Category Archives: United Kingdom

Entrance Tickets – The Titanic Experience

“Certainly there was no sailor who ever sailed salt water but who smiled – and still smiles – at the idea of the unsinkable ship” – Charles Lightoller (Surviving Officer) in ‘Titanic and Other Ships’

So, everyone knows that the Titanic sank but as we came to the end of the visit I began to think about what if it hadn’t?

Read the Full Story Here…

Staycation 2020 – North and South of the Humber

Growing weary of the tedium of the lock-down and with holiday plans to Sicily in tatters we decided to meet with our friends and spend an evening together for a meal in a nearby pub. Kim tracked down an excellent deal of only £50 each for bed, breakfast and evening meal at a well recommended place with a two star AA rosette. Unlikely as it sounds owned by chef Colin McGurran who was a winner one time on ‘Great British Menu’.

It turned out to be a very good deal, placed on the south bank of the Humber Estuary, comfortable rooms, good views and an excellent meal. Kim had posh burger and I had East coast mussels.

The Hope and Anchor (above) is in the unfortunately named hamlet of Ferriby Sluice and is at the point where the River Ancholme drains into the Humber Estuary via a sluice gate and a set of locks. A hundred years or so ago it was a busy marina and a departure and return point for the leisure and packet boats that regularly used the Humber.

Boats have always left Ferriby (the clue is in the name). The Romans stopped here in Lincolnshire at the end of their great road, Ermine Street which linked London and Lincoln before continuing to the Humber and then crossed the river to the north bank to continue into Yorkshire. The Romans were famous for straight roads and the section from Lincoln to the Humber, a distance of thirty-five miles is one of the straightest in England.

Ferries on the Humber continued to be important until the construction of the Humber Bridge in 1981. 

After breakfast we walked for a while along the banks of the River Ancholme butI have to say that it is not an especially thrilling or picturesque sort of place, a carpet of smelly algae on the river (thank goodness for coronavirus masks), a redundant cement works and a marine breakers yard. It does however have a National Historic Ship – The Amy Howson, a sloop that once worked the Humber and the Rivers and tributaries along the way to towns and cities as far apart as Grimsby and Sheffield.

It was rather chilly so we didn’t stay long this morning before driving across the River Ancholme and away along the south bank of the Humber.

This was a day for crossing rivers and driving west we crossed the Trent and then turning north the Ouse, the third and fourth longest rivers in England (after the Severn and the Thames). We were more or less at the point where they converge to form the River Humber. Other rivers contribute as well, principally the Don and the Aire and we crossed those as well.

Actually, the Humber isn’t really a river at all because for its entire length of only forty miles or so it is tidal so technically it is an estuary (I only mention this here in case someone challenges me on this important point of detail).

It may be one of the shortest rivers in England but it is also one of the most important as it deals with natural drainage from everything on the east side of the Pennines, the North Midlands and the Yorkshire Moors.

We rather rudely passed through Goole, Britain’s furthest inland port without stopping, I must go back and visit one day, but today we continued to the market town of Howden, a place that I have wanted to visit for some time.

Howden is a small historic market town lying in the Vale of York in the East Riding of Yorkshire, three miles north of the port town of Goole, it regularly features in lists of desirable places to live and is high up on a standard of living index. I liked it immediately and not just for the fact that it has free car parking.

All roads in Howden lead to the attractive Market Place next to the ruins of the sixteenth century Abbey and Minster, one of thirteen in the county of Yorkshire. Here is a curious fact, Howden was granted to the Bishop of Durham by William the Conqueror in 1080 and the town remained an enclave of Durham until 1846.

I imagine the Minster was once a fine building but it lost its status during the Reformation, was vandalised by Parliamentary soldiers in the English Civil War, the roof collapsed in 1696 and over the next hundred years or so the site was looted for its stone for alternative construction projects in and about the town and whilst the Minster lies in ruins the town has a network of streets with very fine Georgian buildings.

The Minster is currently undergoing restoration and we found it closed today which may have been due to the work or alternatively the dreaded coronavirus.

We found the town very agreeable and liked it very much so we walked the streets of the historic centre before stopping for coffee and cake at a town centre tea shop. We left in mid-afternoon and followed a route along the north bank of the estuary before crossing over the Humber Bridge back to North Lincolnshire which completed our quest of crossing all major rivers of the area.

