Days out: No café, no gift shop – but Plumpton rocks

12 Oct 2012 @ 5.19 pm
| Entertainment

Stunning secret… Plumpton Rocks. Photographs: Jayne Dwyer
Jayne Dwyer has discovered a place as special as it is secret. But hurry, you’ve only a couple of weekends left to find it yourself…

I don’t want to tell you about Plumpton Rocks. I don’t want to tell you because I promised my boyfriend I would keep it our secret.

So, here is my dilemma: if I don’t tell you, I will feel selfish, like I am eating the best chocolates (the caramel and the one with a hazelnut) from the second layer of Milk Tray; if I do tell you, there is a danger that something about Plumpton will change, that the one space in the car-park that was left for us will be taken.

And that is where the adventure began for us: the car park. We originally missed the sharp left into the entrance and found ourselves a little confused about where to plant the car. There are no gravel driveways, no parking bays.

I think I counted seven other cars on the Sunday that we went. We tried to mount a mound of earth that was a space of sorts, but there was a real danger of my bumper (which is stuck on with gaffer tape) being lost over the side, so we took the only other available spot, which was littered with several picnickers under the trees – all very Enid Blyton.

We had paid our £2.50 each at the kiosk on the way in, and looked at the leaflet we’d been given to find some clues as to which way to go. Up? Down? Left? Right? Making our way through the woods, we made jokes about Hansel and Gretel… “Where’s your bag of breadcrumbs when you need them?”

It’s fun being over 40 and feeling like a child, a little bit nervous about where you are going and what you will find. So much of life is mapped out for us these days but at Plumpton you basically have to guess, use your initiative, risk getting a little bit lost.

It is easier to list the things that you won’t find at Plumpton and it is good to know what you won’t find, so that you can plan your visit a little. But it was also refreshing to arrive expecting certain things and finding them absent.

You won’t find: a café selling green tea, or any café selling any tea for that matter; you won’t find an ice-cream kiosk, a snack bar or a vending machine; you won’t find a toilet; you won’t find a shop selling pencils or notebooks emblazoned with “Plumpton Rocks”, locally-produced onion relish or lemon curd.

So, what is so special about Plumpton, apart from the freedom to roam and its lack of facilities? Well, think Brimham and dare to believe it is more beautiful. I have been to Brimham three times this year and I am not tiring of it, but if I am totally honest, I can never quite relax and just enjoy the staggering scenery.

This is mostly down to the fact that my 13-year-old does what he should be doing at Brimham: climbing. I have never been good with heights and whilst I will “have a go” at Brimham, and even wear my trainers especially so I look like I am “up for it”, my heart is in my mouth for 99 per cent of the time.

I wish I could enjoy it more. I find myself walking with my head down most of the time as I would otherwise stand tentatively waiting to catch all the falling boys and girls, no matter who they belong to.

We didn’t take him to Plumpton last week, but we will. When you wander into Plumpton, you initially seem to walk around the rocks and through them. At first, it is a little tame, too easy, and then you see the lake, which if we were to play a game of Top Trumps would be the thing that trumps Brimham every time.

It is astoundingly beautiful. Ed and I sat on a rock overlooking the lake and lost time watching dragonflies scoot across the water. Walking around the lake, we were amazed to see that the rock we had been sat on earlier had the most dramatic drop, disguised when we were sat on it by the way the rock face curved under itself.

The so called Lover’s Leap had been where we had sat down for the first time in days and supped our Diet Coke.

We had been literally starring in our own film set. Apart from being used as a backdrop for numerous TV shows from Heartbeat to the Muppets, the scene was painted by Turner. The only information board we found stands in front of the scene that the great artist captured in oils.

Nothing has changed since his first visit to Yorkshire in 1797. Nothing except the name, which was “Plompton” then. Nothing should change and it truly would be a shame if the area were developed in any way.

Plompton Rocks by Joseph Turner

And this is the thing that fascinates me most about Plumpton. People have been visiting for centuries and yet I have been living in the back end of York, only 17 miles from Plumpton, going round the corner to Knaresborough (for a green tea and a cornet) not knowing it existed. It must be one of Yorkshire’s best kept secrets!

  • Plumpton Rocks is open Saturdays and Sundays, 11am to 6pm until the end of October and will open again in March
  • Admission: Adults £2.50, children and senior citizens £1.50
  • For a map showing Plumpton Rocks, click here