Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Apologies in advance for my rubbish hair

Yesterday's travels make one realise just how vast Yorkshire is (or how slow public transport is, depending on how you look at it). Despite, travelling for over an hour and a half from home, by bus, I was still in the same county (or at least, I would have been up until the '70s, when they pissed about with the boundaries). Yes, Yorkshire is at least 8 times bigger than Switzerland. I believe on the International List of Country Sizes (?), I think it is somewhere between Kazakhstan and the Belgian Congo. Or at least, that's what it feels like when you're on a bus full of pensioners. 

Luckily I had my terrible i-pod to block the tedious conversations, so I wasn't driven insane (shame you can't smoke on buses any more), so the dulcet tones of Pitbull, Nina Simone and Dusty Springfield serenaded me as we glided slowly northward.
I was joined, as we paused in Whitby bus station, by Gotho, as he wished to have a look at Guisborough Priory. I turned off Pitbull, Nina & Dusty, so we could chat - I was particularly amused by Gotho's mistaking lapwings for puffins. He has clearly been a city-dweller for far too long! 

First impressions of Guisborough were surprisingly good. It wasn't nearly as rough as I expected (It is, after all, practically Teesside). The Market Place was busy with people doing traditional English market-things - stalls of fruit vying with cheap hair extensions and knock off DVDs - but alas it being a Tuesday, when we arrived at the Priory it was closed. Note to self: Check opening times in the future.

Guisborough Fail.
The old station in Guisborough is a delight to behold - if you're a fan of car parks, new roads, 1970s doctors' surgeries, that is... The only evidence of railway history is a bit of mucky old wall, along the edge of Fountain street. Oh well, perhaps more success would be had later in the day...

After a short walk beside the cricket and rugby pitches, the former railway lines have been turned into a footpath, called the Branch Walkway. We followed it through some dull suburban housing, out to Hutton Gate, which is quite complete, but very difficult to photograph, being almost totally surrounded by bushes and trees. Apologies to the owners for walking halfway up their drive.

Hutton Gate. Nice house. Sad hair.
Beyond Hutton Gate, the trackbed is private, so the Branch Walkway has to divert onto a minor road, then past a farm, and finally onto a Forestry Commission logging road. The woodland is all very neat and tidy - it's obviously quite well used by the public - lots of young families with pushchairs in evidence - and random pictures of characters from "The Gruffalo" are inserted at random intervals amongst the trees.

Although the path was quite busy (for a forest at least) nobody was using the "Bousdale Trim Trail" - a series of wooden exercise facilities, with severe notices explaining they were for exercise only, and should definitely not be used for any sort of fun, on penalty of death by firing squad, by order of the Fascist Republic of Redcar and Cleveland. (There may be some paraphrasing here).

Eventually, we arrived at Pinchingthorpe station (which should be spelled, without the "g" in the middle - spelling was clearly not a strong point of the North Eastern Railway), which is adjacent to the forest Visitor Centre.

Pinchingthorpe - Not quite what it seems...

The Visitor Centre provided refreshment, in the form of crisps, and has a wide array of stuffed animals on display, which partly made up for the total lack of roadkill seen so far. I think the goofy hedgehog was my favourite. Gotho liked the giant fibreglass wasp on the wall - it was certainly preferable to the badly-behaved children swarming around in the cafe area!

The visitor centre, as well as providing information about the woods, via the medium of taxidermy, also had a display board on the history of the railway itself - which averted disaster! Although I had got a photo of myself at the old station, I was unaware that was the "old", old station, which was replaced by a "new" ,old station in 1877, just 200 metres to the west! Eek!

Pinchingthorpe (number 2).
After taking the replacement picture, at the second (but still no less closed) Pinchingthorpe station, we headed back into town along the main road, without getting run over (despite Gotho's pessimistic lack-of-proper-pavement predictions). 

The priory was still closed (it was, after all, still Tuesday), so we managed the next best thing: a pub! And obviously, to complete the nearly-Teesside experience I just had to have that tasty local delicacy known to all as a Parmo. Very tasty. Hurrah for Guisborough!

