Unprecedented Times: The need for God’s Own Country & Old Meggison

Some things in life are just obvious. They just are. Cheese is a basic food group and should be tax deductible. Mondays should be removed from society; they have no place with us. And then there’s North Yorkshire. There is no better place to be when there is an urgent need to seek space, solitude and sanctuary. God’s Own Country, where 40% of the county is made up of National Parks, is the ideal place to be when you’re required to distance yourself. North Yorkshire covers over 3000 square miles, so, easy to go out without ever having to see anyone, or at most nod and say ‘Now then’ as you pass them on a lonely path.

I started writing this blog a few years ago, as I fell back in love with the place I grew up, having moved away for many years. I explored the vast stretches of beach; the rainbow-streaked waterfalls; its rich, deep history; the stunning architecture; and the cool, the quirky and the curious. I fell in love in so many ways, ways that I hadn’t expected, so much so that I moved back. I want to now unearth my words and continue my explorations. To share more places we can all go, that can maintain our sanity whilst keeping us within the neccessary restraints, so we are all safe and healthy. So earlier this week, I returned to one of my favourite rainbow-streaked waterfalls, one that sits so quietly that it doesn’t even have a mention in Wikipedia. It’s a speck in the North York Moors National Park, one of the most wooded Parks in England. northyorkmoors.org.uk/discover/woodland

Kildale Falls, more romantically known as Old Meggison (don’t put ‘the’ in front or you’ll sound like you’re not from these parts) is a small two-pronged waterfall, nestled in a cosy wood, in Kildale, about 3 miles from Great Ayton. The postcode of YO21 2RT will bring to its front door.

I like a nice tree. Now I’m not advocating ‘forest bathing’ (Sighs. Shakes head) but there is something calming, something primary about being in a damp wood. I once saw a TV program that said we as humans are calmed by trees because of their fractals – fractals being patterns that the laws of nature repeat, like on a snowflake or the spiral of a snail shell. A part of our brain that is concerned with our emotions, is affectd by these natural fractals and, as such, we have a physiological repsonse to them. Ergo trees are dead good to be around. Ergo-er get yerself down to Old Meggison.

Hmmm…I’m thinking someone didn’t read the sign

Over the stile (the stile will give you a nostalgic feel. Stiles do that) wind your way down a path for about 10 minutes. Trees galore, looming high; you are their guest. There is enough squelch underfoot to satisfy anyone, though I’m not sure it’s there all year round, you may have to enquire within the Kildale Estate.

Enough squelch to satisfy all comers

There are many opportunities to say ‘Ooh a look a (insert animal that is very common in England)’ in a tone of voice that expresses surprise, even though you’ve seen them a gazillion times before. But still feels satisfying. Twice I saw a grey squirrel, presumably not the same one, but they were too scampery for me to take a photo for you. Pheasants were fluttering around with their beautiful, irridescent copper feathers, and their squawks from the undergrowth were a constant reminder of their closeness. But again, were far too quick for me while I faffed around with the camera on my phone. As you meander along the path you can see and, even better, hear the waters tumbling gently alongstream. If your children have ever asked what a babbling brook is, bring them here. The River Leven will answer their question. You’ll know when you’ve arrived at Old Meggison – they’ve cleared away a lot of the trees since I was last here. At first I was disappointed, almost disgruntled. Why mess with nature’s perfection: my daughter loved to swing from them; it was fun to clamber through them; they added to the Livingstone feel that you’ve discovered something few know about (despite the neat path you’ve just walked on and the clear signage you’ve passed.) But I did have to admit the newly added steps and platforms made everything easier.

In fact the longer I was there, the more I felt I was in a curious Hobbit hole with steps, twists and turns, and stepping stones. It was fun to walk along the narrow pathway, like shimmying along a precipice in the Alps…ish. In order to get to the furthest platform.

Oh that was lovely. I sat there a while. Just sat there. Listening to the waters below my feet, sliding over time worn rocks, with a bubbling warmth that felt inviting. Layered with the crisp, fresh sound of the waterfall itself, as it smacked on and off the jagged rocks. A picnic, that’s all I needed. Spread out on my little platform, on a blue chequered picnic blanket. Next time.

I didn’t see a single person the whole time I was with Old Meggison. The sense of peace was consuming. The solitude and quiet were only torn by an unncessary expletive from myself, as something thudded from my pocket on to the wood of the platform. Thankful for that solitude.

Waterfalls are my favourite geological phenomenon, and everyone should have one. A favourite that is, not necessarily a waterfall. Waterfalls are nature’s immersive experience. I’ve been to waterfalls around the world, which sounds like a boast but it’s to bring me to my point, as North Yorkshire boasts better than I ever can. North Yorkshire has a seemingly endless supply, all different, and entrancing, and Old Meggison is one of my favourites. It’s just quietly doing it’s own thing. But carry on along the path, there are a few more nuggets of fun and beauty. More wooden steps, paths and jetties.

Keep going, bring your wellies, go barefoot and paddle. Play Pooh sticks. Breathe. Fresh, free air.

If you go back again post-Coronavirus, there’s a cute little cafe closeby (though it does have seating outside to set you aside from others): Glebe Cottage tearoom, YO21 2RH. It’s a pop-up cafe, only opening on select dates. Find it on Facebook.I left Old Meggison, both invigorated and peaceful, intending to head home. Then spotted the sign to Kildale Railway, and thought it was worth ‘a shufty’. And I’m glad I did. I mean it’s not a day-out-with-the-kids kind of thing but worth a 5 minute detour. It’s the cutest little train station; and I am a sucker for a cute train station. I know, what with my watching programs on fractals and visiting train stations, it’s surprising I have time for anything else….There’s just so much story in a train station. You think of evacuees; of factories closing so all the workers can have their annual day out; of drinking classic cocktails on the Orient Express, whilst it puffs out smoke. And I don’t think I’m alone in my sense of connection with railways. Here, there’s a tub where you’re encouraged to take aways herbs, there is live music on the trains, trips especially for those with dementia. When Covid-19 has died away, I’ll take you on some of North Yorkshire’s heritage railways, you’ll love them.I went away wondering in what form I could have cheese for lunch before I sat back down at my desk, thinking Monday had got off to a fine start after all. I went away feeling there’s good in the world. Not just bad.

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