 

Staycation 2020 – Clifftop Walk to Port Mulgrave

The weather continued to improve.  Not enough to go to the beach which disappointed the children but enough to go for a walk which disappointed them even more.  I don’t know why I should be surprised by that, sixty years or so ago I expect I was just as reluctant to walk when on holiday with my parents.

From the cottage we walked down into the picturesque fishing village with its sash-windowed stone cottages with hanging gates and quirky names some bright with buoys and boat-shaped planters, seagulls squawking an unruly chorus on the rain shiny bird stained tiled roofs.

Staithes owes its existence to the fishing industry which, in its heyday, employed three hundred men and supported over one hundred boats. The whole village played an active part in the work, helping with repairing nets, baiting hooks and launching boats. When the railway opened in 1885, three trains per week transported Staithes fish to British cities. At the turn of the twentieth century steam trawlers from larger ports killed the locals’ livelihood, until only one full-time fisherman remained in the village.

At the Cod & Lobster pub, we turned on to Church Street and walked the steep uphill climb to join the Cleveland Way. I closed my ears to the complaints and offered the bribe of an ice cream upon our return.  Our legwork was amply rewarded at the top by breath-taking views of the coast and countryside and a spectacular view of the village and the harbour.

From there we continued along to Port Mulgrave, the path drifting dramatically close to the edge of the cliff top revealing continuous evidence of coastal erosion.  The problem is that this coastline really shouldn’t be here at all because it is made up of unconsolidated soft clay and small stones called glacial till that were scooped up from the sea bed by a glacier during the last ice age and dumped here as the ice eventually melted and receded north about ten thousand years ago.  It is just soft clay with the consistency and the look of a crumbly Christmas cake that simply cannot resist the power of the waves.

At Port Mulgrave the cliffs have been scraped away not by erosion but by industrial processes.  There’s a different reason for the existence of Port Mulgrave – ironstone mining, which transformed this part of the coast in the mid-nineteenth century. There were ironstone seams in the coastal rocks laid down between 206 and 150 Million Years ago and the sheltered bay made a good harbour for boats coming to ship the ironstone out to Jarrow. The industry is long gone and little remains of the harbour, but the shoreline at Port Mulgrave stands as a reminder of the industry that once characterised this coast, one hundred years ago there were almost one hundred mines in North Yorkshire.

Rows of domestic properties and individual houses exist on the top of the cliff but Port Mulgrave is now derelict and the port itself is completely gone, destroyed by Royal Engineers during the Second World War to prevent it being used as a landing base for an invading army.

We had walked for just over two miles and I was happy to carry on but the constant complaining was beginning to wear me down so eventually I gave in and we returned by a shorter alternative route back to Staithes where the children remembered my promise of an ice cream.

Later on it started to rain again so we were confined once more to the cottage.  During the night the rain continued and became heavier so I wasn’t too disappointed when morning came, we could pack the suitcases and begin the long drive home.

As you can see,, I have perfected the art of standing on higher ground than my granddaughter…

 

Staycation 2020 – Saltburn-by-the-Sea

On the third day the rain had stopped but had been replaced by very strong winds. I had considered visiting nearby Boulby cliffs, the highest in the north-east of England but with responsibility for an adventurous grandson who cannot stop climbing I thought this may not be especially wise so we visited nearby Saltburn-by-the Sea instead.

Saltburn is an interesting place, a Victorian new town developed to provide seaside facilities to the emergng iron town of Middlesborough, it was designed and built in the space of only a few years in the 1850s and 60s.

After parking the car we made directly for the promenade and to the pier. The pleasure pier is characteristically English, a genuine icon and one that I have never really understood.

No one in England lives more than seventy miles or so from the sea but when they get to the coast they have a curious compulsion to get even closer to the water and as far away from the shore as possible without taking to a boat. The Victorians especially liked piers and by time of the First-World-War there were nearly two hundred sticking out all around the coastline. If there had been satellite photography a hundred years ago then England would have looked like a giant pin-cushion.

