I was already in love with North Yorkshire – the dales, the stone houses, the narrow lanes and amazing views- but it was about to get even better.
As a child, my interest in being a vet was heightened by a certain television series called All Creatures Great and Small. The books and television program were set in this very region and the real-life practice that inspired the James Herriot phenomenon lies in Thirsk.
Alf Wright was the vet who wrote the best-selling books All Creatures Great and Small and its sister books, based on his life as a vet. He taught himself to type, and to write, and would record his veterinary stories each night after his long working day. I can’t even conceive of being able to do this, knowing the hours he would have been putting in. He named himself James Herriot after a football star at the time.
The practice is now a veterinary museum and tourists can explore the building, getting a sense of what life was like – the hardships of living in the Dales – not to mention practicing veterinary science there.
There is a bunker used to shelter during air raids,
a dispensary with all manner of weird and wonderful concoctions used to ‘treat’ animals
and outbuildings which have been turned over to a cinema and small film set.
The practice was more of a home, with many areas used for both family and business. Below you can see Mrs Pumphrey and her Pekingese, Tricky Woo.
The cosy breakfast room was the hub of the family and Alf would sometimes clear the table to perform surgery on one of his patients.
Upstairs, where the bedrooms would have been, is housed a museum of veterinary instruments- a truly frightening array of hardware. Some of them are very similar to those modern vets still use.
To top off the visit, St Mary’s Cathedral is just down the street. It’s a medieval church dating from 1480. I longed to have more time to learn about the building but we were due to head home.
And that was the fitting end to a fun-packed visit to The Dales! I’ll never forget it…
Stay tuned for next week’s adventure when we take on London!