Forum Members Meet up - 25th August, 2010.


Myself and Jane from the Follyfoot Forum had arranged for a group of Follyfoot fans to meet together and visit Follyfoot farm and Stockeld Park.

Jane had suggested visiting Stockeld Park, which is just outside Wetherby in North Yorkshire. This was where the famous scenes took place of Dora walking up the enchanting stairwell, in the very first episode of Follyfoot. Also the riding stables where Dora lovingly talks to one of the horses and meets the stable hand who advises her not to be back late -due to the account of troublemakers coming up from the town. Jane Royston had actually worked in these very stables back in the 1960s.
Having contacted Stockeld Park to arrange a private guided tour and likewise also contacting the Harewood Estate for permission to visit Follyfoot farm, Jane in turn, contacted a hand full of Forum members to see if anyone might be interested in meeting up together during the summer. Everyone who had been contacted, expressed an interest but some were also busy with work commitments and diary dates that were already fixed up- holidays pre -booked etc; but in the end, around 15 of us were able to attend this first meeting of like-minded fans. The date of 25th August was fixed - the ‘lateness’ being in order to help anticipate and coincide with the forthcoming book about Follyfoot by Jane Royston. Regarding her book, I believe there is now a likely hood this will be on hold due to ‘proof reading’ until either later in the year towards Christmas 2010 or perhaps into the following year in 2011- to coincide with the series 40th anniversary. Whatever the case, the book will definitely be published and no doubt there will be a much anticipated rush of eagerness to acquire a copy by then! Guaranteed.
The 25th August was on a Wednesday and was penned in mainly to fit in with the Stockeld Park opening times and hours, so we arranged for everyone to meet there by car at around 10.30am, as the guided tour was to take place at 11am. I had been tipped off the day before by the Harewood Estate that the North and Leeds area was pouring down with rain all day long! However there was by some miraculous luck that the weather for Wednesday would be clear, warm and sunny - a window of opportunity for a Follyfoot adventure! Myself, Jane and her husband arrived together in the same car and as we approached the North side of the Stockeld Park building, imagined the scene where the Colonel rode in via horseback as he intercepts his brother and wife and their daughter, Dora arriving in their Rolls Royce.


                                                                Click images to enlarge

As we waited around and admired the scenery, Loopy, Hollinhare and their husbands and Rob turned up and as we greeted and introduced each other, Jane Royston, Ray Knight, Christine Saul and her husband, Michael also turned up. Some of the members had not met either Jane Royston nor Ray Knight and I hadn’t met Christine before nor her husband. Christine worked on the Follyfoot set as a horse hand. There was a lot of hand shaking, smiles, talking and laughter all round! Eventually a graceful -looking lady made her appearance from seemingly out of no-where and introduced herself as Susie Grant, firstly to myself, (Mrs Grant, along with her husband, own and manage Stockeld Park-quite a tough task -one can imagine) and then to everyone else. Mrs Grant spoke to us all and part of the topic was how fine the weather had turned out for us! We all waited just a little longer, as several others had yet to arrive and eventually after 11 o’clock, everyone duly went inside, walking up the very same steps that both Dora and her Uncle had done, nearly 40 years ago.

The house was designed by noted 18th century house architect, James Paine who was commissioned by Sir William Middleton, a member of a prominent Roman Catholic family. The villa itself was designed along the Palladian style- which has it’s origins from the 16th century Venetian architect, Andrea Palladio whose works were inspired from Greek architecture. We were told of great past sadness and heartache for the previous family owners. One of it’s main, noted features is the oval stairwell that ingeniously has been counter -levered into the strong, solid walls of the villa. Susie Grant explained to us, past intrigue and shenanigans from the previous owners, that in part involved this very room!


As a result, the property became derelict for a while until the descendants of the Middleton family line sold the property and estate to the late 19th century industrialist, Robert John Foster of whom Peter Grant is a direct descendant.


We were then shown both the lounge quarters and dinning room in which Ray Knight and I believe that in one of these rooms, Dora and the Colonel had discussed the unpleasantness of the Night Riders antics over breakfast and where the Colonel suggests to Dora to go down to Follyfoot farm.


We learnt that during the war years, parts of the house were used as a hospital and apparently over 500 babies were born there in this room! We were also privileged to be shown the out of bounds kitchen quarters. As all the windows in these rooms were south facing, the warmth was very noticeable- and the beautiful, splendid views which were depicted in the series were/are a wonderful backdrop for both the present owners and likewise in the past, for Dora and the Colonel.



Eventually we were led outside and again we were privileged to see the Chapel of Rest. Judging by the many seats and rows of pews, clearly people back then- that including the landed gentry- were very religious and God-fearing.


One of the regular Forum members had asked Mrs Grant whether we could all have a look inside the riding stables. After hesitating a few moments ( I believe Mrs Grant knew that Jane Royston had once worked here and perhaps did not want to take away her cherished memories of happier times) she acquiesced, and unlocked the door but worryingly as she pushed- it did not open! She tried again and this time it did- and we all slowly went inside.


