As it happens Pickering is the start point (or end point, depending upon whether you’re coming or going) of the North Yorkshire Moors Railway, so it would have been downright rude to have visited this wonderful part of the country without taking a trip to Whitby (and back) on a steam train. One of the (few) good things about the pandemic has been that certain attractions that would normally be crammed with fellow holidaymakers have actually been fairly quiet – so we were able to enjoy our trip down memory lane in relative space and comfort. Unfortunately we weren’t able to say the same about Whitby which was heaving with crowds of visitors, not one of whom seemed to have heard about social distancing or mask wearing. No wonder we’re in the realms of a third (or is it fourth) wave of infections. Still, mustn’t grumble….. that’s the spirit. A quick trip around the abbey (not a vampire to be seen) followed by fish and chips sat on the quayside rounded off the visit before we slowly chugged our way back to Pickering and our little ‘home from home on wheels’. Next stop on our blitzkrieg tour of Yorkshire was Flamborough Head – scene of Thomas Robinson Ewbank’s (my 4 x Gt Grandfather) minor maritime triumph when, in 1805, as skipper of the Sarah and Elizabeth (a Hull based whaler), he saw off a dastardly attack on local shipping by a French privateer. Of course I was surprised and disappointed that there was no plaque to commemorate the event, but this was slightly mollified by being able to watch the resident puffins, gannets and razorbills that inhabit the impressive cliffs in large numbers.
Whilst in the neighbourhood we took the opportunity to visit the lovely house and gardens at Burton Agnes. The walled garden was spectacular, combining fabulous planting with a huge range of fruits and vegetables – and once again the absence of crowds made the visit a real pleasure.
As someone who has a long term interest in his family history, it would have been unthinkable to visit the East Riding without making just a fleeting visit to Hull to dig up (metaphorically, of course) the relatives. I already knew that Spring Bank Cemetery, where a number of my forebears are allegedly resting, was reputed to be in a bit of a state, but the reality still came as a bit of a shock. It’s a massive space in the centre of the city but sadly it clearly hasn’t been maintained at all since it was last used in the early seventies. With trees and bushes covering pretty much the entire area virtually all of the grave stones are broken or have fallen over – in fact this would have been a much better place than Whitby for Bram Stoker to have made Dracula’s home. By some miracle we stumbled over the last resting place of Thomas Steel and Harriet Ewbank but I don’t doubt that in a year or two’s time that too will have been lost to nature. Shame on Hull City Council (or whoever’s responsible) for allowing a graveyard to fall into such a state. Rant over.
In point of fact we didn’t start our latest ‘adventure’ at the seaside – that comes a little further down the page. This time the start point of our ‘vanathon’ has brought us to ‘God’s country’, home of the Yorkshire Pudding, Yorkshire Tea (I’ve never really understood that one) and Matthewson’s Classic Car Auctions.
Now, as everyone knows, I’m a man of iron will and the proven ability to resist any temptation – except when it comes to car buying. So before visiting the hallowed home of ‘Bangers and Cash’ I had to make a binding promise to myself to keep my bidding arm firmly by my side. As it turned out I needn’t have bothered as all the bidding for their July auction was online and anyway there was virtually nothing on offer to lead me into temptation ….that’s if you discount a brace of well-constructed Batmobiles and around three hundred other likely candidates for the Ewbank stable. In any event it was an interesting visit and we managed to get away with no purchases – not even a mug featuring that great truism “There’s Dad’s Way, and then there’s Dad’s Way”.
I’m sure there must be an unwritten law somewhere that you can’t visit East Yorkshire without visiting the seaside. That said, even with the new E-bike I think that I’d have found cycling from Pickering to Scarborough a bit of a test – and just how Denise would have kept up without the benefit of electrical assistance is anybody’s guess. Fortunately, we were able to take the bus from just outside our campsite via Malton all the way to Scarborough and enjoy seeing this part of the lovely Yorkshire Wolds from the upper deck. Once in the town, a walk along the beach to see the donkeys was followed by a quick paddle in the briny and we were lucky enough to see a pod of dolphins playing in the bay.
The promenade itself has lost much of its Victorian splendour, and I’m not sure that my grandmother and father, who lived here for a while in the 20s and 30s would recognise much, but once you get away from the seafront the town still has lots of charm and the castle that overlooks the town and dominates the coastline is well worth a visit.
The trouble with keeping an ‘occasional’ blog is not knowing what to include and how often it should be updated; I have a tendency to miss some notable experiences or events completely, and then to spend too much time (too many words) describing things that I’ll look back on later and wonder ‘why on earth did I write about that?’.
Anyway, having failed at the time to capture the remainder of our latest trip ‘ooop north’ I thought that I’d better do a quick catch-up before we set off again on our travels.
For our last full day in the Lakes we were fortunate to enjoy a sunny day for our boat trip down Windermere, which provided great views of some of the lovely, and no doubt extremely expensive, houses lining its eastern shore. Leaving Cumbria we drove the sixty or so miles south to visit Cleve and Claire Forty in their new (to them) home on the West Pennine Moors above Bolton – an area of open moorland and numerous reservoirs that neither of us had previously explored. It was good to catch up with old friends, enjoy their generous hospitality and to hear their exciting plans for their new home – good luck with that!
One of the reasons for visiting Lancashire (which as most Yorkshiremen know is unfortunately on the wrong side of the Pennines) was to become better acquainted with the area surrounding Ormskirk where many of my mother’s ancestors hailed from. We managed to pick a nice little campsite just outside Burscough about half a mile from the Leeds/Liverpool Canal, which is vastly more attractive than the name suggests. The towpath provided an excellent cycle path to some of the surrounding villages so once again we were able to spend several ‘happy’ hours wandering through local churchyards visiting long dead relatives!
I suppose the clue’s in the name. If you visit a place that’s renowned for its lakes, rivers and lush green scenery you can probably expect to get the odd drop of rain from time to time – so for the last few days leading up to this trip we’ve been watching the weather forecast and hoping that the recent run of dreadful weather (apparently the wettest May on record) would come to an end. It was a bit of an inauspicious start as we motored our way up the M5/M6 between torrential downpours interspersed with short periods of brilliant sunshine, but our arrival in Hawkshead coincided with a break in the clouds and we were able to sit outside a local pub and enjoy a pint. As it was the first time we’d been able to do so for about 18 months it tasted especially good.
Hawkshead sits (or ‘nestles’ as they say in the guidebooks) midway between Windermere and Coniston Water and is an especially pretty little village with what appears to have one of the highest concentrations of pubs in the land. Its other claim to fame is the little known (unless, of course, you happen to live or work here) fact that it’s where William Wordsworth went to school – there, now you know it too!
Yesterday (Tuesday) morning we met James and Esther Brown and their children for a quick coffee before they had to high-tail it back home at the end of their short holiday break – by coincidence they happened to be visiting the area for a few days so the opportunity for a quick catch up was too good to miss. In the afternoon we risked the elements and walked about five miles up to Outgate and around Blelham Tarn which provided some nice views of the surrounding countryside and across to the mountains in the northern lakes.
This morning started with the usual and predictable downpour, but once the skies cleared we managed a walk in the other direction through Hawkshead and up towards Esthwaite Water which, after a bit of a climb, took us through a large area of Forestry Commission land before providing us with some more nice views and great scenery. This afternoon was an opportunity for some R&R followed by the usual French and Spanish lessons courtesy of DuoLingo – are we creatures of habit, or what?
….holiday blogs, motoring obsessions and an occasional account of goings-on in the Ewbank household