Wild Water Heaven in Yorkshire
Over the summer, our PR Manager Fliss Hoad stayed at the lovely Boot & Shoe cottage in Yorkshire. This historic cottage sits at an ancient crossing on the River Tees near Barnard Castle. Fliss loved Boot & Shoe cottage so much, she decided to write about it. Read on to find out more about the cottage & what Fliss got up to!
My hands drew back together completing another gentle stroke through the soft river water in the dark pool below Boot and Shoe cottage - I smiled to myself, surveying the gurgling rapids above and below, bookending the mass of water which was to be my own private lake for the week. Just then, quick as a flash, a Kingfisher darted above me, almost clipping my ears, too fast to focus on he disappeared in a riot of colour as my smile turned to a grin.
A small path is hewn through the lush slope leading directly from cottage to this private watery playpen. The water is dark and cool and the deciduous trees from the opposite bank are reflected in its inky mirror. Swallows skim the water, dive bombing for a thirsty glug before launching themselves straight back into the air in a feat of aeronautical brilliance. They looked like they were having the best fun, and so were we.
Wycliffe is a traditional hamlet with a majestic hall, old rectory and half a dozen houses, and is where our host Eddie’s family have lived for generations. It’s easy to see why you would never leave the wide river and oxygen rich air which seem a million miles from the twenty first century and its accompanying pandemic. The spot is where the ferry originally plied its trade between Durham and Yorkshire, dispensing travellers for a pint or a shoeshine, re-heeling soul and sole. The magic of transportation has not disappeared altogether as we were taken back to a calmer, slower, tranquil pace of life.
A pootle around the church, with neither tower nor steeple, and the heaven-scented cemetery reveal some of the hamlet’s history – John Wycliffe, something of a revolutionary in his day, was born and raised here before going on to translate the bible into the more widely understood English language.
The triumvirate of cottages which make-up the former pub, cobblers and ferryman’s house – Boot and Shoe Cottage is the middle one - are tucked away at the end of a private drive which hugs the river and holds the full gamut of nature in its palm.
The Kingfishers which whizz up and down this spectacular stretch of the River Tees are awe-inspiring. Too quick for binoculars, the flash-in-a-pan sightings are best from water level. Glimpse its approach, red-breasted like a robin, sometimes with a fish in its mouth, flying directly up the river. The heron was another regular on the rock edges of the natural waterfalls just down river, wading up and down, yet never seeming to catch one of the small fish that occasionally leaps out of the water in a splosh of circular ripples. Visitors can try their hand at fishing too.
A bird feeder in the cottage garden was popular with nut hatches and all manner of finches. On the rare occasion we weren’t in the garden peering out over the river, we gathered around the kitchen table and trained the binoculars on the garden birds. Learning as time trickled how to distinguish one from another.
Tear yourself away and Teesdale is awash with history, from Roman roads to Norman churches and Medieval castles. Grand Estates with farmland spanning thousands of acres seem commonplace, whitewash distinguishes between those belonging to the estate and the privately owned. The now infamous Barnard Castle is the local market town, where a delightful butter market overlooks a flower bed planted only in white with a plaque to Yorkist King Richard III, the last of his house. We were reassured to see that the antiques shops still outnumber the opticians. We visited on a bustling market day with a huge selection of vegetables and fresh fish. I walked back to Wycliffe along the banks of the Tees through spectacular countryside and worked up an appetite for lunch.
We spent a day in Appleby an archetypical Dales’ town, where travellers congregate to trade horses and exchange tales of daring do. It is a spectacular drive across the Pennines along the A66 where tantalising fell walks accost each side of the highway, but for now would have to wait until another time. The rugged moors below are a testament to the hardship that farmers must endure during the bitter winter months. On a July day in the sunshine, they couldn’t have looked more welcoming. Richmond boasts a river and castle too, with a grander air of large town houses overlooking cobbled streets and a selection of independent shops.
The homely Boot and Shoe cottage is well equipped and there are plenty of local guides to help you get out and about to discover the area. The well-thumbed photo album details the historic renovation of the ferryman’s cottage which the current owners undertook, exposing quirky original features and preserving and concealing others for future generations to find. The guest book detailed many others who had come to recharge their batteries and I can’t think of a better place to do so, nor a greener one. As well as the verdant forests and hills, there is an electric vehicle charging point and hot water from solar panels.
Whether you come here alone or with your loved ones – there is an additional double room for those who enquire - one thing is certain, you will be sure to return!
Written by Fliss Hoad, the PR manager for One Off Places, who stayed at Boot & Shoe Cottage in 2021. Boot and Shoe cottage is available for rent all year round. This historic cottage can sleep four people in two bedrooms, is in a riverside setting, and a short walk through the woods will bring you to a private tennis court. Price from £410 per week.