Friday, 4 July 2014

Scampering about

The day started off just as I expected - I was in a bus queue and already wanting to kill everyone. I was surrounded by whinging pensioners, jostling about in an attempt to get on the bus first. One in particular - a pinch-faced old harridan with all the appeal of a rusty spoon - was immediately on my hit list. Despite my having been waiting at least 10 minutes longer than her, she walked straight in front of me and plonked her shopping bag down by my feet.

When the bus arrived, I snaked my way past her - knowing she wouldn't dare complain - and went upstairs. I sat two rows from the very back, leaving loads of space around. Evil Harridan came and sat directly behind me, carefully draping her cardigan over the back of my seat, and then spent the next 15 minutes huffing and puffing and tutting to herself. Luckily, at Staxton, an old acquaintance boarded the bus - Pink-Haired-Pete (although in the 5 years since I saw him last his hair has changed back to normal) - and came and sat with me. He was going to York and wanted a full update on the intervening years, so the rest of the journey was spent laughing and swearing and bitching, and being generally antisocial, and Evil Harridan moved away.

First stop in Rillington was (of course) Turner's Butchers for a pork pie (Nom!), and then I had a look in the church. It always pleases me when churches are unlocked during the day. It's a similar feeling to when you make enticing noises to somebody else's cat and it actually comes over to you. Very satisfactory.

On leaving the church, I took the side road off the main A64, and wandered away from the village centre. Rillington is one of those pleasing villages with a small stream between the street and people's houses, requiring lots of little bridges for everyone's front doors. I imagine it's quite an impractical arrangement in heavy rain though, however picturesque.

Once the houses end, the road continues another half-a-mile or so to site of the old station, where there is a level crossing on the York to Scarborough main line. The station buildings aren't hugely impressive. According to old photographs there used to be a trainshed roof over the line (like at Filey and Pickering), supported by big brick walls, as Rillington was the junction where the line to Whitby turned off northward, and was originally considered quite important. The LNER didn't think the same though, so closed the station in 1930, and then the junction itself was removed in 1965 (Cheers Doctor Beeching!). In the intervening years, a lot of the buildings have been removed, so what remains is just a shadow of what is gone...

Forgot to mention - I had my hair cut the other day... (Rillington)
Doubling back a short way, I was passed by a couple of large agricultural vehicles - tractors with curious attachments on the back. As luck would have it, my intended route took me through the same field the tractor-things were going to, so I got to see how they worked. 

The first one, had a trimming attachment (probably not the technical term), and was carefully spiralling it's way round and round the field, in ever decreasing squares, leaving a long thin heap of neatly cut grass behind it. The second one was following in it's wake, and had what I shall call a Munching-attachment - a sort of hoover contraption, and was sucking up the heap of grass, and then pooing it out again in nice neat cubes. This paragraph proves I have never been to agricultural college...

After all that mechanical noise it was quite a relief to climb over the stile into the next field, where the only sound was the rustling of the barley and poppies, and the distant cawing of crows. I soon reached the railway again - just a pedestrian crossing this time, but within sight of where a pensioner got squished in his Landrover a couple of monthc ago. I was on my guard, but no trains came. The next field was along the alignment of part of the old triangular junction of the Whitby line - the north to east curve, which was only used very briefly in Victorian times and then taken away again. Nowadays it looks just like a field.

Crossing back over the railway tracks again, at High Scampston gates, I was back on tarmac. The lane led into the village of Scampston itself, which is very quaint and postcard-y. The church here was also open (hurrah!), and was decorated with flowers. It even had a carpet! Clearly if decorations are anything to go by, the honorable St. Quentins of Scampston Hall are destined to ascend heavenward pretty sharpish!

Just past the church is a building that was quite obviously once the old post office. It seems to now be used as some sort of candle-making workshop now, as there were big discs of wax slowly softening in the windows. Either that or it was really nasty cheese...

After the entrance to the Walled Garden (which I ignored for now), the village once more petered out, and I was back in farmland, but my next destination was already in sight. The mammothian edifice of Knapton Maltings was peering over the trees at me for a good twenty minutes or so before I actually reached it. Oh my God it's ugly! It looks like something in Russia that might be used for smelting uranium, or liquefying political prisoners, and is bizarrely edged at the bottom with a little ring of 1950s council houses, out in the middle of nowhere. I imagine all the back bedrooms must have net curtains... 

After the vast bulk of the Maltings, Knapton's little 1840s station building looks almost as small as a dolls house. Like Rillington, it was closed down in 1930 too, but hasn't been mucked around with so much - the only thing that's missing is the platform. These stations were never very busy, as they were all a fair walk out from  the villages strung along the turnpike road (now the A64). I often wonder, if they had kept them open, if new houses would gradually have crept out to meet them, or if they would still be bucolic backwaters, hidden away down leafy lanes, while the residents waited for the 843 bus, choking on traffic fumes on the main road. 
Knapton smells of toasting barley - not unpleasant, surprisingly...
Stations collected for the day, I headed south along the B-something-something back to the A64. At the junction, the grass verges were a hive of activity. A temporary gypsy (traveller?) camp was set up along both sides, with horses all over the place, campfires with kettles steaming away, hens clucking in baskets - some
tanned men chucking hay bales around greeted me jovially, and I was very disappointed to hear they didn't have comedy over-the-top "Oirish" accents, like they do on "My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding" (even though they're nearly always from Essex). The caravans weren't as traditional as I'd hoped either. I only saw one old wooden example - most of them wouldn't have looked out of place at your average Haven holiday park (and to be fair, most of the people at those look a bit gyppo-ish anyway). Not sure why they'd decided to camp there. Is it Seamer Horse Fair soon I wonder?

Not wishing to continue straight back to Rillington next to the constant stream of traffic heading to the coast, I made my way along a footpath into the grounds of Scampston Hall. It wound it's way through a small plantation of pine trees, and past a pheasant breeding ground, before coming back into the open air at the back of the Walled Garden. I didn't go in (if you've seen one ornamental rosebush, you've probably seen them all), but I took a sneaky picture over the side, of some sort of vegetable patch. 

The main hall is quite attractive, although fairly small for a stately home - certainly it would be dwarfed if placed alongside Castle Howard, or Chatsworth or suchlike. The grounds are very spacious though - they remind me of Holkham, in North Norfolk, but without the smell of rutting deers to offend one's nostrils - and there's a nice lake to stroll next to. 

I'm not sure if I was supposed to be doing any strolling in the grounds, or if I was trespassing. I didn't pass any signs saying "No Entry", and a man on a ride-on lawnmower passed and didn't shoo me away, so I think I was ok...

Leaving Scampston park, I was very soon back in Rillington. The bus back home wasn't due for another three quarters of an hour, so I had ample time to call in for a pint and pig-snacks in The Fleece. If it had been the evening, their Chef's Specials board looked very tempting: Black Pudding and Mozzarella Croquettes perhaps? Or Pan-fried Duck Breast with Lardons and Pine Nuts? The pork pie I had in the morning seemed like a distant memory...

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