The British consul to Guayaquil in Ecuador is a man called Colin Armstrong. In 1980 he lived in Yorkshire near Leyburn with plenty of land and plenty of money, lots of ideas, and enough money to make those ideas into strange reality. He and his architect friend geeked out and made a beautiful folly in the garden. The garden stretches out over 600 hectares and has been filled with ridiculous things, but with ridiculous things that fit well into the little fir tree windbreak, blend well with the natural and man made features, and are huge fun to encounter so long as you are sure to regress to a childish state before entry.You enter through a big stone mouth complete with aesophagus and gut. It belches and then poos you out into the labyrinthine garden. There are underground passages including a Mouse World, Hell and a haunted Mausoleum. Above ground there are things that talk at and squirt you or both, involved wood carvings and sculptures with little verses, things of beauty like an Ent made out of trees, and glorious vistas over the dales. It’s all a bit Covid at the moment, with masks on in the underground sections and guards whose job it is to tell you what’s going to happen up ahead. Some doors are held open with cable ties. Some are padlocked shut. We have to be careful while we regress.It’s still stupid fun. So much fun that National Parks tried to shut it down twenty years ago because stupid fun isn’t allowed unless everything has been chopped off and sanded down by grim faced admin junkies who start every sentence with the word “actually”. There was a petition and it still operates with restricted entry. We were very lucky to get in considering we just showed up. There had been a cancellation because it was pouring with rain.
We loved it. And it was perfect. It’s right next to the Saddle Room where we had successfully booked lunch after getting blown back by all the local pubs due to the thronging brought about by Eat Out to Help Out. And it’s just a short drive from Tennant’s where Diane the valuer said: “We can take this all, and what we can’t sell individually we can sell in job lots.” God Bless her and Bless them. The car is empty. Another successful trip to the dales, and my attic is very close to empty.The rest of the rainy day was spent sharing this lovely part of the world with Lou. Despite it having been intended as a day of rest from driving I’ve ended up smashing myself through about four hours in the lashing rain through frequently flooded roads. I’ve driven through lakes today. Some were so deep and long I had to guarantee momentum in case I lost the wheels for a second to floating. “Test the brakes,” I found myself saying out loud after driving through a padding pool or two. The rain here is astronomical, and it seems to be so across Britain. Gods, send the rain to California. Those ancient trees are burning again and I can’t bear to think of it…I’ll just get back to running around in Colin’s folly, and eating gorgeous food in vast portions in God’s Own Country.