Three weeks ago, on Friday, pretty much the whole country was forecast to receive really bad snow. This was the day that I and several others were filming for BBC Countryfile up in the ruins of twelfth century Cistercian Jervaulx Abbey near East Witton, about 50 minute’s drive away from Hawes.
Jervaulx Abbey is the only privately owned abbey in the UK and it is pretty splendid, both with and without snow. We met up at 7.45am and it was bitterly cold. Hannah, the director was there, along with Helen the researcher, John Craven in his wet suit lined wellies, Rob the sound man and John the camera man. There was also Ian, the owner of the abbey and Glyn, a monastic historian.
I had already met Ian, Hannah and Helen on a reccie the previous week when Ian was kind enough to give us all a guided tour in person, pointing out the activities that would have taken place in the different parts of the abbey. Not only was Ian able to bring colour to the Cistercian way of life, but the passion for his
life time’s work of preserving the abbey shone through. Glyn was also fascinating, regaling me with tales of how naughty the monks were and how the accountant was sacked. I won’t give too much away!
My task was to make a Wensleydale cheese from ewe’s milk. The problem was that it was -6 oC out in the open. I was given an open sided gazebo and some stainless steel tables on which to rest our little crate system and our chutney gas hob I used to create hot water to heat up the crate system.
Well, I had underestimated just how cold the weather was going to be and also how windy. Even though I was in a little corner, the gas light kept blowing out and there was no way I was going to be able to heat up 15 litres of sheep’s milk to the desired temperature. After a swift decamp to another, slightly more sheltered corner, where the temperature was -2 oC, I abandoned the crate system and decanted two litres of
sheep’s milk into a mould and worked on that instead. Not quite the same effect, but I did actually manage to make cheese, though I am not sure if it is going to make great tv.
Oh well, apologies in advance for looking and sounding like a prat, but it was a great experience and an opportunity to meet some fabulous people – and be on Countryfile!
Plus a big thank you to Hannah for lending me a second pair of socks and Carol, Ian’s wife for a wonderful lunch in their warm kitchen.