I was booked to DJ at a party in Knaresborough, Yorkshire, and while I was there I was struck by how pretty the place was. I took a train to York, and then a bus through a lot of disturbingly well-kept villages on the way. I saw a brass band playing, a steam tractor show, Tetley's pubs, cricket pitches, a medieval re-enactment, no litter, no hippies, and a lot of precision-trimmed topiary. On the one hand it was like a set-up display of traditional English clichés, and on the other it was like the sinister result of a purge of undesirables, layabouts, and misfits. It was great.

It seemed reasonable to start with a wide shot, so that you can see the sort of place we're dealing with.

I suppose I really ought to think of something to say about these. Er... that on the right is a church, and on the left you see bricks and leaves.

On second thoughts, I could just let the pictures do the talking.

In the castle, they have tame ravens. These do not have clipped wings, as in the Tower of London, but even when free to fly they seldom bother. Today their keepers have fallen foul of two new contrary regulations, one banning them from flying freely in case they bring back bird 'flu, and the other categorising them as wild and therefore not to be tethered. Well done Tony Blair.

This part of the river looks everso calm.

The river below the town. Willows grow by the banks, rows of pleasure boats line up along jetties, and a huge red cliff is below the King's castle.

The huge viaduct carries the railway from the town. Despite its high-tech purpose, its builders have decided to cover it in medieval fortifications. It could do with a spray of weed-killer.

Oh England! Here is a summary of England in one photograph: Victorian and Georgian townhouses, industrial revolution viaduct, ye olde thatched cottage, medieval church. The only thing missing is a 1970s concrete office block.

I took several of this one, some coming out too dark, and some too light.

With the right lighting, the fact that water is brown can become a virtue.

Shots like this are a worry. I worry that I might be the only person who likes them, and that you may be thinking "I don't get it - it's just a dull shot of a chimney."

Cutesy but nice enough, I hope. I am surprised that this place is not more famous as a tourist destination. This is another clue to there being a conspiracy of cultists to keep out the strange folk.

I thought the shot more dramatic for being a bit dark.

While some of these buildings are achingly British, there are others that wouldn't look too out of place near the Mediterranean. The occasional palm tree adds to the effect.

Lots of steep streets for daunting cyclists and filming Hovis ads.

Quick! I must get as many textures into this shot at once as I possibly can.

Can't help feeling that a thatched cottage would not form a solid foundation for a stone viaduct.

This is the top of the huge lump of rock on top of Old Mother Shipton's pool. A tiny stream with (according to the blurb) the highest mineral concentration in Britain or Europe has, after several millennia (two Ns) deposited a great mass of rock, and on top of it, you see this miniature delta.

I called this photo' "Busy", because it is. I write the apostrophe at the end of the word photo' because it is an abbreviation of the commonly used word "photograph". Sue me.

An old mill building, by the looks of things, with the weir in front of it.

The pool at the bottom of Old Mother Shipton's realm. The eagle-eyed among you will be able to see soft things like hats that have been hung under the flowing water. In about three months they turn hard, covered in mineral deposits from the water. I cheated a bit with this one, using computer graphics to remove a bit of modern fence in the background.

More houses on the steep slopes.

Vaults in the castle. This castle was King Edward, Hammer of the Scots's summer castle, and was in its prime one of the most lavish castles in Britain. Alas, today we have but a ruin thanks to the slighting it was given in the reign of Oliver the Git.

Green and shine.

Brown and shine.

Some houses are more modest than others. Its owner wanted this one noticed.

You decide which composition works better.


The front of the deposited mass. The lump on the left you see sticking out of the vertical wall is where a hat was hung in Victorian times, which got subsumed within the mass before collection.

This is the sort of photo' that is generally considered to work in black and white. The colour version is unadulterated. I've digitally mucked about with the black and white version. Personally, I think that the colour version works, although it may not look at its best when shown right next to the alternative.

And here you see me in pedant-mode. I just wonder how the architect, stone carver, and home-owner felt when they were told that there are two Ns in millennium. ▼

More on Millennium

Well, strike me pink - within a few days of putting my Knaresborough pictures on-line, I was sent an e-mail with a reply to my throw-away smirky quip.

Mr. David Hay e-mailed me saying that he had been intrigued for ages by the spelling and had decided to go to the effort of tracking down the owner and asking him. The owner turned out to be a decent chap, who replied that his girlfriend's father was a stone mason, and that he thought it would be a nice idea to have the name of the house over the door.

"The builders who designed the house were Millenium Designs of Knaresborough and we ended up copying there spelling and realised later that the most common spelling was in fact Millennium, But at this stage the stone mason had done his stuff and it was at this stage it was unchangeble. Later I asked the designers why they had spelt millenium different and there plain answer was to be different.

So there you have it."

To me, "to be different" reads more like a post-hoc excuse than a good reason. Still, it always amazes me to learn that there really are people reading the rubbish I write.

I had been considering a page about expensive misspellings of millennium, when the issue was a bit more current. A Newcastle cafe had all its menus, publicity leaflets, the neon signs outside, the inscriptions on the windows etc. emblazoned with "Millenium Cafe". First prize might go to the Goldsmiths chain of jewellers, though, who launched a massive nationwide Millenium (sic) Diamond promotion. I went into one of the branches and pointed this out, and noticed that the spelling was gradually changed over the following months, but I don't know that I was the cause of this. I do know that I was responsible for a different change, however. A friend of mine worked for Paper Dove - a greetings card design company, and after I had been commenting on the matter, she attended the final meeting at which the designs for 2000 were to be approved, and she noticed that on every single one, the word had been misspelled. Fortunately, it was an error easy to put right.

HTML should really have a <pedantry> tag for people like me.

Then I went to the station and waited for the train back to York. The whole town reminded me of the models people make of railways. They almost always choose to model pretty English towns of the 1930s.

And so we take our leave of the good people of Knaresborough - Gateway to the Dales.