Otley Chevin

Richard Bell's Wild West Yorkshire Nature Diary, Friday, 26th March 2010


Millstone GritFROM THE CHEVIN you look out across Wharfedale to the tops of the Pennine Dales stretching away north-west towards Cumbria. Glimpses of patches of sunlight on distant moors make me wish we could get out this way more often. We're here today to check out a walking trail which takes in some of the Millstone Grit outcrops that make up the ridge of Otley Chevin.

MetaxaMillstone Grit was laid down in river deltas but in the local gritstone it's rare to find direct evidence of the sea into which the rivers flowed, however near the car park there's an example of laminations which were caused by twice daily tides. The spin of the Earth has gradually been slowing down over hundreds of millions of years so these tides came more frequently than tides do today.

As we were so close to Otley we decided to go down into the town for lunch at the Dales Café where we'd enjoyed a Greek meal before the performance of Hunting the Giant's Daughter last summer. At lunchtimes they don't do the range of Greek specialities that are on the menu some evenings but the homemade moussaka and galaktabouriko were excellent. Galaktabouriko is a semolina base between thin layers of filo pastry, the nearest English equivalent would be a vanilla slice but the galaktabouriko can also be a main course. The chef's mother cooks a version (not available in the restaurant, as far as I know) which includes spinach. She puts it into twists before baking.

Sounds delicious.

A short walk around the little market and a few minutes browsing in some of the surrounding shops made us feel as if we were on holiday, rather than checking out a freelance job. We'd just passed a little cake shop - the sort you might see in a scene from a Beatrix Potter story - when I looked back and realised that things weren't quite as they seemed. All the cupcakes and buns were skillfully made from soap.

'Do you make liquorice allsorts in soap?' I asked.

'No, you have to be really careful with liquorice allsorts. Children sometimes come into the shop and pop one in their mouths before I can warn them. I once made jelly babies but children would rush in and bite off the heads. At least with a cake you've usually got time to warn someone before they actually take a bite.'

A moutful of soap would be the sort of punishment that Willie Wonka would deal out to greedy children in Charlies and the Chocolate Factory! And thinking of Beatrix Potter, Hunka Munka and his wife have a similar shock when they sample the food in the doll's house in The Tale of Two Bad Mice.