Construction of Saltburn pier began in 1867 with a traditional design of a metal frame (piles) and a wooden deck, designed principally to get people to Saltburn by paddle steamers from the nearby industrial towns along the River Tees.

The one thousand, five hundred foot pier opened in May 1869 with a steamer landing stage at the head of the pier and two circular kiosks at the entrance. The first steamers left the pier on 14 May 1870, with a service to Middlesbrough. In the first six months of operation, there were fifty-thousand toll-paying visitors. Steamer excursions added to the company’s revenue with new seasonal trips to Hartlepool and Scarborough.

But stuck out at sea as they are English piers are rather precarious structures and constantly exposed to danger and one night in October 1875 a gale struck the pier removing three hundred feet of the structure at the seaward end, including the pier head, landing stage and part of the pier deck. In the middle of an iron trade slump, it was decided not to replace the missing section or reconstruct a landing stage, leaving a redeveloped pier two hundred and fifty foot shorter.

In the 1880s there was further development but after suffering slight storm damage in 1900, the pier was struck by a china clay ship in May 1924. The collision left a two hundred foot gap in the promenade leaving the bandstand inaccessible. The gap was replaced in March 1929, with a new theatre, completed in 1930 enabling the full length of the pier to open.

When my granddaughter was born in October 2008 it didn’t occur to me that twelve years later she would be taller than me…

It seems that Saltburn Pier was destined for perpetual misfortune. Purchased by the council in 1938, the pier was sectioned during World War II by having part of the deck removed to guard against Nazi invasion. Due to its poor post war condition, repairs were not granted planning permission until 1949 and due to a shortage of steel not completed until 1952.

That didn’t last long. In 1953 gales did more serious damage which took a further five years to complete but soon after in 1958 two piles were lost in a storm.  In 1961 another twenty piles were twisted in storms.  After severe gales in 1971 and 1972, piles were lost at the seaward end leaving the pier in a perilous condition. Further damage in 1974 culminated in October when the pier head was lost and the deck damaged, leaving a length of only one thousand feet.

In 1975 the council had had enough of the pier and proposed to have the structure demolished but a “Save the Pier” campaign led to a public enquiry which concluded that only the final thirteen piers could be removed and it should remain. This left a seven hundred foot length of refurbished pier, less than half the original length of 1869 which reopened in June 1978.

In 2009, the National Piers Society awarded it with the title of pier of the year.  Other finalists must have been seriously disappointed I imagine.

This is the pier that in a howling gale we walked today over a turbulent sea and into a misty gloom. It was cold at the pier head so we didn’t stay long and after successfully directing the children away from the amusement arcade we resumed our walk along the sea front.  William inevitably found things to climb on.

In the afternoon the wind dropped, the sun made a belated appearance and we managed an unexpected hour at the beach.

Staycation 2020 – a Washout in Staithes

We had arrived on a glorious sunny day which had made me rather optimistic for the remainder of the week.  But the forecast wasn’t at all promising. I don’t always take much notice of the weather forecast but this time the Met Office had got it spot on and when we woke in the morning there was heavy rain and a storm and it looked disappointingly permanent.

So we spent the morning in the cottage, the children didn’t seem to mind, they had their phones and devices to keep them occupied but by afternoon I was beginning to get bored so pulled on my rain coat and ventured out into the wet streets.

It was a different place completely today, empty pavement tables abandoned and dripping, the occasional visitor soaked and unhappy, a deserted beach and empty tourist shops.

Even in the rain however Staithes is lovely, a muddle of whitewashed cottages squeezed between towering cliffs on the North Yorkshire coast, it sits on either side of ‘the Beck’ which is a meandering creek which cuts through a dramatic cleft in the rocky landscape and emerges into the sea between soaring cliffs. A footbridge crosses the beck, the south side is in Scarborough Borough Council and the north is in Cleveland and Redcar. At one time it was the largest fishing port in the north-east with a side-line in minerals and mining and there is still a potash mine nearby.

Boulby Mine is a large site located close to the village which at four thousand six hundred feet deep it is the deepest mine of any kind in Europe and has a network of underground roads extending under the sea totalling over six hundred miles in length. It mines for potash and polyhalite both used as fertilisers and this is the only place in the World where polyhalite is mined in a seam three and a half thousand feet below the North Sea.

