RYEDALE Forum is an organisation for people of 50 and over (for which, at 95, I easily qualify!).

I have been especially thankful for it this last year, having, in early February severely injured a leg, able now to walk only with a stick, and not very far.

My first outing with them was in June, to Sheffield, which nowadays, like so many other once-industrial cities, is doing its best to make up for lost industry by attracting tourists.

We visited first the Cutlers' Hall, the present building obviously Victorian in the grandest style of that era, though the site goes back to 1614, when Sheffield was already famous for its cutlery. The word, as our excellent guide explained, originally meant not just tableware, but anything that cuts - pretty obvious, though it had never previously dawned on me.

We had lunch at the appropriately- names Cross Scythes, and afterwards went on to the Abbeydale Industrial Hamlet, a museum in the cottages of a village once devoted to the making of scythes. I had expected there would be exciting demonstrations of the process. But the waterwheel used to power everything was not in order, so we had to be satisfied with lifeless machinery, supplemented by written explanations and by audio guides.

There was also the manager's house, and a worker's cottage, furnished as they would have been in the 18th century. I do like to be given an idea how people used to live.

It was a very hot day, so I was glad of the shade in these houses, and of the many fallen stones to sit on and enjoy the peace of the place, and try to imagine the noise and smoke when it was a workplace.

The second outing, in July, was to Burnby Hall, near Pocklington, to see the famous lily pools. There are several of them, with a collection by the original owner of 100 different varieties of lily. They are a lovely sight, but I thought that three or so varieties would look just as nice, as all of them are in shades of pink, white or cream.

I walked round only one pool, but was delighted to see a baby moorhen, light enough to walk on the lily leaves, its mother swimming nearby to bring it food. Carp came to be fed, gaping wide their ugly pouting mouths. But most of the afternoon we spent sitting to hear the band of the Humberside Police; a first rate band, I thought, of brass, woodwind and percussion, with a surprising proportion of women players. I especially like one piece - soft, slow and melancholy, which sounded to me like a blues.

Our third trip, also in July, was less relaxing, to the Bowes Museum, that extraordinary building, like a French Chateau, so incongruous with its surroundings, built by John Bowes and his French wife Josephine, expressly for public enjoyment.

We called en route for coffee at a garden centre on the outskirts of Northallerton, where one of the Forum organisers did me a kindness typical of the Forum, offering to carry my tray for me, a tricky operation with a stick in one hand.

We went in at the back of the Bowes Museum and headed straight for the restaurant. It was another hot day. I chose cold salmon and shrimp salad, was a bit aghast at the price, but found it really delicious.

They had booked us for a guided tour, preceded by a performance of the famous mechanical Silver Swan. There were not enough seats for everybody, but Dawn Child very kindly got a man to give up his seat for me (He didn't look at all pleased!). The guided tour, of rooms furnished from the French home of John and Josephine Bowes, and of some of Josephine's own paintings, quite good, though dated, and very romantic, was tiring for me, and not very audible. What I could hear was interesting enough. But I was glad that afterwards we had an hour or so on our own. There was an extra exhibition on The Impressionists and the Parisian Woman, which I enjoyed greatly, able to take my time, sitting down frequently, and studying the pictures by the help of a catalogue.

The last trip of the year was in October, to look at four churches in this area with Viking connections, so we were told. It was a bit misleading. It was not by bus this time, but in members' cars. I was taken by Mr and Mrs Child, both of them exceedingly kind.

The first church was new to me, at Barton le Street. It had no connection with Vikings, but has a fine porch and doorway arch with Saxon carvings, though I would have thought it was Norman. Some of the carvings are original but not at all legible, from long weathering. Most were replaced in Victorian times, but sensitively, in a convincing style.

The second visit was to Hovingham, where the church has at least a Viking Cross. But the main treasure is a Saxon carving, the stone so weathered that you can only make out the subjects of the seven panels with a lot of imagination. The tower too shows clear signs of Saxon origin by its "long and short" work at the corners, and in the windows.

After lunch at Helmsley we went on to St Gregory's Minster, very familiar to me, but hard now to reach without a car. I was delighted to see again the Saxon Sundial in the porch, unique I believe in containing the date of the building, and the name of its founder. I have always loved this little old church, and its secluded churchyard.

Our last visit was to Lastingham, again very familiar, but hard to get to nowadays for me. I even ventured down to the romantic crypt. There you could see Viking age stones, such as the hog-backed' tombstone. But to me the ancient crypt has always looked essentially Norman, with its sturdy, stumpy pillars. I still like it for its atmosphere, but it has lost much of the magic it had when I first saw it, 50 years ago, when you had to light a candle to go down to it.

Still, it was an enjoyable day. I feel grateful to The Forum for giving me all four days, and look forward to more like them next year.

Dorothy Cowlin