Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Settle, Yorkshire Dales

On the 8th of October I traveled up to Settle in Yorkshire to tell at the 2nd Settle Storytelling Festival.

I got my first impressions of Settle whilst leading a story walk about the beautiful market town, although the continual rain meant that we didn't hang about for too long! What really stood out for me was just how friendly everyone was in Settle - Interested in the festival, storytelling and the storytellers. I also found out that the locals, many of whom were volunteering for the festival made some superb cakes for events like 'Tea and Tales'. Settle itself is a great mix of old and new and is clearly prospering with shops to cater for tastes and purses. There are loads of tea rooms and cafes for all the walkers, but good and cheap and on Sunday I spent the best part of an hour wading through a huge all day breakfast, finished off with a delicious piece of home made lemon meringue pie and all for a fiver. It kept me going throughout the whole of Sunday and well beyond my storytelling session at the festival club night at the Folly.

The Folly in Settle

It's a Seventeenth Century House house built by Richard Preston, a local lawyer and as with all ancient houses it has had many different uses during its lifetime. Like all old buildings it also has its fair share of stories; my favourite being that it was called 'the Folly' because Preston spent so much money building it in order to demonstrate his wealth, that he actually bankrupted himself. A piece of fiction, but a great one and I for one don't think that we should let fact get in the way of a good story! It is a very grand residence for its time and the fire place in the hall is so big I could happily tell my stories, whilst standing under the fireplace arch. The fire was lit and I was half afraid I would burst into flames, but it was just the thing to drive out the damp weather. The Folly is also home to the local museum and it is set out just the way I like it with lots of interesting objects and exhibits scattered here and there.

The Folly Fireplace (Main Hall)

What really caught my eye was the great photographic collection of Victorian and early twentieth century local characters and notable worthies including a very imposing picture of Mrs William Perfect - Not the sort of lady to get on the wrong side of and I don't somehow think that she would have approved of my tales of drunkenness and thievery!

Mrs William Perfect (But was she?)

The other thing that caught my eye were the various exhibits relating to the building of the railway, in particular the Settle to Carlyle line that used over 6000 navvies, many of whom were Irish and many of whom suffered and died laying track and building viaducts. Not just the men, but also members of their families who eked out a hard existence in isolated shanty towns like Batty Green near Settle. The harsh conditions were captured by Betty Harrington in a collection of water colours now on display in the Folly.

Betty Harrington's
views of 'Life in the Ribblehead Shanty Town (1974)
Click on image to make larger

Settle is a beautiful place nestled as it is beneath the hills. Now Norfolk isn't as flat as some assume (That's the fens!) but we are starved of dramatic scenery so common place in Yorkshire. I love the way the houses climb up and seem to grow out of the side of the hills and also the organic steps and stairs built out of local stone that seem to have been grown rather than built.

Stairs to who knows where...

Thanks to Sita Brand for inviting me to tell at her fantastic Settle Festival and to all her friends & helpers who looked after me and all of the other tellers.