Thursday, 25 June 2015

Idling in Ryedale

Not the best start to the day - due to reasons beyond my control, I missed the train from Scarborough, so had to wait an hour for the next one. However, never one to miss the opportunity, I put this time to good use: smoking heavily on a park bench...

But anyway. I eventually made it to Malton, and so the adventure begins, exploring part of the route of the Thirsk & Malton Railway. I set off through the town, calling in at Overton's for a pork pie, some haslet sandwiches and a bottle of ginger beer (for later on), and followed the main road out through leafy suburbia. Fairly quickly (Malton isn't very big) the houses petered out, and once I crossed the bridge over the bypass, I was straight into open countryside. The road skirts the edge of the Howardian Hills, and looking north across the Vale of Pickering I tried very hard to spot the big tower thing at FlamingoLand, but alas, to no avail.

The first village I walked through was Broughton, followed on swiftly by Swinton. Both of them were quite pretty, but also at the same time, pretty boring. They each had a pub, but both were closed - it was, after all, not yet midday. Living in Scarborough one tends to forget that in a lot of places one cannot get a pint of Guinness and a double whisky with one's breakfast. 

The next place, and the location of my first photo opportunity, was Amotherby. From the road, in all honesty, it looks like a bit of a shithole. The derelict Esso garage, big factory, and row of run-down council houses, reminded me of one of those backwoods American towns from a horror film where if you don't get shot you get hogtied and raped instead. However, once you turn off onto the imaginatively-named Main Street, it improves greatly - all pretty stone cottages, flowers everywhere, and a dainty church, hidden away amongst grand old yew trees.

Sadly, at the old station it all goes a bit tits-up. It has been totally flattened in the years since the line's closure, and replaced by an extension to the BATA factory (possibly a maltings? I've no idea what BATA actually do...) Oh well.
It was now after midday, so I ate the pie (not a euphemism) as I retraced my steps through the village, and continued eastward towards Appleton-le-Street - another fairly dull village, but with a curious church which reminded me of a Turscan campanile, surveying the passing traffic. Passing a large spooky derelict barn, with very badly-painted window frames, the pavement abruptly ended. I didn't fancy walking in the road, but thankfully for once I had come prepared. I had, about my person, an actual up-to-date Ordnance Survey map of the area! Hurrah!

I meandered along a grassy track through a small woodland, across a field of buttercups, and past some ignorant horses who didn't even bother to look up as I passed. Soon I reached the village of Barton-le-Street.

The old station at Barton is on the north edge of the village, and, apart from having a sign proclaiming "The Old Station House", is completely unrecognisable as a railway building. I've seen photos of it when it was still open to passengers, and it looks totally different now, with extensions poking off at various points, and windows inserted and bricked up, seemingly at random. In the picture below, I think the far section is the original building, and the rails would have crossed the road about halfway along the flowerbed, coming straight out of their new dining room.

Barton le Street

 After navigating through a farmyard, and trampling through more fields (and eating my haslet sandwiches - if anyone pronounces it haze-let they will get a firm rebuke) I reached the outskirts of Slingsby. A small cemetery reminded me I still hadn't drunk my ginger beer, and provided a relatively disrespectful photo-opportunity (Apologies to the late Mr Fentiman).

Slingsby was a bit bigger than the other villages I'd been through. It had a farm shop (closed), an attractive church (closed), a castle hidden away in the undergrowth (presumably also closed, but I couldn't even find a way in!), and a sports club (also closed). The only sign of life - if you could call it that - was at the bowling green, where a group of white-clad pensioners were silently rolling their woods, and jotting down their scores in a very earnest manner.

The station here advertises itself as a bakery, but true to the spirit of the rest of the place, it too appeared to be closed, so I took the required photo, and turned onto the trackbed.

From here, almost to Hovingham itself, the old railway line has been turned into a footpath. It's mainly grass underfoot, between fields of gently swishing wheat on one side, and something green (possibly peas?) on the other, interspersed with poppies and clover. At one point a pair of game birds - partridge I think - erupted out of the greenery only feet away from me, with lots of clucking and angry flapping of wings. I nearly cacked my pants! Luckily nobody was around to witness me being startled by what would've constituted a very good pie-filling, so I carried on my way.

Just before Hovingham bowling green, I actually passed some other pedestrians - the first I'd seen all day. There was a sensible-looking couple, who nodded politely, and an old lady walking a black & white sheepdog that took an instant dislike to me. It leapt up and bit the top of my leg, so I stood really still in the hope it would fuck off. That didn't help and it then started snapping at my ankles. The lady apologised profusely, but I just laughed it off and told her I had cats. She looked somewhat bemused.
Hovingham Spa
The last station of the day was Hovingham Spa - the "Spa" suffix added by the North Eastern Railway in attempt to market the village as some sort of glamorous holiday resort. It didn't work, of course (it was never going to be as good as Bath or Buxton), but it's still a pleasant place to hang about. The main feature of the village is Hovingham Hall - a stately pile; the residence of Sir William Worsley. Rather than being hidden away down a long avenue of trees, it's right on the village street, and the main entrance passes through an enormous archway, leading through the livery stables before the front door. Very odd.

I didn't see Sir Will, but on the parish noticeboard, there was a poster bearing his name, looking for witnesses to what is clearly the crime of the century: "Have You Seen This Stone?". Very dramatic.

The bus back to Malton wasn't due to depart for an hour and a half, but I couldn't be bothered exploring any further. My shoes had been rubbing, and I had about twenty blisters. Time for a pint.

