Staycation 2020 – North Yorkshire

As for everyone else, the Covid pandemic made rather a mess of travel plans for this year.

We made it to Cyprus in March just ahead of the crisis but then had flights cancelled to Spain in April and to Lisbon in June. Only recently Easyjet cancelled our September flights to Sicily but I have to say that I was not desperately disappointed by that.

Once a year I like to go away with my grandchildren and we have got into the habit of finding somewhere in England. Encouraged by our previous good fortune with the weather in Suffolk in 2018, Cornwall and Yorkshire in 2019 and with some easing of the lockdown restrictions, I found a cottage in North Yorkshire in the coastal village of Staithes, a place that I have wanted to visit for some time.

So, in the last week of August we crossed the Humber Bridge and made our way north and whether they wanted one or not a planned an itinerary that included some history lessons.

Half way through the journey we stopped at the village of Stamford Bridge close to the city of York where there was an important battle in September 1066.

The death of King Edward the Confessor of England in January 1066 had triggered a succession struggle in which a variety of contenders from across north-western Europe fought for the English throne. These claimants included the King of Norway, Harald Hardrada who launched an invasion fleet of three hundred ships and an estimated nine thousand soldiers.

The invaders sailed up the Ouse before advancing on York and things went well at first and they defeated a northern English army at the Battle of Fulford close to York.

At this time the English King Harold was in Southern England, anticipating an invasion from France by William, Duke of Normandy. Learning of the Norwegian invasion he headed north at great speed and completed the journey from London to Yorkshire, a distance of nearly two hundred miles in only four days, enabling him to take the Norwegians completely by surprise who until the English army came into view the invaders remained unaware of the presence of a hostile army anywhere in the vicinity.

Harold’s victory was emphatic and as terms of the surrender the Vikings promised never to bother England again so the Kingdom seemed safe. A fortnight later Harold was dead at the Battle of Hastings and William was pronounced King. Harold’s victory at Stamford Bridge was important to William as it meant the north was secured and William could get on with organising the Norman Conquest.

There is another famous Stamford Bridge in England, in London, the home of Chelsea Football club. It is close to a river, a tributary of the Thames and the name means “the bridge at the sandy ford” and has nothing to do with the village in Yorkshire.

The first history lesson over we continued our journey north-east towards our destination.

The drive across the North Yorkshire Moors is rather tedious it has to be said and patience was running out in the back seat of the car and there was a chorus of complaints “How many more miles?” “When will we get there?” “How many more minutes?” but there was little point rushing, it was a nice day and we couldn’t get into the cottage until four o’clock which was a couple of hours away. I tried my dad’s favourite tactic – a challenge to see the sea first but that didn’t work.

We stopped for a short while at a place called Sandsend which was so busy with staycationers and it was difficult to find a parking place. Once we had managed it we strolled for a while along the front and let the sea air and the fierce wind refresh us after three hours in the car, queued forever for an ice cream and then carried on.

The children would have liked to go onto the beach but I am a bit of a spoilsport in this regard and didn’t relish the prospect of clearing a tonne of sand out of the car which they would have been sure to deposit. In a moment of madness I promised them a visit to the beach later when we had reached our destination and settled in.

We arrived safely in Staithes and it was everything that I was expecting it to be. A charming tangle of narrow winding streets leading down to a walled harbour and pastel painted cottages in a labyrinth of narrow passages and built vertically into the sides of the cliffs. It is quite possibly one of the most photogenic seaside towns in the whole of the country. It was once one of the largest fishing ports on the North East coast and famous for herring, so much herring that special trains had to be laid on to transport it away, the cottages all belonged to the fishermen but they are mostly holiday lets now.

I was happy to sit for a while on the terrace and enjoy a beer in the sunshine and Kim a glass of wine but the children hadn’t forgotten my earlier rash bribery/promise and in the late afternoon we were at the muddy beach down by the harbour.

36 responses to “Staycation 2020 – North Yorkshire

  1. Your post today brings back memories of History classes I used to teach. The Battle of Stamford Bridge was very often pushed to the background of the Norman Conquest – at least in those horrible text books we were given to use in class. I made a point of highlighting the battle. Not only did it help William because the North was not going to be a problem but more importantly Harold’s army had been weakened by the fight against Norway and the four day trip north and the return trip south would have had a tired and listless army set in opposition to Williams army.

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  2. Oh, I’ve never had to drive across the North York Moors with small children on board, so I’ve always been able to enjoy those endless vistas. Heather time too! It’s ages since we passed through Stamford Bridge though, so thanks for reminding us of its history. Looking forward to further Tales from Staithes!

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  3. Were you outnumbered by grandchildren?

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  4. Best laid plans, Andrew! Sandsend is lovely when not too busy- i.e not n Summer. I was horrified to hear you say they were boring but from a children’s perspective, I suppose, the Moors are no fun unless you’re scrambling around them chasing sheep. 🙂 🙂

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  5. I love the vast emptiness of the North York Moors.
    I’ve lost count of the times I’ve driven through Stamford Bridge on our way to and fro Bridlington, not to mention the endless stop-offs at the carpark near the traffic lights for the toilet trip.
    Oh, I love the shot of your grandson, perfect for summing up a beach trip with a small boy!

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  6. That who can see the sea first tactic must have been ubiquitous 🙂

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  7. The railway line to Staithes closed in 1958 – low passenger numbers achieving what Hitler did not. The viaduct across the valley was impressive but only the northern abutment remains now.

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  8. Ah, Staiths..a place I like the look of

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  9. I´ve been to Stamford Bridge. A grandparent’s job is to teach some history and to take the grandchildren to the beach! You covered all bases.

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  10. Not sure I’ve ever been to Staithes. It looks lovely. Those legs though – straight in the bath I imagine!

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  11. You’d need a pressure washer to clean up that boy…so he’d obviously enjoyed himself!

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  12. Glad to hear your chosen staycation spot worked out so well. And with high praise from you, I’m sure Staithes is worth a visit. Thanks for the history lesson at Stamford Bridge. I love standing in the spot where something happened, and learning more about it, and why that event was critical in history. Thank you for bringing me there! 🙂

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  13. Sounds like a great trip.

    Unless I want to visit Civil War battlegrounds and landmarks (some of which I’ve done), there’s nothing like that around here. We talked of retracing the Lewis & Clark journey, but I would need a motorhome to avoid staying at hotels (going through states with various COVID-19 standards).

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  14. Looks lovely, and very Cornish like

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