It was very dusty and full of cobwebs etc and no doubt if Phyllis Wetherby had been here with us, she would have got to work straight away-with her feather duster! I believe this is the first time that Follyfoot Forum members had ever been inside the stables. Everyone was very grateful for this kind gesture by Mrs Grant. I hope one day these stables can somehow be brought back to life again! If they need any volunteers-then please look no further than the Follyfoot forum!

After which, the guided tour was over and we were made welcome to explore some of the grounds beyond the house. Mrs Grant made her graceful exit and within seconds, she had quite literally disappeared! We all then decided to trudge across the fields saying ‘hello’ to the cattle and negotiated the cattle grid. I mentioned to Jane Royston, these parts would presumably be ideal for horse riding to which she confirmed it definitely was. We eventually reached a vantage point that allowed us to look back from a distance onto the south facing part of the house and admired it’s stately presence.


Then we had to go! We realised we had overstayed our time allocation and the next stage of our FF adventure was to visit a pub for a meal and a drink. After this we would then meet at 2pm with Laxmi Bantawa, Operations Manager of the Harewood Estate and be escorted over to Follyfoot farm.
I would recommend any society group interested in old, historical buildings etc reading this account, to make inquires with Stockeld Park and book a guided tour there.

After setting off in convoy, we made our way to the Harewood Arms public house. The idea of a car convoy seemed the appropriate thing to do but despite our slow speeds, and a relatively quiet road, a farm tractor managed to ‘overtake’ one of our group trying to get out of a junction. But despite all this, we each managed to make it to the pub on time! Once inside the pub, we all took up one side of the room and ordered our drinks and meals. I played it ‘safe’ and had ordered for myself, cod, chips and peas -to be helped down by a pint o’ cider. During this laid back time (with much laughter- not necessarily caused by alcohol consumption), we discussed the obvious subject matter and several items and souvenirs connected with Follyfoot began to make an appearance. I had already handed out my drawings of some of the FF characters to pass around. However of particular interest was Peter’s (aka Moggy on the forum) ‘lightning tree’ pen stand of which he mentions in detail on the Forum.


Peter then also brought out the original wallpaper that he had once stripped off the Colonel’s cottage walls back in 1974, some time after the series had finished. The wall paper is a beige, creamy colour with symmetrical lines of small, grey, patterned leaves (in three)- interspaced with much larger, quaint pink flowers and green leafed stems. Then suddenly, without warning , Peter began to cut the wallpaper up into small strips with a Swiss army knife and proceeded to hand these squared pieces (approx 10” x 8”) onto the members. We were all astonished by Peter’s kind generosity and my piece is safely tucked away in my Follyfoot folder! Thanks, Peter.


Because we were running late, I had to make a quick phone call outside to Laxmi Bantawa who would shortly escort us and I explained that we would have to meet at 2.30pm (and not 2pm). Laxmi agreed to this and I felt less pressure again. I’d decided nearer the time to leave the pub and made my way over on foot to the Harewood Arch area. A little later on, everyone else followed in their cars (we had arranged for car sharing) and once they had parked up, Laxmi texted me to say he was on his way! He soon turned up with Jackie Naylor, Events Co-Ordinator and before I got inside the 4x4, I waved to everyone to then follow us. We initially parked up near by and I discussed briefly with Laxmi and Jackie what our plans were when visiting the farm. I was given the all -clear and once more we were off again to visit the farm -which I had last seen, some 14 months earlier.
We approached via the usual main track that leads up to the farm itself and parked up just before the buildings. As we all got out, we had exchanged a few words and pleasantries with Laxmi and Jackie Naylor. Then, when they had left, gradually made our way across to the first main building, where in past times was used as the Follyfoot staff canteen. Christine Saul, Jane’s fellow horse lady on Follyfoot had later explained to me that there was a raised level platform built inside here by the set production team. Jane Royston explained further details about this place, as I remained outside taking photos.


There was a distraction at the time because a sheep that had looked poorly, resting inside the barn, was unfortunately entangled with a piece of long wire in its coat. I managed to grab it and Moggy (aka Peter) cut away the wool to free the animal. The sheep was calm throughout and once we had removed the wire, the animal walked away. There was further cause for concern however for it’s general well being because it’s right, hind leg was raised up and had looked infected.
We all made our way into the courtyard and here everyone spread out and explored the old farmhouse which I believe is over 300 years old. Our curiosity reminded me of a passing film- set crew, checking out potential scenes to film. Is there anyone from the Emmerdale television production team interested in restoring this site and filming here?


I noted the old Donkey shed, since my last visit, has been beautifully restored as a car port.(photos 27,28). Surely if this can be done with such clear skill and professionalism-then why not the rest of the farm? If nothing is done soon in the coming years, then the balance of time will irrevocably be lost and it will be too late to save the buildings for future generations.



I went up to the top barn (where Ron would usually hide and have a smoke and a snooze) I noticed that the end, support beam is now bending with the strain-the top part appears to have snapped, holding up the heavy, slated roof.