Thursday, 18 June 2015

East Coast Mainlining

Armed with just a Spiderman teaspoon, and a 1920 cycling map of Harrogate and environs, I boarded my train to York. For once, I was not hungover (only had three pints on Tuesday night, after watching the prehistoric fiasco known as "Jurassic World"), and felt the need for a bit of exercise.

The train journey went smoothly and without incident. I was accompanied at this point by Mum-Ra, who was on her way to visit a sickly Scaramanga. We drank tea, and I ate a sausage sandwich, as Transpennine Express whisked us swiftly through the Howardian Hills. On arrival at York, with SpiderSpoon safely tucked away in my bag, I bade my farewells, and headed off on foot.

Beware of Mallards!
My route took me south, first skirting the city walls as far as Micklegate Bar, then along Blossom Street, and away from the city centre to the Knavesmire. Blossom Street became Tadcaster Road; York blended into Dringhouses, and then the urban surroundings petered out - despite the failings of my 1920s map (which "surprisingly" didn't show the Askham Bar Park & Ride, or a new bypass!), I found myself walking along a relatively quiet road, the peace of which was only disturbed by the whoosh of trains speeding by on the East Coast Main Line at the other side of the meadows.

These trains heralded my arrival into the village of Copmanthorpe, location of the first unvisited station of the day, but before that there was a more pressing matter to attend to. I was hungry. Luckily for my stomach, there, beside the church, was a butchers shop - Swain's I believe was it's name - which meant one thing... Pork pies! Hurrah! 

If villages can be judged on the basis of their pies, Copmanthorpe would be slightly more expensive than other places, nice to look at (if slightly on the small side), but under the surface pretty average, and a bit cold. Seems accurate to me.

But anyway, moving swiftly on, at the end of the imaginatively named "Station Road", can be found the old station. Opened in 1839 by the York & North Midland Railway, it succumbed to closure back in 1959, but apart from the platforms having been chopped away, it remains fairly complete. Unfortunately, it's also quite difficult to take a decent photo of. The road side is screened by a load of leylandii, and the rail side is cluttered up by a four track electrified main line, with a load of trains on it! How very inconvenient! I had hoped maybe the bridge over the lines might have been an option, but the parapets were higher than my head, so I had to settle for a fairly distant view from the far side of the old goods yard...

Heading almost due east now, I strolled along country lanes, past fields of sheep and cows, to the curiously-named village of Acaster Malbis. As the crow flies, this was the shortest route to my next destination. Unfortunately crows being crows, they can also fly over stuff, which I cannot. Big stuff, like the river Ouse, which was quite a serious barricade in my way. I had (for some reason) thought perhaps there might have been a ferry across the water, but if there ever has been, there is no longer.

Thankfully, all was not lost. The only bridge shown to be nearby on my antiquated piece of cartographic shite was a railway bridge, carrying the main line to Scotland, but due to a vague knowledge of the coal industry in the 1980s, I knew it to be my saviour. 

Naburn swing bridge, which once rattled under the wheels of the Flying Scotsman, and Mallard, is now nothing more than a massively over-engineered footbridge, ever since Margaret Thatcher opened the Selby Coalfield (I like to think she dug it out all by herself), and the risk of subsidence diverted trains in a loop much further west. It doesn't swing any more, having been welded shut and the engine room emptied - it's now home to graffiti artists and glue sniffers. The control building on top has gone too, replaced by a wire sculpture of a dog pissing on a fisherman's bike...

A little way south, the old Naburn station is still standing. It appears to be used as some sort of office, or maybe a hostel of some sort (?), with a picnic area on the old trackbed. The food gods were smiling on me once more, as it is also the home of the "Naburn Trust Hut" - a snack bar reliant entirely on honesty! I put some money in the box, and took a Lion Bar from the basket. A splendid idea! Doubt it would work in most places - if it was round my way it would probably be emptied in seconds, all the electrics stripped out for scrap and whatever was left burnt down.

Naburn - nice place!
With two rather blurry selfies under my belt, all that was left now was to complete my walking loop, and head back north to York. Rather than follow roads, I figured it would be much easier to follow the old rail track, and this proved to be correct. It's evidently part of the Transpennine Trail, and thus very well-signposted. 

What I didn't know is that it's also the route of the York Solar Walk, and features a scale model of the solar system. I stumbled on it around Saturn, and followed it all the way back to the Sun - if I'd gone the other way towards Selby, I would have reached Uranus (fnaar), near the village of Escrick, then Neptune andPluto, further on towards Riccall. Apparently at the same scale, Alpha Centauri (our next nearest star), would be a further 70,641km away - so around Doncaster perhaps? 

Soon, with the railway path - and consequently the entire galaxy - behind me, I was back at the Knavesmire (I'd never realised how massive it is! Those horses must be so energetic!). Instead of retracing my steps straight back to York station, I diverted onto The Millennium Path, which passes the old Terry's Factory - now emptied, and awaiting an uncertain future - and crosses the Ouse on a bridge based on the spokes of a bicycle wheel.

I'll leave you with a picture of some baby geese. Just because.

Monday, 25 May 2015

Back in the saddle

A bit of revisiting, and some new stuff today, but first a bit of background reasoning...

This weekend has not been a huge success. First of all, there was an 18th birthday party at work on Saturday night, which meant I had to stay an extra two hours, and then yesterday I had the utter joy of cleaning up shit off the carpet. Human shit. I kid you not.

So, feeling somewhat apathetic towards the world of bowls, I requested a day off, using built up lieu time.

JP, Mum and I went for a drive...

First stop was the tea rooms at Sledmere House. Yes, I know it's got nothing to do with railways, but frankly my dear, when they sell sausage sandwiches as good as that, I don't give a damn. I also had a pork and stilton pie from the farm shop. Also very tasty, and helped soak up some of the alcohol from last night. