Dear Reader: English Heritage and why I’d like to be a monk!

Graham Chalmers
Graham Chalmers

Column by Harrogate Advertiser’s Graham Chalmers

I took a drive to a hidden gem run by English Heritage in the depths of the Northallerton area recently.

I say hidden, I suppose Mount Grace Priory was a bit off the beaten track when it first opened as a Carthusian Monastry in medieval times.

Now this emblem of times long gone lies just half a mile from the roar of the A19.

Much of this historical relic is still in ruins; the lingering after-effects of Henry VIII’s little spat with Rome.

But part of what was the guest house has been restored to its 19th century arts and crafts glory from the days when it was owned by a wealthy northern industrialist.

Most interesting of all, one of the monk’s cells has also been completely reconstructed.

Excitingly, it’s possible to see exactly how members of this devout monastic order lived their solitary life of fasting and praying.

What stands out is the substantial fireplace in the ‘living room’, the comfy-looking bed, the luxurious thickness of the walls, the lovely private walled garden, the daily diet of fresh vegetables, fish and beer.

Hey, wait a minute. Where can I sign up?

Over-awed on ‘a planet of women’

The WI Centennial Fair at Harrogate International Centre was buzzing at the weekend. This huge event to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Women’s Institute attracted thousands of visitors.

As a man, I have to say I felt a little outnumbered. It was like being in one of those science fiction B movies of the 1950s where the spaceship crash lands on a planet populated entirely by women.

I know in these digital days there are still a few practical men around - plumbers, electricians, the odd arctic explorer - but I’m not one of them.

Wandering from stall to stall, seeing all those traditional hands-on skills on display, I wasn’t so much impressed as in a state of awe.