘new normal’ for this club weekend, which came with COVID-19 precautions including 2 metre social distancing, hand sanitiser, face coverings / face masks, temperature taken on arrival, designated chair in the lounge, no touching / no reading of the any of the many books in the lounge, sitting at individual tables for meals (unless a couple or living in the same household), allocated bathroom / toilet, restricted numbers.

Parcevall Hall had only been open for day retreats. The member of staff who gave us our briefing on Friday afternoon said that this was the first time that the house had been fully open to residential guests since March and the start of the pandemic lockdown. No wonder the hot water did not get properly hot until Saturday evening! However, the house was warm, comfortable and the staff were very pleasant and helpful. They themselves were getting use to the COVID-19 secure measures put in place for their own health and wellbeing as well as those for their guests.

Parcevall Hall is a country house built between 1586 and the early 20th century and is a Grade II listed building, which is currently the retreat house of the Anglican Diocese of Leeds. The house is situated in the beautiful setting of the Yorkshire Dales at Skyreholme near the village of Appletreewick in Wharfedale and has well maintained gardens.

Most of us met at the house on Friday lunch time and enjoyed our packed lunches sitting on the terraced garden at the front of the house admiring this magnificent building, its picturesque gardens and views of Simon’s Seat. Chris then led a circular walk from the house near Trollers Gill, over the fields and via Appletreewick & Skyreholme. Whilst passing through Appletreewick Peter informed us that the New Inn was the first pub to prohibit smoking way back in the 1970s.

After dinner Debbie organised some socially distanced (physical distanced for those of us from Scotland) entertainment in the form of two games. The first involved everyone picking five names and then taking it in turns to describe to their (socially distanced) team the person as quickly as possible in 1 minute. In the second round we had to describe the person in one word and the third round was to mime a description of the person (not easy in some cases). The second game was a derivation the TV show ‘Would I lie to you?’. This involved everyone having to say three things about themselves, one of which was not true. The others having to guess which one was not true.

Saturday lived up the Met Office ‘yellow’ be aware warning billing for rain, but this did not dampen our spirits as we took cars to Barden Bridge a few miles down the road to do a 7 mile circular walk on the Bolton Abbey estate, which has been managed by the Devonshire family since 1755. The landscape at Bolton Abbey inspires, and has been admired in the past by artists such as Turner, Ruskin and Royle, as well as the poet Wordsworth. We all walked as one party led by Peter so by default this became the ‘A’ walk! There was a one-way system in place for the routes either side of the River Wharfe. The tree lined route of Strid Wood protected us from the worst of the rain, which to be honest was not too bad in the morning. Walking through Strid we looked down into the River Wharfe with its fast currents and rocks (the most dangerous part of the river). We stopped to admire a heron standing on a rock waiting to catch its lunch for the river. We looked around the extensive ruins of the old Abbey and could view the current priory church from the tower entrance.

Bolton Abbey takes its name from the ruins of the 12th-century Augustinian monastery now known as Bolton Priory. The priory was closed in the 1539 Dissolution of the Monasteries ordered by King Henry VIII. Judging by the remains, the buildings would have been a magnificent sight.

On leaving the abbey area Debbie, Jackie, Chris and Jonathan attempted to negotiate the stepping stones across the river, but were not successful as there was one stone in the middle of the river that had become dislodged and needed a big step and very good balance to get over it. At least they all had a go! Not many other visitors achieved this crossing either, so over the bridge we all went, only getting wet from the rain not the river water!

We had lunch at the Cavendish Pavilion café and were able to sit at tables under cover and then walked back along the other side of the river back the cars. On arrival back at the house Jonathan and Jackie did an extension to find Trollers Gill, while some of us had a look around the Parcevall Hall gardens.

After dinner the entertainment included Peter beautifully playing some classical pieces and songs on the piano. Between these there were monologues from Chris and we all took turns to read some. Jonathan sang a number of well-known songs from a 2m distance with a window open. These included ‘A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square’, ‘Jerusalem’, the hymn ‘Cwm Rhondda‘ in honour of our absent Welsh friends (usually sung at Welsh rugby union matches), but we were not allowed to join in, so no audience participation - honest!

Sunday was fine and sunny; we took cars to Hebden and did an 8 mile circular walk via Grassington. The route takes you via Hole Bottom, past some stone holiday cottages and follows a broad stony track which soon crosses a bridge over Hebden Beck. We then saw evidence of mining, which included an old shaft (now a watercourse), a waterwheel pit, an old lime kiln and a smelt mill chimney in the distance. There were a number of information boards telling us about the mining activities that use to take place here. We continued over Grassington Moor, past the Bare House and down into Grassington. There were great views throughout of the surrounding and distant countryside. Some of us took the route along the River Wharfe, taking in the impressive Linton falls and a walk over the Hebden suspension footbridge (built by the local blacksmith William Bell and opened in 1885). Back at Hebden some of us went and had some tea and cake at the Old School Tea Rooms before saying our goodbyes.

Despite the unusual circumstances of this weekend (e.g. COVID-19 precautions, low numbers) it was a very enjoyable time together and we all adapted well. Thanks to Chris for organising the event, to Peter for organising the walks and playing the piano, Jonathan for singing so well, Debbie for the games and all of us contributed to the weekend.

Just a final thought - it would be worth Footprints considering a return to Parcevall Hall again some time when we are not restricted by a pandemic.