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Things to Do 17 & 18 December
From the true Father of Christmas to a Christmas bake off
One week to go! Here’s how make the most of the last week before Christmas in Ryedale’s beautiful market towns this weekend.
Discover the TRUE Father of Christmas - not Santa Claus, but Charles Dickens, Malton
His Christmas gift was the enchanting Christmas Carol – the origin of so many of our beloved Christmas traditions today – and it was inspired by his happy visits to Malton and travels around Ryedale. The entire town celebrates an annual Dickens Festival in December: highlights of the upcoming festival includes star entertainment with guest Miriam Margoyles, talks by leading experts including Lucinda Hawksley, a Dickens Cookery School, Victorian street theatre, horse & carriage rides, and a special BBC Dickensian exhibition, in partnership with the Charles Dickens Museum in London.
Friday 16 December: real-life opportunity to see the book itself, ‘A Christmas Carol’, an early and signed edition, on display at The Talbot Hotel in Malton – and to ask a panel of experts everything you wanted to know about Charles Dickens and his circle. The panel will consist of Selina Scott, Miriam Margolyes and Lucinda Hawskley with a book signing at the end of the event. Limited tickets so book now by calling 01653 639 096. Entry £3. You will be greeted with a glass of mulled wine with a chance to see The Talbot in all its Christmas splendor.
Saturday 17 December: For a festive treat, The Malton (Dickens) Society will present the spoof radio play ‘Who Killed Bob Cratchit?’ by Brian Oxberry at 2pm and 4pm at The Blue Ball Inn, Malton. Admission £5.
Saturday 17 December: BAFTA winning Miriam Margolyes, whose one-woman show Dickens’ Women was nominated for an Olivier award, will perform on at The Milton Rooms from 7pm. Special guest and Dickens expert, Professor John Bowen, will give the annual Dickens lecture called ‘Dickens Magic.’ Mince pies and mulled wine will be available at the interval. Tickets on sale now from the Milton Rooms Box Office, £14 each. Call 01653 696 240 to book.
Sunday 18 December 2016: Dickens Luncheon talk. Lucinda Hawksley will talk about the extended Dickens family, looking at Charles Dickens’ parents, siblings and children – including his brother Alfred, who lived in Malton. Come along and discover a cast of characters who would not have been out of place in a novel of their own. Tickets for the lunch are available from the Talbot, priced £25. Call 01653 639096 to book.
Have a Christmas bake-off – make your pies and puddings – Malton, Sunday 18 December
One way to make sure you make time to prepare things to eat at Christmas and are ready for the big day is to book yourself on a cookery course.
Just in time for Christmas, Malton Cookery School, in Yorkshire’s Capital of Food, the market town of Malton, is running a one day course dedicated to making Christmas Pies and Puddings, on Sunday 18 December.
Christmas at Castle Howard - daily until Friday 23 December
Castle Howard has a reputation for putting on one of the finest displays in the country, featuring many Christmas trees, and tens of thousands of baubles, fairy lights and candles.
Unusual additions to this year’s displays are a giant gingerbread model of Castle Howard, a Christmas tree made entirely out of books, an aromatic display in the Antiques Passage, where herbs and candles will create a multi-sensory experience, and a wrapping room, decorated with bows and gift-wrap to show some of the preparations for Christmas. A Venetian theme has taken over the Crimson Dining Room, with a table festooned with opulent gold and red, whilst the Octagon Room has perhaps the most unusual display – an inverted, suspended Christmas tree with golden roots!
Following tradition, perhaps the most ornately decorated tree in the county will be displayed in the Great Hall – a 22ft spruce covered with thousands of lights and baubles – where roaring fires will be lit every day during the run up to Christmas to fill the room with the scent of pine and open fires.
The huge architectural gingerbread model of Castle Howard has been made by London-based architectural foodsmiths, Bompas & Parr. The enormous confection is four metres by three metres, and depicts not only the famous house, complete with its dome and the parterre garden envisaged by Vanbrugh, but also by many of the architectural features found in the 10,000 acre estate, including the Temple of the Four Winds, Mausoleum and the 7th Earl’s monument. The windows of the house are illuminated, and just like at the real Castle Howard, and miniature trees will descend from Ray Wood to create a perfect winter scene.