Thursday, 22 May 2014

Not quite Pamplona

After a reasonably painless trip on the 128 bus to Pickering, I headed up Park Street, past the station (already done that one) and out of town, past the trout farm, and over New Bridge crossing. After the entrance to the quarry, the road heads uphill, not particularly steeply, but for what seems like forever. There isn't a footpath either, but there wasn't much traffic, so thankfully I didn't have to jump into the nettles at any point. A few tractors passed but not very much else.

At the top of the hill, the road flattens out onto a plateau - technically part of the Tabular Hills (apparently), and is virtually straight. As I was wandered along, pondering the possibilities of it's suspected Roman origins, I became aware of three cows up ahead. Being (I thought) guided along by a sturdy, rural sort of woman. She was gesturing to me, but I couldn't hear her. Naturally I assumed she wanted me to get out of the way, so I politely stepped aside onto the verge, waiting for the cows to pass.

As they neared, I realised the woman was actually shouting at me to walk in the middle of the road and scare them away, so for the second time in a week, I had to put my best bullfighting technique into practice - and they were indeed bulls, not cows (I noticed that when they turned round). What happened next was like one of those crap comedy episodes of Heartbeat - the bulls ran past the woman, so she started chasing them, waving a stick. Up ahead, the road was blocked by (presumably) her husband in a Landrover, and the intention was to steer them back into the farmyard from whence they had escaped.

Alas, the plan failed, and they trotted off through a gap in the hedge, and across a pasture of sheep, with the woman shouting and swearing in their wake, but I like to think my assistance sort of helped...


Eventually I reached civilisation (of sorts), and entered the village of Newton-on-Rawcliffe, and, as appears to be becoming the norm, the pub was shut. No beer for me! Disastrous!

Scabby OS Map guided me through the village and out the other side, and down a leafy lane. I hopped over a stile, and was presented with a fabulous view of Newton Dale. The only problem was, I was at the very top, and my destination was at the very bottom.

After a perilous, near vertical descent, which would have been challenging even for the sturdiest-footed Peruvian and his llama, I reached Levisham station. By the point I was incredibly thirsty, and the prospect of refreshments was filling me with glee. Of course, Sod's Law worked its magic, and the weighbridge tea hut was closed, as was the tea shack on platform 2, and even the vending machines were shut away and padlocked. Never mind though - there was a train back to Pickering soon, which would definitely have a trolley on board...
The train arrived on time, and I got on board. It was absolutely jam-packed with pensioners and the only free seat I could find was by the buffet counter, and was effectively a cushioned narrow shelf. The buffet counter was (of course) closed, but the trolley man was standing nearby. Before I got chance to buy anything, he locked his trolley away in a hidden compartment, and vanished, leaving me parched and surrounded by a coach party of noisy Canadians. Oh dear...

Journey's end...
We arrived back in Pickering late, so I didn't have time to get anything before the next bus back home (which as fortune would have it, just happened to be packed with noisy schoolchildren - the joy...), so when I finally arrived back in Scarborough, I immediately made a beeline to the pub. All's well that ends well. Three cheers for the good citizens of Wetherspoons!

Saturday, 17 May 2014


Just a short wander today - around two hours, so I could be back home in time to go to work.

Caught the (delayed) 09:00 bus to Thornton-le-Dale, which was lightly filled with pensioners complaining about said delay (Stop whinging! It's not like you're paying anyway!), and a couple of chavvy families heading to Pickering Game and Country Fair. The journey passed without any major mishaps, and I finally arrived around half an hour late.

Thornton was looking very pretty in the sunshine, and I passed by the old station as I headed south on foot, out of the village. The road is a relatively busy one, as it joins the A169 and the A170, avoiding Pickering town centre, and annoyingly it doesn't have a footpath, but I was very well-behaved and remembered the highway code (dredged up out of some dusty part of my brain - perhaps from when I was in Cubs?) and faced the oncoming traffic, every so often hopping into the overgrown verge to avoid a speeding white van.