In its heyday Staithes had around fifty sea captains, most famously of course, Captain James Cook who came here as a boy to work in a chandler’s shop, but then caught sea fever and abruptly left. The shop is long gone but the cottage is still lived in, unlike many others which have become holiday lets but its place at the heart of ‘Captain Cook Country’ now underpins Staithes’ busy tourist season.

I visited the local museum which has three main themes, Captain Cook of course, the long gone railway line which once served the coastal fishing and mining industries and tales of smugglers. This section of the North Yorkshire is almost as famous as Cornwall as a location for smugglers. I used to like tales about smugglers when I was a boy, this is a booklet that I bought in with my pocket money in Cornwall in about 1966…

The Yorkshire coast is just two hundred miles from Europe across the North Sea. Ships taking sixteenth and seventeenth century exports to the mainland continent often returned loaded with contraband and other items that was destined to avoid the revenue duty. 

It was the most unlikely of contraband that drove the trade – tea. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, Yorkshire folk loved a cuppa no less than now, but tea was one of the most expensive commodities because of punitive levels of taxation, which at one point reached nearly one hundred and twenty per cent.

Just look what happened in the American colonies as a consequence of a tax on tea!

It cost up to thirty-five shillings a pound – but in the Netherlands it was only seven old pence. Smugglers seized the opportunity to buy it for next to nothing and sell for many times more than what they paid and a trade sprang to life that operated from 1700 until about 1850.

Yorkshire’s coastline was ideal for smuggling, with miles of deserted beaches where contraband could be landed and caves for its storage. Villagers were insular and wary of customs men from the outside, so they kept their mouths shut and took the smugglers’ backhanders. Ships would lay off the coast, their cargoes being run in by smaller boats. The trade flourished, with Staithes, Robin Hood’s Bay, North Landing and Runswick Bay the favoured landing places, the contraband being moved inland by pack-horses or on carts with their wheels muffled by rags.

And so I soaked up the history and later I soaked up more rain as I walked the steep hill to the car park to buy more time and to visit the local store to buy more provisions for the lock-down evening: nothing to do with Covid, just the abysmal weather.

On This Day – A Ghost Story

Even though travel restrictions are easing I am not yet minded to risk it so I still have no new stories to post so I continue to go through my picture archives and see where I was on this day at any time in the last few travelling years.

On 24th August 2015 I was still on a family holiday in Mid Wales in a very remote cottage in the countryside…

Bala Wales

I was rather tired tonight so shortly after Kim had gone to bed I said goodnight to Sally and walked along the corridor to the bedrooms.  Part way along someone called out “Grandad, Grandad, Grandad” three times and assuming it was one of the three children I went to their bedrooms and asked who was calling me – all three were fast asleep, very fast asleep.

Read the full story Here…

ghost Wales Cottahe Llanuwchllyn

On This Day and Bother with a Bat

Even though travel restrictions are easing I am not yet minded to risk it so I still have no new stories to post so I continue to go through my picture archives and see where I was on this day at any time in the last few travelling years.

On 22nd August 2015 I was on a family holiday in Mid Wales…

Talylynn Railway

The first day was a washout but that isn’t unusual in Wales.  In 1972 I went to University in Cardiff and spent about 90% of my student grant on raincoats and umbrellas.

We went to bed but sometime about one o’clock Kim woke me to say she could hear something – something fluttering.  I told her she was imagining things and that she should go back to sleep but then I heard it too.  A gentle quivering high in the beams, probably a moth I reassured myself but then Kim demanded man action so I got out of bed and turned on the light.  Oh My God it was a bat.  A bat.  A bloody bat!

Read The Full Story…

Little brown bat

On This Day – The Edinburgh Military Tattoo

Even though travel restrictions are easing I am not yet minded to risk it so I still have no new stories to post so I continue to go through my picture archives and see where I was on this day at any time in the last few travelling years.

On 15th August 1972 I was in Edinburgh in Scotland…

Programme

Read The Full Story Here…

Memory Posts – Religion

Benedictine Monk Fountains Abbey Yorkshire

“If God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent him” – Voltaire

I had heard it said that people went into the clergy after getting a calling from God and I used to lie awake at night straining out listening for it. It never came. I also understood that it might alternatively come as a sign and I used to walk around looking for anything unusual but this never happened either.

Read The Full Story Here…

On This Day – Aldeburgh in Suffolk

Even though travel restrictions are easing I am not yet minded to risk it so I still have no new stories to post so I continue to go through my picture archives and see where I was on this day at any time in the last few travelling years.

Just a couple of years ago on 7th August 2018 I was in East Anglia in the UK visiting the town of Aldeburgh in Suffolk…

Aldeburgh Family

After a visit to the seaside resorts of Southwold and Lowestoft we travelled a little further south today to the town of Aldeburgh pronounced Awl borough, famous most of all for being the home town of the English composer Benjamin Britten.  Place names are like this in East Anglia – Mundeslea is Munslea and Happisburgh is Haze-brrr.

I wondered if my grandchildren would like it because Aldeburgh is an old fashioned genteel sort of place where people of a certain age (mostly my age, I confess) visit to amble along the pebble beach.  The objective for most is to pass judgment on the scallop sculpture which seems to be the most controversial thing about the place (half the town love it, the other half hate it) and later find a tea shop for a cucumber sandwich and a slice of Victoria Sponge cake.

Aldeburgh Suffolk Beach Scallop Sculpture

Aldeburgh is that sort of a place, a bit upmarket, a bit fond of itself, snobby really.  In 2012 the residents fought an ultimately unsuccessful campaign to prevent working class Tesco from opening a supermarket in the town because they didn’t consider it appropriate, they probably would have preferred middle class Waitrose.  Tesco got its approval and is still there but in nearby Southwold the town objected to Costa Coffee, it opened in 2013 but closed down in 2019 citing local opposition.

I confess that I like the sculpture (I also like Tesco) and it seems that a lot of other visitors do also because they are drawn to it like moths to a flame.  I would welcome something like it in my nearby seaside town of Cleethorpes for sure. Local people  claim that it spoils the beach and regularly petition to have it removed.

When I say local people I wonder just who they are because according to official statistics second homes make up about a third of the town’s residential property.  This is an attractive and sought after location for people with lots of money that work in London.  A sort of Chelsea by the Sea.  This is the sort of thing that local people should be campaigning against.

Aldeburgh Beach Walk

So we visited the sculpture and the children climbed on it and used it as an alternative playground and then we walked with some difficulty along the blue flag beach with pebbles crunching under our feet and occasionally leaking into the space between our feet and our sandals requiring several stops to remove the offending sharp articles before we could comfortably continue.

Along the way we passed the fishing boats drawn up onto the shingle, rugged craft with peeling paint, rusted rigging and knotted nets, their work done now for the day and undergoing basic maintenance and essential repairs and the overnight catch being sold in the simple wooden huts with chalk board signs along the side of the road.  I bought some overpriced smoked fish filo pastry parcels and looked forward to them later with my tea.

Aldeburgh Boat and Beach

Eventually we reached the town, the children had ice cream and we stopped for tea and cake at the Cragg Sisters Tea Room which served a mighty fine cup of tea and some excellent cake and scones.  As I anticipated the children were tired of Aldeburgh now and anxious to get back to the swimming pool at the Kessingland holiday park so while they went back without us I found myself in a street of expensive shops with Kim and my Mother, both determined to return with an unnecessary purchase.

I left them to it and wandered the High Street until I came across a long line of people all patiently queuing for something, rather like a line of Russian housewives lining up for bread in a time of shortage.

It was a fish and chip shop, a famous seaside fish and chip shop as it turned out that is regularly voted the best in England and clearly a lot of people agreed with this judgment.  I would have liked some fish and chips but I am not very patient in a queue and I had just had a cheese scone and tomato pickle at the tea room so I declined to join the end of the line and went instead to the beach to photograph the boats.

But I couldn’t get the desire for batter and grease and salt and vinegar out of my head so later I had fish and chips in nearby Lowestoft because few things capture the spirit of the English seaside quite like the furious sizzle of a fillet of haddock in a deep fat fryer.

Chips, Crisps or Fries – How Do You Eat Yours?

Click on an image to scroll through the Gallery…