It all started by accident one Christmas Eve, when our first child was a baby. There was a light dusting of snow, so my husband and I thought it might be nice to drive out into the Yorkshire Dales for a walk with the baby in a sling.
The ruins of Bolton Abbey lie next to the river Wharfe, and there are miles of footpaths through fields, woods and along the river. We crossed the river (by the bridge – not the stepping stones!) and headed uphill to Storiths where we discovered Buffers, a farm café. Not only could we peep at baby calves in the barn and then warm up with a bowl of homemade soup, but upstairs the owner had a roomful of model railways set up which you could operate at the press of a button. What a find!
The next year we repeated the trip . . . and we’ve done so every Christmas Eve since, come rain or shine, except for a couple years when the weather was too severe to risk the drive.
One year, the river was almost completely iced over – a spectacular sight with icicles dangling from the bare tree branches.
The ducks were forlorn, and one was so cold and hungry, it came right up to us and pecked at my son’s wellies. We had nothing to feed it, and felt so sorry as we walked away – even worse as it waddled after us for ages until it finally gave up!
When the children were small, if they were flagging on the walk, we would make up stories to keep them going and sing Christmas songs as we trudged. We still sing, and we always stop to skim stones across the river, poke our noses into the beautiful church, and take time to explore the abbey ruins.
The kids are 20 and 17 now, but we’ll do the same this year. And we’ll be singing every Christmas song we know as we walk.
So if you’re in the vicinity of Bolton Abbey on Christmas Eve and hear a cheery but discordant version of Frosty the Snowman ringing out across the fields loud enough to frighten the sheep, that’ll be us!
Do you have any special traditions at Christmas? I’d love to hear about them!