After being on the road for just over a month we finally made it into England. First stop was a little town just outside the city of Leeds called Ilkely, home to my good friend Maire Crosse and her family. I met Maire last year back home in Australia where she spent eight months on a gap year. Maire was apart of an exchange program organised between her school in England, Ampleforth and James' school in Australia, Trinity College. After hitting it off instantly I couldn't wait to be reunited once again to relive the antics, but this time in Maire's world.
Ilkley is a quaint town down in the valley with a vibrant lush surrounding. After leaving Ireland I thought I would never see another sea of green just like it, but Ilkley proved me wrong. The Crosse house hold was at full swing when we arrived. Housing Damien, Maire's father, his partner Daria, his sister Fiona and her dog Wolfie, Maire's brother Hugh and there dog Rio. Welcomed with open arms it was so nice to be apart of a family dynamic once again.
After being on the go non stop we took the time to relax and enjoy the serenity of the house. Sitting in bed sipping on tea watching the rabbits chase each other in the garden under the tiny glimpses of sunshine was how I spent my days. By Thursday it was all go from there, the weekend had come early. We were invited with the rest of the Crosse clan to a charity dinner and balloon debate for The Lords Taverners, which Damien previously was chairman for and is heavily involved in. The charity works with helping children who are disadvantaged and or disabled by engaging with them through sports and other recreational activities. The night consisted around a great debate between four local celebrities statuses all fighting for there favourite sports man/women. The night began with a fabulous feast by UK celebrate MasterChef, Tom Reynnolds. As the wine flowed so did the night. Debates, auctions, raffles and of course more wine. Some how I ended up in charge of our raffle tickets and was the one that did the embarrassing 'Just put one foot in front of the other I swear I'm not drunk' walk to the stage to except the winning prize, a magnum bottle of Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin. The night was a great success. Good food, good wine, good company and good entertainment. I couldn't think of a better way to support such a great cause and start off our extra long long weekend.
Feeling the ramifications of the night before there was no time to sleep it off. Friday we jumped in the car and headed on a mini road trip further up North towards York, Maire was taking us to visit her old school Ampleforth. Seeing the school was very important to us as we have met so many great people from the school over the years that previously have done the same program out in Australia like Maire. It was also very special to us because James younger sister Rebekah also was involved with the program and spent last year in Ampleforth working at the school. Our timing was impeccable being the biggest weekend of the schools year, exhibition week. Exhibition is a time where the school is showcased to all the students parents. Parents and old scholars come down from all over the world for this special occasion, James and I were very lucky we could be apart of it. Spending the weekend in Maire's Mother Siobhan's cottage in a small town called Helmsley was the perfect location, being just a few miles out from the Ampleforth Village.
Saturday was when the major events went underway and we couldn't have asked for a more splendid Spring day, Sunny with not a cloud in the sky. The day consists of award giving ceremonies, house lunches, orchestras, cricket games and picnics.To start Maire gave us a tour of the school and its magnificent grounds. Lakes, student houses, colonies, great halls, classrooms, shooting ranges, ovals, courts, The Primary School and The Abbey was all apart of it. The tour ended in the woods where the students go to hangout, hide and smoke. Each year a King and Queen of the woods is crowned, the woods are apart of some serious Ampleforth history. So in true Ampleforth tradition I couldn't help but join in and have a sneaky cig. We spent the afternoon at a tea party down at the Primary school where Maire grew up, Gilling. Gilling is my absolute favourite part of the entire school. Being an impressive old castle as we entered inside I felt as if I had just emerged into a world of warmth and magic. The gardens were radiant and the perfect location for some scones and tea and the perfect end to our first day at Ampleforth.
The real event on everyone's radar and the main event of the entire exhibition weekend is Saturday night at The Swan, the local pub in the Ampleforth Village. Basically for most people The Swan IS exhibition week. So if your not down there getting wasted then you might as well forget about exhibition all together. I don't know how it does it but The Swan has a way of stealing your dignity very quickly. We caught up with our old ex Trinity Gap Student friends and we finally got to put a face to the many names from Rebakahs many stories she told us about her time in Ampleforth. Conversations flowed as did the drinks. Before long James and I were back in the cottage with both our heads down the same toilet bowl in fine form. Swan: 1, Toni and James: 0.
The only way to end a weekend at Ampleforth is to attend the Mass at the schools Abbey. The service was like nothing I have ever been apart of before, we were so lucky to have be given the opportunity to have such a sensational experience. Due to my session the night before I had to do a quick evacuation half way through the mass and found myself drifting off near the church, while James sat through the service hallucinating from all the smoke and incense. The day ended with a great performance from the schools Scottish band out in the sunshine where everyone gathered in awe. It really was the perfect end to a great first weekend in Yorkshire.
The Wanderers Daughter xx