With the village now far behind, it's actually quite a sparsely populated area. I think I only passed three small outlying farms and an empty touring caravan site, but after about 40 minutes walking I reached the old station at Marishes Road. The station was built in 1847, by George Hudson's York & North Midland Railway, on the short branch built when that company acquired the Whitby & Pickering Railway (now, of course the North York Moors heritage line). It was clearly never a very important stop though - the main building is basically a glorified crossing keeper's cottage.

Marishes Road - barking dog just out of shot...
Erm... quite...
Perhaps its general remoteness is why it's still so intact. The platforms are still there, and the wooden waiting shelter on the southbound platform - complete with a large mural painted on the back, showing "Tornado" pulling the "Yorkshire Coast Express" (Until recently, it was a representation of "Mallard" - perhaps even Marishes Road is moving with the times?). The only railway building which has disappeared is the signal box, but surprisingly, even that still exists (if you know where to look). It was moved many years ago, to Goathland (Aidensfield/Hogsmeade/whatever you want to call it), but has recently been on it's travels again, and can now be found at the south end of Pickering station, where it is apparently soon to be opened to the public...

My selfie taken, I turned back towards Thornton again. Rather than risking becoming an RTA statistic, I decided to head off-road - Scabby OS Map just manages to include the area in the very bottom left corner - and followed a footpath up the side of a farm. Sadly, Scabby OS Map is not massively up to date, and the path had been diverted along the side of a stream, through a large patch of nettles. My choice of shorts was evidently not the best of ideas. The nettles were soon complemented by thistles and the odd bramble, but I soldiered on, as I could see a stile ahead and then much clearer ground. 

Triumphantly, I clambered over the stile, only to find myself in a field full of massive (and I mean massive - not just bigger-than-average - proper gigantic) cows. Apparently, the best way to keep cows away, and stop them swarming towards you, is to make a lot of noise, so I started singing a sort of "La la la" song (not the 1960s Spanish Eurovision entry by Massiel, I hasten to add. Although that would have been awesome). If anyone tells you this works, they are LYING! The cows actually started running towards me, and I was seriously considering vaulting the barbed wire fence into the drainage ditch, but I had a brainwave - Scabby OS Map came to the rescue! Cows do not like the products of Her Majesty's Ordnance Survey being flapped at them. Fact!
The cows, once they had calmed down

My improvised bullfighting motions certainly worked, and the entire herd (flock?) immediately turned and ran the other way! It sounded like something from "Rawhide", or that bit where Simba's dad gets squashed in The Lion King. The power of the matador swept through me. Perhaps the Massiel thing would have worked after all...

After the drama of the cows, I was quite relieved to get back onto a normal - albeit still a bit nettle-bedecked - footpath, which led me back towards the bus stop for home. When I got there, the next bus wasn't due for another forty minutes or so, so I called into Balderson's, by the village green, and bought a pork pie. I'm not sure if it was just because I'd had no breakfast, but I can honestly say we have a new leader - it was better than the one from Hinderwell (although cost 20 pence more, so perhaps that cancels it out a bit). 

Obviously, with time to waste in the village, I had to walk along and have a look at the thatched cottage by the stream that they always have on jigsaws - not sure what it's called as the sign was hidden by creeping foliage. It's probably "That Thatched Cottage on the Jigsaws". I sat on a bench for a while, and smoked a fag in the sunshine, while the last of my pie crumbs were studiously ignored by the ducks.

Walking back to the bus stop again, I felt like I wasn't quite in the real world - Thornton-le-Dale is all so perfect it's like being in some sort of storybook dreamland, as evidenced by this man (right) tinkering with his shiny classic car, behind the almshouses (almshouses for goodness sake!). By the time I bought my small curd (repeat visit to Balderson's), I was almost certain I had fallen into an Enid Blyton novel.

Luckily, my return to reality was confirmed on the bus, when we got to Wykeham, when we stopped at the caravan site to allow the hen-party from Leeds to board.
"It weren't too early for wine - it were half eleven and it were rosé"
- "Eeh - we're off into t'country - you shoulda brung't Cliff Richard mask..."

Thursday, 15 May 2014

The Long un-Winding Road

Decided to tackle part of the long straight section of the Scarborough to York line yesterday, between Seamer and Malton. There's a whole string of stations which were closed by the LNER, way back in 1930, to speed up journey times for all the Wezzies heading to the coast.

I got the bus (Coastliner - double decker, modern, smelled of granny feet) to West Heslerton, which, apart from a sign advertising a Beer Festival, seemed to be an area of virtual nothingness, just masquerading as an actual village. The old station itself was off the main road, down a long flat lane between fields. Within about 5 minutes of getting off the bus I saw so much roadkill I didn't even bother photographing it all - suffice to say it was mainly crows and rabbits.

The station house at Heslerton is currently being renovated, but considering it's not been used for 84 years that's only to be expected. After posing about to take the required photo (without attracting attention from the men clambering about all over the station roof), I did a swift U-turn and heading back in the direction I had just come. My OS map of the day (Howardian Hills and Malton, to give it it's full title) advised me there was a footpath branching off to the main road, cutting off a corner. I found the stile - already unpromising as it was virtually buried in rotting old grass-clippings, and made my way across the field. Alas, my way was barred by an electric fence, and then a wide drainage ditch. I think I may need a more up-to-date map.
I eventually retraced my route back to the Beer Festival sign - noting that some of the roadkill from earlier was now considerably flatter - and turned eastward along the A64. There is a footpath alongside the road, but other than that, there's not much to say about it. It's just a main road. Nothing more, nothing less.

The only feature of note at this point seems to be, every so often, little marker posts warning of electrical cables overhead. Pictured right is a particularly surreal example, which literally crosses the road and then doesn't go anywhere in either direction, like a surrealist art installation deliberately placed to irritate drivers of high-sided vehicles. 

The next place I passed through was East Heslerton, which was somewhat more interesting than West, in that it at least had some buildings - quaint cottages and houses clustered round a very attractive church. I believe it's something to do with Sir Tatton Sykes, of Sledmere, but can't confirm as it was all locked up (despite the presence of a sign by the gate proclaiming "Open to All", albeit upside-down. Perhaps it's a secret code?)

A taste of things to come?
A further long stretch of A64, dotted with the occasional bungalow or farm shed, lead me to the outskirts of Sherburn- my planned half-way mark - and I was getting quite hungry, especially when I saw the name of the cul-de-sac by the village shop. Obviously it was an omen, so I called in. They had quite a range of pies on sale (no Old Pigeon flavour, thankfully), but surprisingly none of the pork variety! I settled on chicken, bacon and mushroom, and after navigating my way past an old lady blocking the doorway with her wheelie zimmer-frame thing, I can honestly say it was a very tasty pie.

The station at Sherburn (not Sherburn station - I'll explain later) is, once again, a far hike from the actual village centre, but it was quite pleasant. The sun was shining, there was the aroma of freshly mowed lawns, and it is generally quite a pretty place. I passed another nice church (St Hilda's), and there was a gurgling stream beside the road. I think Sherburn is actually quite underrated - if you're speeding along the A64 heading to the seaside you probably don't even realise it's anything more than a set of irksome traffic lights...

But anyway, this leads me to the station. Weaverthorpe...
Weaverthorpe?!?!?! Seriously?
Yes, Weaverthorpe. Another bit of irritating renaming, courtesy of our good friends in Victorian times. Unfortunately for the good villagers of Sherburn, the North Eastern Railway already had a good supply of Sherburn stations, scattered across England, and one day they decided to rename them all, so on the 1st of April 1874 it became "Wykeham". 

To make matters worse, the village of Wykeham (about three miles away) then got a railway station of it's own (on the Pickering to Seamer line - I've been there, it's nice), so it was renamed again in 1882, after Weaverthorpe a totally different village 5 miles in the opposite direction, high up in the Yorkshire Wolds. Gotta love those Victorian decision makers...

"Youtopia" - don't Google it at work...
But anyway, back to the journey. Sherburn is not really famous for anything, apart from it's the site of the longest building in Yorkshire - a factory (Ward's) which makes (presumably) very long things, out of metal.

And speaking of long things, just outside the village is the sign pictured right. It's the very discrete advert for a very "special" sort of holiday venue. If you plan on visiting, don't forget to take you car keys to throw into the bowl... nudge nudge, wink wink... 

I resisted temptation, and carried on along the roadside to the next village - Potter Brompton - which is a centre of the pig-farming industry - I was very pleased to see some local wag had altered the sign appropriately. This does of course mean that the village stinks of shit, but that's a small price to pay for bacon.

Next and final stop, after avoiding flying balls on the golf course - not that sort - was Ganton, which, unlike the other two stations of the day, the intervening years have not been kind to. There's a nice big goods shed next to the level crossing, but the main station house and platforms have been flattened, and replaced a modernist 1960s/70s monstrosity, the only plus side being that most of it is now obscured by a leylandii hedge.

Ganton: It's a bit crap... (Even my hair is protesting!)
To make matters worse, when I walked back up to the main road for a quick pint in the half-hour 'til the bus back home, I discovered the pub doesn't open 'til 6.30pm! How rubbish! And it looked so inviting too! Curse you Ganton Greyhound!

Thursday, 8 May 2014

Wanderings with a Goth

A pleasant - almost summery - stroll along the coast last Tuesday. It started off badly though - the bus was late arriving, so I had to queue up for over half an hour with a horde of whingey pensioners. Luckily, for once I had actually remembered my i-pod so I couldn't hear them moaning, and my head was filled with the delights of Pitbull, Nina Simone and obscure ABBA b-sides. There's something quite amusing sitting on the top deck of a bus crossing the North York Moors to the sounds of "Summer Night City". 

Eventually, after what seemed like an age, my bus finally arrived in Robin Hood's Bay, and I was greeted by Gotho waiting for me in the bus shelter. We had a quick explore round the lower village first - Gotho was very impressed with the tank of crabs in the Coastguard Station, and I bought a book about Spain for £2.50 - before heading back up to the old station at the top of the hill. It's quite complete - the station house is now holiday accommodation, the goods shed is used as the village hall, and even the signalbox is still there.

Robin Hood's Bay - I am not in pain - the sun was in my eyes!

I called in at the Post Office for a pork pie (still not as good as Hinderwell), a Yazoo milkshake, and an onion bhaji (breakfast of champions!), and we made our way onto the old rail track. The route is very scenic, with views of the sea, and lots of sheep and cows and the like, and Gotho seemed to cope quite well despite him not being the most rural of persons. The only down side to the nice weather was the hordes of shagging flies, which kept landing on me - perhaps to them I look erotic? They weren't so taken with Gotho - although, as he was (obviously) entirely clad in black, I probably wouldn't have noticed them anyway.

The second station of the day was at Hawsker, which is now a cycle-hire business - the bikes are stored in old carriages alongside the platform, while another carriage is used at a holiday let. They've done quite a nice job of renovating the place, but it would be a lot better if it was still an actual railway line, 'cos then I wouldn't have to go on the bus! Oh well - it's another one to blame Doctor Beeching for.

Gotho, in his summer look.
 Hawsker was roughly the halfway point of the day, so after some sniggering at Scabby OS map informing us we were in the parish of "Hawsker-cum-Stainsacre" we headed onward toward Whitby. The line at this point swings inland, past the village of Stainsacre, before gradually descending into Larpool Woods. 

My pace quickened at this point, as I wanted to see the 14:00 train pass under the viaduct (I am that cool), and we made it just in time! Hurrah! We then crossed the river, and continued along the trackbed until it peters out, on a high embankment overlooking Stakesby Vale. 

After a short visit to Gotho's flat to drop some things off, it was time for a late lunch at The Resolution. I had the New York burger, and Gotho had the gluten-free smoked kipper fish pie, and some wine (obviously). Probably not the healthiest option, but bloody good all the same, and I think I had earned it.

Tasty, but very difficult to put salt on the chips evenly...

Saturday, 3 May 2014

Go East! La la la la laaaaa! Go East! La la la la laaaaa!... etc...

A quick morning jaunt down the coast today. Caught the 10:00 train from Scarborough. Nothing of note happened, apart from eating beef Hula-Hoops and reading part of a book about Paris. Got off at Bempton. 
I <3 NER mileposts :)
Bempton station has only got one track left through it, and the former northbound platform is gradually disappearing under a sea of brambles. The signalbox is long demolished, but the station building is nice and tidy - think it's a private house - and there's a half-milepost by the level crossing. 

There used to be some llamas in a field nearby, but they appear to have gone. Didn't go to the famous bird reserve on the cliffs, or into the village, as my OS map (a relatively clean one - the scabby one only goes as far east as Scarborough) sent me the other way. The road  doesn't have pavements, but it wasn't too busy - strangely the majority of the traffic appeared to be ice-cream vans, but not with their music on, so I don't know where they were going...

After a short while, I reached the former station at Flamborough - it was originally named Marton (and is indeed, actually in the village of Marton), but there was another Marton on the North Eastern network (in Cleveland I believe), so it was renamed after the village of Flamborough about 3 miles away. It makes me wonder if they published a warning in the timetable.
Flamborough (Marton)
But anyway, Flamborough has been closed since 1970, which I find odd, as it seems to be a relatively important place - especially in comparison with Bempton, which stayed open. Perhaps it's on a better bus route? The station buildings are just about visible from the level crossing, but are partially blocked by a row of bastard leylandii trees on one side, and a development of rather twee little houses at the other. Oh well, still better than flattening the whole lot, a la Scalby...

My route took me along the main road through the village of Marton, which is mainly dominated by a big maltings - "Muntons: Passionate About Malt" - but it was ugly, so I took a photo of a rather jolly sign by the duckpond instead. It was quite unnecessary today, as all the ducks were fast asleep. They didn't even wake up when I quacked at them (much to the amusement of a passing pensioner on a bike) - perhaps they were dead. Or made of plastic. (The ducks, that is, not the pensioner).

After a short while, I found myself in the suburbs of Bridlington, but architecturally it could've been anywhere in the country, from about 1960 onwards. My route took my through a housing estate - one of those ones with carefully designed curvy roads and paths, and lots of wide grass verges that are supposed to make it feel like some sort of glamorous utopian garden-city, but in reality just encourage people to take shortcuts and trample the daffodils. Oh well.

Actually quite pretty
Things improved after I passed back beneath the railway line, under a big brick skew-arched bridge, as the full expanse of Bridlington Bay lay before me, glittering in the late-morning sun. It was one of those lightbulb moments, and made me realise just why people actually go on holiday to Brid (a place I have always considered to be a bit of a dump). The white cliffs to the north positively glowed, the beach was virtually empty, and little boats bobbed about in the sea - which was actually remarkably blue, and made a nice change from the normal turd brown one expects.

I wandered along the promenade, past the usual seasidey things - crazy golf, bandstand, candy-floss stall - it was all there. It just needed a skinny bloke with a knotted hanky on his head, and a rosy cheeked buxom wife for the scene to be complete! I did, however, manage to spot was a bloke with a parrot on a lead, sitting on his shoulder, as I walked up Quay Road. Maybe he was an off duty pirate...

Rare survivors
Homeward Bound
I reached Brid station with 15 minutes to spare before the next train back north. Enough time to take the required photo, buy a slightly melting Twix from the vending machine, and have a look at the signalbox in the distance, from the end of the Scarborough platform (Platform 4)... 

Yes, that's right Platform 4. Despite the fact there's only three platforms. They're numbered 4, 5 & 6 - despite the fact that the others (the original 1, 2 & 3) were demolished about 30 years ago. The station was refurbished fairly recently - at least since Northern Rail took over anyway - and all the signs were replaced, but they still didn't bother renumbering the platforms. Brid is a strange place...