Tag Archives: York National Railway Museum

Yorkshire, England’s Finest County?

02 Yorkshire

I have been challenged several times for neglecting to visit more places in the United Kingdom and so after many years avoiding UK travel opportunities we set off for a couple of days into neighbouring Yorkshire together with my sister Lindsay and her husband Mick .

It seemed appropriate to do so because they live in Gloucestershire in the south of England and confessed to me that they have never  visited England’s largest county.  After setting off we  passed from Lincolnshire, the second largest county, into Yorkshire across the stunning Humber Bridge which spans the estuary of the same name and which separates the two English heavy-weight counties.

At almost one and a half miles long the Humber Suspension Bridge is the seventh largest of its type in the World.  This statistic used to be even more impressive because when it was first opened in 1981, and for the next sixteen years, it was the longest single-span suspension bridge in the World and the distance by road between Hull and Grimsby was reduced by nearly fifty miles as a consequence of the construction and put the ferry company immediately out of business.

We were making our first stop at the Cathedral City of York which is somewhere that I have visited several times before.  This is me in 1980, I used to really like that jacket, it was reversible, burgundy and grey and I think the sleeves zipped out but I always preferred the burgundy!

York 1980

I don’t know why I keep going back to York because I would never include it in a top ten of favourite places in England.  It is touristy and busy and getting in and out in a car is really, really difficult because the old medieval road layout is completely unsuitable to cope with the volume of modern day traffic and there is almost always severe congestion.

And parking is at a premium and expensive.  Yes, there is Park and Ride but who wants to leave their car five miles out in a field and then crawl into the city on an overcrowded bus?  We found a car park near the centre and eventually paid a whopping £11 for two and a half hours parking.  If I was staying any longer I would have needed to arrange for a bank loan.  I couldn’t help but notice that there was defribillator placed conveniently next to the pay station.

Kim tells me that I am getting old and grumpy and that my expectation of fees and charges has been firmly left behind in about the year 2000, maybe even 1990,  but the plain fact is that I just find York expensive.  The Castle Museum costs £12, the Jorvik Centre £20 and York Minster (second largest Gothic Cathedral in Northern Europe after Cologne in Germany) is £11.50.  I really resent paying to visit a Cathedral, last week I went to Madrid and it was free.  Lots of Cathedrals charge these days, Westminster Abbey is a massive £22 which makes Lincoln look a bargain at only £8.  The most visited Cathedral in England is in Durham and that is free!

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To be fair, I have to say that my favourite museum in York is the National Railway Museum which doesn’t charge an entry fee but spoils that with extortionate car parking charges.  I’ll tell you about the National Railway Museum in another post.

Another thing that I don’t like about York is, and this has to be said, it isn’t especially attractive.  Yes in the centre there are one or two well preserved medieval streets around The Shambles area but there is also an awful lot of ill conceived and inappropriate 1960s redevelopment from a time when town planners and architects were tearing down historic buildings and replacing them with concrete and steel.  These people who were responsible should be retrospectively tracked down and sent to prison.

York is a city for tourists…

York Souvenir Shop

In consideration of all of this negativity you won’t be surprised that I wasn’t too disappointed to drive out of York and make our way in a North-Easterly direction towards the North Yorkshire coast at Whitby.  I expect I will go back again, I always do.

North Yorkshire is a truly magnificent county and not far out of the city we were motoring through wonderful countryside, rolling hills and green fields, wild flowers and hedgerows and punctuated every so often with picturesque and delightful towns and villages.

I could stir up a hornet’s nest of debate here but I ask the question, is North Yorkshire England’s finest county in respect of scenery and countryside?

Blogging pals may disagree and offer their own nominations, Sue from Nan’s Farm would probably agree with me but Derrick would surely argue for Hampshire and the New Forest, Brian for Gloucestershire and the Cotswolds, Lois for Somerset and the West Country, Simon may make a strong case for Nottinghamshire and Sherwood Forest, my friend Richard would say Rutland and its reservoir, but no, for me, there is something wild, ragged and romantic about the North and I include here of course Northumberland and Cumbria, and it is my favourite.

My pal Dai Woosnam would have none of it and say Wales is the best (and he has a point) and Anabel would surely make a case for Scotland but I am talking here about only England.

After the Dales we crossed into the Moors, a wild and striking Emily Brontë and Kate Bush landscape of boulders, heather, peat and gorse, both remote and enchanting in equal measure.  I liked it.

Eventually the North Sea came into view, surprisingly blue and sparkling brightly in the afternoon sunshine and we made our way towards the busy town of Whitby.  First to the Abbey where English Heritage charge £9 to visit what can only be described as a ruin and is an admission charge which makes York Minster look reasonable.  So we skipped it and enjoyed an hour or so in the traditional seaside resort port which I swear has more fish and chip shops in one place than I have ever seen before and afterwards heading out and towards our overnight accommodation just a mile or so out of the town.

