#05 – The Sets of Harry Potter

By the end of May, after so many Bank Holidays, you really aren’t used to working 5 days in a week, but you are pretty clued up on how to spend a Bank Holiday.

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I tend to look for continuity in my posts, a theme that runs through them to link A to Z. Over the Bank Holiday weekend, completely by chance, just this sort of link manifested itself.

The first half of the Bank Holiday was spent in Leeds, more specifically, around Malham Cove and East Riddlesden Hall. The second half of the weekend was spent back at the Harry Potter Tour of Warner Bros. Studios, less than two years after visiting for a first time. Both places are linked by Harry Potter.

It’s an odd thing visiting the city that you became an adult in, or rather, the city that you went to University in – I’m not sure I truly ever became an ‘adult’ during my time in the great northern city of Leeds; too much time was spent in the pub to become an adult – but going back there after just two years, it still feels like a lifetime ago. Visiting Leeds as a professional gives the feeling that there is a glass window between yourself and the things you used to do. I think that is why Ben and Krista love living there so much, the nostalgia and the local knowledge of the city is all still there, but you can escape the student life and carve your own path as a professional in a city as accommodating as Leeds.

The Bank Holiday weekend was supposed to be spent walking in the Yorkshire Dales and visiting Ben and Krista. But when Hannah fell 6-feet off a bouldering wall in Mile End and in the process fractured her ankle; putting her in one of those foam handed gloves you get – only, for your feet – we had to alter plans just a little bit.

Hannah, being the trooper that she is, refused to let a fractured ankle get in the way of the Bank Holiday weekend and so even though the adventures in the Dales had to be scrapped, Ben and Krista still organised a great weekend in places old and new around the familiar city.

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A National Trust membership is exactly the kind of thing I mean when I talk about the separation between student life and professional life in a city. Ben and Krista were gifted a membership at Christmas – something that seems like a very non-student gift but one that would be a welcome present nowadays – and so they took us to East Riddlesden Hall in Keighley on the Saturday as part of their ‘Tour de National Trust Yorkshire’.

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It’s a lovely house, but the most impressive thing about it for me would be the old pendulum clocks on show. One clock, still working, and over 400 years old, was the most valuable thing in the house according to the very knowledgable volunteer who I am very inclined to believe.

Old grandfather and pendulum clocks have something about them that capture my attention. My Nannie and Grandpa have one of their own in the hallway of their Llangybi house, and as children we would run to it a couple of minutes before each hour to hear it chime. I’m not sure what it is about clocks like that, maybe it is the chime that gives them charm, but the clocks in Riddlesden Hall were equally charming and interesting to hear about.

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It was probably best that the walk in the Dales was aborted for alternate plans when a proper Northern thunderstorm rolled over us in the afternoon. We are talking buckets of rain and long drawn out peals of thunder. The kind of storm that men stand in the doorway watching and nodding in appreciation when a ‘big one’ sounds in the distance, true enough, Ben and I stood watching it from the doorway to the cafe for a good fifteen minutes, and we weren’t the only ones.

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In the two years since we have been away, a lot has changed in Leeds, some of the old clubs we watched get shut down and reopen with a change of name – most commonly reversing the old name but retaining the same layout and staff, reopening two days later – have predictably rebranded, but there is a wealth of new places to eat and drink in; or maybe these places were always there and just unnoticed by students? Hmm. Either way, the Columbian dinner we had was not a place I was ever aware of, or have heard of in general, before.

On the Sunday we visited a place I like to think of as being the UK’s Yosemite; Malham Cove in Yorkshire. I’ve never been to Yosemite, but as one of the most photographed places on Earth, it’s easy see that Malham Cove bears some resemblance to Half Dome, and the Nose in Yosemite. Plus, Malham Cove is a hotspot for climbing.

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Malham feeds into the nostalgia of the weekend well, having been the place where myself and Ben went on our first field trip with University to. It also happens to be a set location where Harry Potter is filmed. The symbols of the Deathly Hallows can be found etched on countless rocks at the top of the cove itself.

It’s a lovely walk to the cove, and a well trodden one too.

Being a Bank Holiday, the Sunday was no different and the gravelled paths were kind to Hannah and her crutches, though I’m not sure a poorly maintained path would have stopped her anyway. It also happened to the the Malham village fete, and for a Canadian like Krista, I think the concept of a village fete with welly-wanging and paper-mache’d floats of Wallace and Grommit was quite new to her.

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I really wanted some good landscape photography moments over the weekend and was not disappointed. We lacked rolling hills and expansive views, but the cove provides a bevy of opportunities with so many different attributes, from the limestone cliffs that make it so iconic, to the Peregrines that roost somewhere between the rocks. That’s not to mention the dog-walkers and families that project such enjoyment in the cove that they are themselves fun to photograph.

One man, whose family seemed to own five or six border collies watched as I photographed his dogs playing in the river. He called them back only to throw a stick into the river right below the bank I was sat on just so I could get a good shot of the dogs leaping in.

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We spend most of the day beneath the limestone walls themselves, all four of us enjoy climbing – one of use slightly less so for the moment – and so watching the climbers run routes and clear pegs was quite fascinating. I guess it’s the combination of the rock colours and patterns and the climbers that make Malham feel slightly like Yosemite – for someone who has never been before at least.

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Having felt we had suitably squeezed out all the enjoyment from the Bank Holiday weekend we could manage, we headed back to London knowing that we still had a trip to the Harry Potter Tour in Watford with my parents to look forward to.

The first time I went to Harry Potter world – not the official name but it certainly feels like Harry Potter world – I didn’t know what to expect, but this time, I was a excited not only for myself, going back and seeing the new exhibitions that have since been added to the tour proper since we went a year and a half ago, but for Mum and Dad, whose first time it was to the studio. It’s an unforgettable tour but the spoilers would ruin it for anyone who hasn’t been, so I’ll leave out the detail and urge you to go yourself.

That said, some of my favourite bits were towards the end; the technical drawings of Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley, real architectural drawings for fictional locations and sets have so much detail poured into them it’s as if the creators really believed in those locations. The additional areas that included the forbidden forest are so impressive that they have a steward ushering people who don’t like eight-legged creatures past Aragog’s lair; simply said, the area is quite interactive and the six-foot spiders are unnervingly realistic.

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It is a shame we didn’t have our resident Slytherin with us for the trip – Ellie was stuck revising for exams which are now over! I think a third trip will be in order to show her the tour. I’d be quite happy to go back a third time; though I still profess not to be a Harry Potter fanatic.

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This bank holiday weekend was always set to be a good one, but when Hannah fractured her ankle, for a moment, it looked like we might have to postpone the majority of it. Of course, that was just me underestimating the determination Hannah shows toward life in general, and the fact this Bank Holiday was the best I can remember in a long time, has to be down to her, and her want to get up and do things no matter what!

Spoilers removed, here are some of the photos from Harry Potter world..!

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