Tag Archives: York

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.

Yorkshire – Ripon Cathedral and Tykes on Bikes

Ripon Market Place

“I came around a corner in the road, not thinking of anything other than reaching my destination, miles to the north, in the Yorkshire Dales,  rising up ahead of me… was a gorgeous church, practically towering over me.” 

The website Britain Express awards Ripon Cathedral a Heritage rating of four out of five and we entered through the main doors and waited for a few minutes while prayers were being said and then made a rapid tour of one of the smallest cathedrals in England.

Read the full story here…

 

Yorkshire, England – York, The National Railway Museum

The Mallard National Railway Museum York

In my last post I was in the city of York and I made reference to the National Railway Museum.

This is a post from five years ago about a visit that I made there.

Yorkshire, England – York, The National Railway Museum and Speed Records

Number_4468_Mallard_in_York

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

Fountains Abbey Ripon YorkshireAysgarth Falls YorkshireTour de France YorkshireSt Mary's Church BeverleyBeverley MinsterBeverley Minster MusiciansBenedictine Monk Fountains Abbey YorkshireRichmond Town CryerRichard III Middleham castleHarrogateThe Mallard National Railway Museum YorkIMG_4207Richard IIIMiddleham CastleHawdraw FallsHull Humberside YorkshireHull - The DeepJorvik Centre York VikingsNorth Yorkshire SheepFountains Abbey Yorkshire

Weekly Photo Challenge: Time – World Speed Records

The Mallard National Railway Museum York

I suppose I have to concede that the most famous and best loved steam locomotive is the Flying Scotsman, but my personal favourite is  the garter blue LNER Mallard, a class A4 4-6-2 Pacific steam locomotive, designed by Sir Nigel Gresley and built at Doncaster, England in 1938.

I visited the National Rail Museum in York just to see it and was not disappointed when I got up close in the exhibition hall, taking pride of place it gleams to almost impossible perfection along the entire length of  its fashion-model, streamlined body – it must take several hours every evening to get the fingerprints of the admiring visitors removed!

The Mallard is the current record holder of the world speed record for a steam locomotive which it achieved in 1938 by reaching a speed of 126 mph (203 kmh) in Lincolnshire between Grantham and Peterborough.  It is difficult to imagine what this must have felt like as the one hundred and seventy tonne engine and tender dragged its coaches at top speed over railway lines that were designed for much lower speeds, the noise and the shaking must have been unimaginable.  To see what it might have been like I paid £4 to take a ride in a simulator which tried to recreate the record breaking attempt.

In the 1930s some people were obsessed with speed and breaking records.  In the same year that Mallard broke the steam powered record a man called Rudolf Caracciola drove a Mercedes-Benz W125 Rekordwagen at a speed of 268 mph (433 kmh) on a German Autobahn which is a record that still stands as the fastest ever officially timed speed on a public road.

In February 1938 Squadron Leader J.W. Gillan flew an RAF Hawker Hurricane fighter plane from Edinburgh to London in forty-eight minutes and achieved a record land plane speed of 409 mph (660 kmh).  I expect that he was in a bit of a rush to get back to the officer’s mess before closing time!

Also in 1938 Sir Malcolm Campbell broke the water speed record in Bluebird K3 when he achieved a speed of 141 mph (227 kmh) on Lake Maggoire in Switzerland.  In the following year he broke the record again in K4 on Lake Coniston in the Lake District in England.

The Mallard National Railway Museum York

 

Yorkshire, England – York, The National Railway Museum and Speed Records

The Mallard National Railway Museum York

I dedicate this post to the memory of Kate of roughseasinthemed, a woman of spirit who loved everything Yorkshire (and Gibraltar).

In the morning the sky remained stubbornly steely grey and there was a steady pitter-patter of rain against the window and I instantly remembered another reason why I don’t really like going away in England – the weather is just so unreliable!

This presented us with a dilemma.  Our original plan was to drive north to Thirsk and visit nearby Rieveaux Abbey and then drive home on a scenic route through the East Riding but the weather was just so gloomy that this didn’t seem sensible so we debated our options and decided to go to York and the National Railway Museum and after an excellent ‘full English’ breakfast we paid up, said our goodbyes and moved on.