There’s a delicious menu of festive food and drink, and if you’ve been inspired by the Christmas decorations inside, then the Castle Howard shops sell one of the best collections of Christmas decorations – and especially designer baubles to dress up your tree - in Yorkshire.
See Christmas angels in flight – Helmsley, Saturday 17 December
For an awe-inspiring and unforgettable experience (you may even shed a tear of joy): you can’t beat special winter owl evenings, where the large owls of Helmsley’s National Bird of Prey Centre become stars of the show, flying free through woodland lit only by torchlight – like magical Christmas angels! The evening also includes a flying demonstration of the tiny owls by candlelight in Christmas Tree Cottage, a guided tour, a mulled wine or hot, spiced apple juice and a two-course meal with coffee.
This very special evening runs from 7pm and ends at around 9.45pm. The evenings are suitable for children aged 8 and over. Please wear warm, sensible clothes, and bring a torch! Tickets are £30 each. Places are limited. Book advised! The National Bird of Prey Centre in Helmsley has the largest collection of birds of prey in the North, from the tiny Burrowing Owl to the majestic Steller’s Sea Eagle.
Test ride a bike for Christmas: kids on bikes – not just a toy!
It’s a Christmas kids’ tradition – getting your Christmas bike. Ryedale’s market towns have some of the UK’s best cycling on their doorsteps, whether it’s the world-class MTB trails of Dalby Forest, Britain’s best wild moorland trail rides, family-friendly rides in the gentle Howardian Hills, or following the route of the Tour de Yorkshire, Britain’s most popular road race! So it’s not surprising they also have two of the region’s best cycle shops: in Ryedale, you can buy your bike, then really use it to its maximum potential! Big Bear Bikes in Pickering and Northern Ride in Malton are both large and friendly stores, with expert teams offering a specialist bike fitting service, and a phenomenal range of bikes in stock at any one time for both road and mountain biking, and including a great range of lightweight, easy-to-ride options for children, and all imaginable related kit. You can also test-ride as many bikes as you like before you buy (unlike many city-based cycle shops).
Purchase the perfect Christmas tree
The connoisseur’s choice is a tree from the historic Duncombe Park estate in Helmsley. All trees are lovingly cared for, year-round, in their Christmas nurseries by a skilled team, with cultivation techniques that encourage nature conservation. With a choice of needlefast pines, fine firs, and stunning spruces available from the beginning of December, they are only sold within two miles of the estate, and are also cut fresh the day before they are sold, ensuring that they are in pristine condition. These pampered trees will require the very best decorations, so head for Castle Howard’s Christmas Shop, with its outstanding range of unique and designer baubles.
Stock up the drink cabinet
Whether you’re seeking beer, wine, cider or spirits, you’ll find a huge variety of local choice: independent, handcrafted, distinctive and award-winning:
Ampleforth Abbey hand picks and hand-presses their own apples, to make award-winning cider brewed from a traditional Benedictine recipe - and also a sinfully delicious cider brandy. The area was once known as the ‘Orchard of the North’, and many local villages and garden attractions are now restoring their ancient orchards to produce ciders and juices, inspired by Ampleforth!
The region has several top breweries: in Malton, the Brass Castle Brewery is CAMRA award-winning and in demand across the UK, while the town’s Bad Seed Brewery is amongst Yorkshire’s best craft breweries, its growing popularity in cities across the UK meaning the brewery’s already had to move premises to keep up with demand. The Great Yorkshire Brewery in Cropton near Pickering has been producing award-winning, hand-crafted real ales for over 25 years and it’s a regional success story with its bottled beers now sold internationally. Helmsley Brewing Company design their range of craft beers using the finest ingredients (including Yorkshire Malts and English hop) and traditional techniques.
Ryedale Vineyards produces wines that are winning international awards from their Yorkshire grapes, and also fresh fruit, juice and cider from the farm’s orchards. The vineyard is also Britain’s most northerly commercial vineyard.
SLOEmotion, in Barton le Willows near Malton harvests the hedgerow to produce its multi-award winning fruit liqueurs, such as SLOE gin, vodka, brandy and whisky. They use traditional techniques with high concentrations of hand-picked wild fruit to create fabulous flavours, and nothing goes to waste, with the spent fruit used to produce chocolate truffles and chutneys.