Will this surely collapse soon? Like everyone else on the day, we were all definitely taking a risk venturing inside. Clearly, anyone doing this, is doing so at their own risk and permission should at least be requested beforehand. Christine Saul had confirmed the two blue doors that were once fixed up against the top barn were now being used as barriers to help prevent livestock from going inside.


I walked into the other adjoining section. The red brick wall here was added by the Follyfoot set, according to Christine. I went outside via the open doorway, and looked across the lake area.


This very doorway was where the Colonel had declared to Dora, Steve and Ron that the old shack by the lake would need to come down -on the account of it being an ‘eyesore’. Christine had added that the old shack was not original but had been built by the film set. I gradually walked down towards the others and peered back onto the farm -which nowadays has a real ghostly, decaying feel about the place.
We carried on walking alongside the lake area and down towards the wooded, secret lake location. Ray Knight and some of the others had gone on further in another direction up the hillside- to explore other locations that were filmed during Follyfoot. When we got to the small hidden lake area, people were keen to locate the tree where Steve and Dora nearly declared their love for each other! There was no luck on this occasion! All the trees looked the same! But it may be possible to properly locate these areas in time.
Then, as the afternoon went on, gradually some of us slowly made our way back towards the main lake area and sat down waiting for the others to return. When some of the others eventually returned, we took a detour and walked along the mud track that has become a new public footpath. Originally this had ran between Follyfoot farm and the old cottage.

We made our way past Hollin Hall and met up with the rest of the party by the crossroads area just outside the farm itself. This is now where my account becomes a little more interesting! Firstly, Jane Royston was already pointing across the fields into the distance -where she was indicating for us to also look through our camera zoom lens etc. Because some of the hedge- line trees had been thinned out recently, there was now a gap into the field beyond and through our lens we could see what appeared to be a ‘graveyard’ of fallen trees. These had either been blown down or uprooted and deliberately dumped there in the field as natural ‘rubbing posts’ for livestock. All their branches had already been removed and the remaining trunks and stumpy- looking roots, were now grey and white- ‘bleached’ and worn down by the elements -and by cattle and sheep. Amongst these fallen ‘giants’, we could see a ‘small tree’ without a root ball, seemingly isolated from the rest-this we were told by Jane could be the original ‘lightning tree’! Even Ray Knight, despite his in-depth knowledge on Follyfoot, appeared not to be even aware of this.


If this was the actual ‘lightning tree’ according to Jane - then it must have been dropped there, well over 30 years ago! Then it was suggested to me, whether some of us should go over and have a closer look at it and I agreed. They went on first because as we were all contemplating this possible, exiting new discovery, a tall willowy woman began to approach us from behind and walking alongside her, was a beautiful thoroughbred horse-the type that steeple- race! She casually walked past and turned left, heading off towards the next field -where they were already on their way. I took some photos of the horse and then followed suit and eventually caught up with them We gradually approached the tree and as I looked back behind me, in the distance (some 390 yards away-according to Goggle Earth) everyone else was watching us!


The stump/trunk looked about 18ft long and had no roots but had clearly been cut down. At the other end, there were finger-like stumps which incredibly seemed to match those very same limbs that had once adorned the tree in the series.
There was a ground ‘rut’ running all around the tree which suggested animals over the years had walked around it, rubbing their bodies against the trunk. All the natural bark on top had been removed but there was plenty of bark still underneath. Without bark it would have been difficult to identify this particular species of tree. At the time, I thought it was possibly an ash tree but I felt more confident it was an oak tree. We decided to take some bits off - potential souvenirs in effect- and then made our way back to the others, who by now were waiting patiently for our return and a verdict! As we neared, we said we were not sure whether it was the ‘lightning tree’ or not but we thought that the tree was an oak. One of the party, who was an expert on identifying trees initially thought the bark may have been from a sycamore tree but on closer inspection, concluded it was likely to be an oak tree.
Either way, we were on the right lines and as I write, I understand Jane Royston will make some inquires of her own with several contacts to try to establish where exactly this particular tree originated from!


And so our Follyfoot adventure came to a close! Some of us were frankly knackered, and wanted to sit down and rest. It was time to shake hands, say farewell and head back home etc. We all looked forward to the 40th Celebrations planned for next year!
I would like to thank everyone for turning up and it was a real pleasure to meet you all! Thank you to Loopy for your CD! Thank you also to Peter who generously cut -up his cherished wallpaper and shared this out to Forum members in the pub! I would also like to thank Christopher Ussher of the Harewood Estate and Laxmi Bantawa and likewise Jackie Naylor who through the Estate’s permission, allowed our get together at Follyfoot farm. Lastly, many thanks to Peter and Susie Grant of Stockeld Park and their kind generosity in opening their doors to us.
As a footnote, when I was traveling up on the train (I believe just before reaching Sheffield) the train came to an abrupt halt- a large tree had fallen across both tracks - and there were delays for more than an hour!

Peter Charles Thorne. (August 2010).


Additional Photos By Peter and Krys 



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