It isn’t very far from Harrogate to York and Kim must have been working on her timing because as we approached the outskirts of the city she proposed that perhaps I would prefer to go and see the National Railway Museum by myself while she went shopping instead.  I was quite unable to understand why anyone would prefer shopping to steam engines but I agreed of course and we set about finding a convenient car park.

And here is another reason I don’t like visiting English tourist cities – £7 to park the car for three hours, which is absolutely scandalously excessive and would probably even have had the York highwayman Dick Turpin blushing with embarrassment. So, car parked, wallet emptied, Kim made for the shops and I went in the opposite direction towards the Railway Station.

There was a long queue at the museum entrance which struck me as strange as there is free admission (it is aligned to the Science Museum in London)* but the reason was simple – there was a registration desk where visitors expecting a freebie were being shamed into making a contribution.  Apparently the Museum is at risk because of under-funding so, here’s an idea, just abandon the stupid free admission to museums policy and charge people to go inside and the funding crisis is solved.  (I should be a politician or a policy-maker, I’d get things sorted out)!

I had wanted to go the National Railway Museum for a long time and I was not disappointed.  I started in the smaller of the two halls where there was a collection of Royal trains and carriages before going outside to the open air part of the museum where there was the chance to take a short steam engine ride.  There was a price to pay so I naturally declined!

After that I went to the grand hall where there is a collection of some of the UK’s iconic steam engines including my personal favourite, the garter blue LNER Mallard (Class A4 4-6-2 Pacific steam locomotive built at Doncaster, England in 1938) gleaming to almost impossible perfection along the entire length of  its fashion-model, streamlined body – it must take several hours every evening to get the fingerprints of the admiring visitors removed!

The Mallard Record Breaking Speed York

The Mallard is the current record holder of the world speed record for a steam locomotive which it achieved in 1938 by reaching a speed of 125 mph (203 kmh) in Lincolnshire between Grantham and Peterborough.  It is difficult to imagine what this must have felt like as the massive one hundred and seventy tonne engine and tender dragged its coaches at top speed over railway lines that were designed for much lower speeds, the noise and the shaking must have been unimaginable.  To see what it might have been like I paid £4 to take a ride in a simulator which tried to recreate the record breaking attempt.

In the 1930s some people were obsessed with speed and breaking records.  In the same year that Mallard broke the steam powered record a man called Rudolf Caracciola drove a Mercedes-Benz W125 Rekordwagen at a speed of 268 mph (433 kmh) on a German Autobahn which is a record that still stands as the fastest ever officially timed speed on a public road.

In February 1938 Squadron Leader J.W. Gillan flew an RAF Hawker Hurricane fighter plane from Edinburgh to London in forty-eight minutes and achieved a record land plane speed of 409 mph (660 kmh).  I expect that he was in a bit of a rush to get back to the officer’s mess before closing time!

Also in 1938 Sir Malcolm Campbell broke the water speed record in Bluebird K3 when he achieved a speed of 141 mph (227 kmh) on Lake Maggoire in Switzerland.  In the following year he broke the record again in K4 on Lake Coniston in the Lake District in England.

Time was passing by now and it looked as though I might have to attempt a speed record of my own if I was to see all of the exhibits in the Museum before returning to the car park for the agreed rendezvous time with Kim.  I failed in this task because there was just too much to see in the memorabilia section of the Museum so I left thinking that one day soon I may have to return.

The journey home was simply awful.  It rained continuously and there were hold ups, road works and diversions for what seemed like the entire drive and I found myself sympathising with motorists trying to get in and out of Gibraltar when the Spanish border police start playing up.

Number_4468_Mallard_in_York

* Other Free Admission Museums in the UK:

  • Imperial War Museum, London
  • Museum of Science and Industry, Manchester
  • National Coal Mining Museum for England, Wakefield
  • National Football Museum, Preston
  • National Maritime Museum, London
  • National Museums Liverpool
  • Science Museum, London
  • Natural History Museum, London
  • National History Museum, Tring, Hertfordshire
  • People’s History Museum, Manchester
  • Royal Armouries, Leeds
  • Victoria & Albert, London