Posted: 8/24/2006


  John Setamu, the current Archbishop of York, is a little different than any of his predecessors since the first one in 690 AD.
 He is black, he is one of 9 children from a village outside Kampala, Uganda, and he is an activist.
When I visited York Minster, one the the world's most magnificent buildings, he was in his scarlet robes and with a crew cut was leading his flock in prayer on an hourly basis, while camping in a purple tent in a transept off the choir stalls, on  'A fast for peace in the Middle East' only taking sips of water.
  York was called Eboracum, when settled by the Romans  in AD 71. In fact 2 Roman Emperors died there. Later a Saxon stronghold and then a Christian city with Bishop Paulinus in AD 627 and later Archbishops, startiing with Walter de Lay. It fell to the Danes in 867 and was rennamed Jorvik, and later York after the Duke of York.
 York Minster is the largest Gothic building in Northern Europe, with magnifcent stained glass  windows. I always enjoy visiting, even though I am not religious, and left the church many years ago when as a choirboy I went on strike over overtime payments for wedding rehearsals. This building is breathtaking every time I have entered it, probably a couple of dozen times, and brought tour groups to this ancient city.
  York is surrounded by 3 miles of walls, has the National Railway Museum, the best of its kind in the world, 4 town gates, a river, the Jorvik museum with the sights, sounds and smells of the Viking town it was previously named after, the Shambles and other narrow cobbled streets with rickety overhanging upper storeys, and pubs galore. Four hundred or so years ago in the Shambles, one resident, Margaret Clitheroe, the wife of a butcher was pressed to death with heavy stones for allegedly sheltering priests.
A recent historical fiction novel  'Sovereign', by CJ Sanson by McMillen Press is set in 16th Century York.
Northern Yorkshire is also famous as one of the prettiest places on earth, and my favourite, The Yorkshire Dales.
  I started out just north of Leeds at Five Rise Locks at Bingley, where  5 locks rise 59 feet in 107 yards on the Leeds -Liverpool Canal. It takes about 90 minutes for a barge to traverse them. 
Further north is Bolton Abbey in Wharfedale, where I have taken many tour groups, and the narrowing of the river at ' the Strid'. Here a free school was opened by a Dr. Boyle, made famous by his Boyles Law in physics.
The Dales, or river valleys, after the Viking word Dahl  are named after rivers, such as Airedale, Wharfedale, Nidderdale, Swaledale, Littondale, Coverdale-all except Wensleydale, named after a village. Linton is a tiny village by a stream with an 18th Century church and Almeshouse for the poor and the Fontiane Arms Pub- a free house -that is a pub not controlled by one brewery , and therefore has a bigger variety of beers.
  I visited Arnecliffe, where there is an annual Gala and taken many groups there to compete in the fell racing, up the mountain, the wellington boot tossing and the tug of war. More recently it was the setting for the soap opera TV series, Emmerdale.
I love driving over the lonely Yorkshire Moors, from one Dale to another and  via  Burnsall, Grassington, and Horton in Ribblesdale where the Settle-Carlisle railway travels over the 24 arch  railway viaduct. The railway was first opened in 1871 but later closed  twenty years or so ago and then reopened to fantastic tourist business in the year 2000.
You drive past Appletreewick, where a young lad, Dick Whittington, walked to London and became Lord Mayor in 1610.
This is 'Herriott Country' the famous and wildly popular books about a '1940' s veterinary doctor, Alf Wight, named James Herriott in the novels and TV series, such as 'All Creatures Great and Small'. They are set in the Dales. Actually his surgery was in Thirsk, to the East, but the TV series was filmed near Hawes.
  There are sheep galore, hundreds of thousands of them of different hardy breeds, and I head for Hawes, the highest of the Dales villages where the Wensleydale Creamery is located.
They produce Wensleydale cheese, my favourite of all cheeses in the world, only using milk from 25 farms within 12 miles of their operation. The milk is mixed with a starter culture, rennet is added and the curd separated from the whey. It takes 2 weeks of attention from Norman Mclaren the chief cheese maker and his small staff of 12.  Wensleydale blue and other varieties are very popular world wide, and I love eating this crumbly cheese with crisp apples or cider.
The area is also teeming with birds,  golden plovers, red and black grouse, lapwings etc.
All the little villages have many fine pubs, except for the village of Booze, which has none.
A ploughman's lunch is popular, Crusty bread, cheese, a pork pie, a pickle and maybe some farmhouse soup.
Pasties are very popular. They are foldovers with different meats, but with big crusty ends so that the farm hands, with very dirty hands, could eat them easily. Down in Cornwall, in south-west England, the edges are much thicker, so that miners in the lead mines, wouldn't swallow the lead as the held their food.
 Next stop is Richmond, with its 12 Century Castle, and walls built by Alan the Red of Brittany, the largest cobbled market place in England and magnificent Georgian houses and shops. There is a well-set soccer field just under the towering castle ramparts,and I visited a local playhouse, where outside a plaque on the wall notes that during the Reformation, under Oliver Cromwell, after Charles I was beheaded, 4 local actors were 'Stripped to the waist and beaten until bloodied', for carrying on with such trivial pursuits.'
Down to Ripon with the smallest cathedral in England.  Here at 9.00pm every day since the 8th Century, a man with a horn, THE WAKEMAN, blows a tune at all four corners of the town square, to pronounce the town safe
There are many other Dales and sights and that's why the Yorkshire Dales are my No 1 favourite place to visit in the world.
As the English say, 'Come on over and give us two weeks of your time, and we will show you 2,000 years of ours.'