Posted: 3/10/2010


        Spring is almost here, and it was the first warm sunny day of the year. Just right for motoring into the Yorkshire Dales with my dear old friend Betty.

       We were off along the minor country roads, roving in her Rover past The Cow and Calf Rocks, Ilkley Moor, Bolton Abbey along the River Wharfe and past Bardon Tower to one of the most picturesque villages in England. Burnsall in Wharfedale is in the Yorkshire Dales National Park with an oxbow bend in the river that meanders under the 17th Century five arched stone bridge, next to the 16th Century Red Lion pub used by ferrymen before there was a bridge. Originally settled by the Danes, the 12th Century St. Wilfrid's church is a must see.

       There are only 112 residents, but most of the year it is crowded with walkers, fly fishermen, canoeists and picnicers. Last summer my friend Tania from Rio de Janeiro was visiting and we had a picnic on the The Green, slopping down to the Wharfe, with about 100 ducks, geese and swans. Today we went to the Wharfe-View Tea Rooms on The Green and had a delightful lunch. Home cooked steak pie with fat home fries and peas, and a pot of Yorkshire tea. Not even scraps left on my plate for the ducks outside. Trout fishing is also very popular if you have the time and the patience.

        Sir William Craven lived nearby in the 17th Century and made a fortune in cloth, went to London and became Lord Mayor. 'Dick Wittington of The Dales' they called him. He built a village school, 400 years ago and still standing and in use, along with a church and the bridge. Every August they hold the annual outdoor Burnsall Feast Sports Day festival with many events including tug of war, a 10 mile road race and the fell race, where contestants run up to the top of Burnsall Fell (mountain) and back. That was started by Tom Weston in 1870 who ran naked.

        We stopped to take lots of photos of new born lambs, leaning over the dry stone walls to get a close up. None were more than a couple of weeks old, prancing and playing together and suckling up to mother. They are a hardy breed and lots were black sheep, more than I had seen before. There are thousands being born this week, and within three months many will be 'Spring Lamb' on sale in local butchers shops, and I just love them with mint sauce and new potatoes. DE-LIC-IOUS!!  I sometimes go to the Otley Livestock auctions and you can buy lambs for about 30.00. Then high up near Beamsley we stopped to watch a Red Kite high above, hovering stationary, looking down for small rodents to swoop down on. Also the first sign of snowdrops sprouting on the edge of the roads, where two weeks ago we had deep snow.

       Each evening this week there is a TV programme LAMBING LIVE, which is enthralling, from a sheep farm in West Wales, with lambs born on camera. Some sheep have a single lamb, while many have twins and triplets. Since they only have two teats, the third lamb is often introduced to a single mom. I couldn't believe that on Tuesday night, after Nicklas Bendtner had put Arsenal 1-0 up against FC Porto at The Emirates, that I switched to Lambing Live and missed his second goal. Back and forth I switched. We have also been introduced to the sheep of North Ronaldsay off the North of Scotland, where they eat seaweed, and other breeds across Britain. Nic scored a hat-trick and The Gunners won 5-0. Well refereed by Belgian, Frank de Bleekere.

      Last, but not least, I want to mention Mark Halsey. 206 days ago he was refereeing Arsenal's 6-1 win at Everton, the day after he was told he had cancer. After therapy he was back in the middle yesterday in front of 100 fans, dozens of media and refereeing friends Keith Hackett, Alan Wiley, Stuart Atwell and Kevin Friend. The match was featuring Leicester City Reserves. His wife Michelle and 3 year old daughter Lucy were also on hand. He hopes to be back in the Premier League and maybe the once in a lifetime honour of an F.A. Cup Final.