302: Bedale

OS Explorer map 302, Northallerton & Thirsk: Catterick & Bedale – I do not own this map, and had not visited it before starting this blog. Visited for this post 10th February 2020. This is the fourth of five posts about a trip I did from Friday 7th to Monday 10th February 2020; a long weekend away to the Yorkshire Dales with my friends (and housemates) Erithacus, Millicent and Vesper.

After a lovely couple of days in our cottage in Swaledale, it was, alas, time for me and my friends to drive home to Cambridge. However, we had all day to do a four-hour drive, so we did things like we usually do, and identified a couple of interesting places to stop off and visit on the way. The first of these was the subject of this post, namely Bedale, a market town in North Yorkshire, about 40 minutes into our drive. We did only a very quick stop in Bedale, entirely to view one curiosity: the Bedale Leech House.

Bedale railway station

We parked up outside a row of little commercial units that had clearly been built on old railway land. Bedale has a railway station on the Wensleydale Railway, a heritage railway running up into Wensleydale from Northallerton. Once upon a time, the Wensleydale line ran from the East Coast Main Line in Northallerton through to Garsdale on the Settle and Carlisle line (on which see my previous post), but it was closed to passengers in the sixties, until a section was reopened as a heritage railway in 2003. So there is still/again a railway station in Bedale, and very pretty it is too! It’s just that what I guess where there were once warehouses or something further along the line, there are now the commercial units where we parked!

The Bedale Beck and the Bedale Leech house

We walked from where we’d parked down to the bridge over the Bedale Beck, which was very high due to the recent Storm Ciara. Looking south, there to our left was the object of our interest – the Bedale Leech House! Leech houses were once reasonably common, being structures for the storage of live medicinal leeches; they’d be placed next to streams or rivers so that running water could be diverted through the building to keep the leeches healthy. (The leeches would have been collected by a human or animal standing in a suitable bit of bog, waiting for them to bite, and then pulling them off their legs to put into jars…).

We later realised that we could have got much closer to it by finding our way into the little green area that it sat on, but oh well, it was still fun to see! After appreciating the leech house for a little bit, we walked back to our car, and continued driving southwards – but don’t worry, this wasn’t our final interesting stop of the trip, as you’ll see in my next post…

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