Monday, 19 September 2016


Bettys establishment

Carved memorial to the stage finish of the Tour de France in Montpellier Park 
'Keith's Choice' Dahlia in Valley Gardens
Royal Pump museum
Shrinking in blue

This solid sophisticated Yorkshire town was founded on the abundance of sulphur springs. My Yorkshire relatives who lived in the Huddersfield-Wakefield rhubarb triangle used to talk about Harrogate all the time, it was their day out of choice. Flower shows, parks, shopping and afternoon tea at Betty's. I had passed through a couple of times on the A59 on trips to Scarborough but never stopped to explore its charms. We were en route for London and decided to rectify the omission, arriving via the Yorkshire Dales and Blubberhouses moor on a blissful early autumn evening as the skies were turning from blue to pink to grey as the sun gave way to the moon.

Half an hour later we were seated in Bettys tea house, an institution that was opened in 1911 by a Swiss confectioner.  It occupies a substantial corner building at the foot of Parliament street and has the ambience of a Viennese coffee house set in the 1930's. The food was good and the clientele made us feel quite young; Harrogate is the preferred choice for retirement in Yorkshire and sells itself as the happiest town in Britain. It reminded of a ditty that a friend recited at a Burns supper when he had been asked to toast the haggis. He was from Yorkshire and explained that "we don't talk to wer food where I come from and I can't pronounce Haggis cos its got an aitch (H) in it. He then gave us a rendition of what the teacher had taught his class at school in a forlorn attempt to correct their pronunciation.

'Arry went to 'Arrogate,
'Arry lost his 'at
'Arry's mother said to 'Arry,
'Arry where's your 'at
'anging in the 'all mother,.
'anging on a 'ook'
'Arry's mother said to Arry,
Arry go and look.

He made a word perfect presentation of the toast to a haggis but it was "'Arry went to 'Arrogate" that brought he house down. He told us that a Yorkshireman that pronounces Harrogate correctly probably lives there 'cos no-one else in Yorkshire can.

Harrogate has long been a conference centre, most famously for the Lib Dems, being big enough to cater for Cyril Smith, but the large conference centre and still thriving grand hotels host a myriad of events; today it was 'Christians against Poverty' and balloons festooned the entrance stairway. We decided to tour the town centre and trooped round the victorian buildings that remain impressive and well preserved. The sumptuous gardens that encircle the centre were at the stage when the summer displays were wilting but the level of planting and imagination were still evident. The Montpellier quarter, which is dripping with antique shops, cafes and high end independent shops had yet to come to life. The museums were still closed so we walked through Valley Park, window gazed at the furniture shops and galleries before finding some good coffee in an Italian cafe, the pleasure of never using a franchised coffee chain always cheers me up.

The drive out from Harrogate was through parkland and roads lined with splendid Edwardian houses until we reached the outer suburbs that resembled any other town in England: brick boxes and a slew of modern warehouses. In no time we were on the A1(M) and passing the massive power station at Ferrybridge. There are more probably pylons in this part of Yorkshire than words in the bible.

Despite the existing devastation to the environment around Ferrybridge, I would still have preferred to see the well advanced carbon capture scheme implemented by SSE, after all Ferrybridge is/was the largest power station in the UK. The designs and pilot scheme for carbon capture had been completed but Chancellor Osborne pulled the funding. The UK could have been at the forefront of carbon capture technology that is essential as a retrofit for both coal and gas power stations; they will be the mainstay of electricity production for decades in many parts of the world. Osborne had no such reluctance to fund the French and Chinese to design, build and operate the massively expensive and controversial nuclear plant that Mrs May has now endorsed at Hinkley Point and thereafter at Sizewell and Bradwell. Once again the UK will have jettisoned its technical expertise and reputation through its adherence to economic theories that are even less sustainable than coal.

Ferrybridge Power station and pylon landscape

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