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Twenty Good Reasons to Visit Yorkshire

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Three Trains – I Do Like To Be Beside The Seaside!

cleethorpes postcard

At the entrance to the pier we waited at the appointed place for the tourist train to arrive and take us the mile or so to the far end of the promenade.

Next to cruising, the second holiday form of holiday transport that I hate most of all are those annoying tourist trains which are now an irritating feature of almost everywhere you go.  I once vowed never to go on one but now I have to eat my words and make concessions to my grandchildren.

The road train arrived and made slow progress along the ‘shared space’ road/pavement at the back of the beach.  It was a typical English summer day at the seaside – overcast and a little cool with the sea about a mile away at low tide and only visible through a powerful pair of binoculars but there were some hardy people toughing it out and resolutely determined to spend a day on the beach.

Railway posters of the 1920’s show pictures of fit healthy young people playing beach games on golden sand next to an inviting azure sea where sailing dingies float gently by all under a blue sky and blazing sun without a body piercing or an unsightly tattoo in sight but it is rarely like that now, if indeed it ever was.

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I don’t understand why people go to a place like Cleethorpes for a holiday.  The weather is unreliable, the sea is permanently cold and everything is expensive. Really expensive.  Half an hour in the amusement arcade can take a heavy toll on the wallet, the funfair isn’t cheap, there are the pointless rides to contend with and then the donkeys.  £2.50 for a five minute one hundred yard trudge up the beach hardly represents good value for money in my book.

It is surely so much  better to get a cheap flight to Spain, send the children to the kids’ club and sit in the sun and drink cheap San Miguel and probably spend less money.    I often feel an urge to walk across to point this out to people as they sit shivering behind a wind-break or sheltering under an umbrella being turned inside out by the wind but of course I never do.

Cleethorpes Beach

The final stop was at the narrow gauge railway terminus where I purchased tickets to board the train which was already waiting at the platform and we squeezed ourselves into tiny carriages being pulled by a wheezy engine belching smoke that was preparing to depart for its lazy two mile journey along the sea front.

Railways in Britain are a national obsession.  When the Victorians weren’t building piers they were building railways.  And by the time that they were nationalised in 1948 there were simply too many of them to be economical.  So in the 1960’s, based on a document called the ‘Beeching Report’, the Government set about a reform programme which resulted in thousands of miles of track being dismantled and hundreds of stations being closed.

Railway enthusiasts went into collective shock but quickly rallied and almost immediately started organising themselves into preservation societies and very soon they were relaying railway  lines almost as quickly as British Rail contractors were tearing them up.  Now, every weekend these devotees of track and steam gather together to stoke boilers, grease points and polish name plates and to run engines on restored lines or on narrow gauge railways all over the country.  It is almost like an act of shared defiance against the policies of the national government

Enthusiasts will go to great lengths to build and preserve railways. The Cleethorpes Coast Light Railway was constructed from track and stock salvaged from the potato fields of the county where they were once used to transport tubers from the fields to the packing sheds at harvest time.

Cleethorpes Coast Light Railway

I like narrow gauge railways and steam engines and the Cleethorpes Coast Light Railway is an agreeable little ride that sweeps past the boating lake, the paddling pool, the civic gardens and the dilapidated wooden huts which stand at the back of the beach as reminders of a bygone seaside age.  At the eastern terminus we stayed on board as the engine switched ends and then made the return journey back to the promenade where we stopped for ice cream and slush puppies.

My grandson loved the trains and when it was time to go back to the station I offered a return journey on the road train.  With the wisdom of a two year old and without any hesitation he corrected me and said – “That’s not a train granddad, it’s a bus”.  How smart is that!

Back at the pier I was now faced with dealing with my rash promise to think about a pointless ride.  I resisted.  The children staged a rebellion and climbed into a Postman Pat van and pushed the buttons and it magically sparked into life.  The ride over they pushed the buttons again and it worked a second time.  These pointless rides are usually 50p a go or three rides for £1 so someone had been daft enough to put £1 in the slot and only take one ride. A win/win situation I thought and congratulated myself, they got the ride and I didn’t waste any money.

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My eldest asked if they could go on another and I said no they had been on one and that was enough (that is mean I agree) she said that she understood that but pointed out –  “yes, but you didn’t have to pay for it granddad”.  How smart is that!

Admitting defeat I paid for a pointless ride and then we went back to the station and caught the Trans Pennine Express back to Grimsby to find a fish and chip shop for a tea-time treat.

They know a thing or two about chips in Grimsby let me tell you and there is a chip shop in every street – sometimes two and people there know best how to cook them and to eat them.  The reason there are so many is that Grimsby was once the biggest fishing port in the World, everyone had fish and housewives used to take their fillets to a chip shop to have it cooked for a penny.

Cleethorpes Beach sand Castles

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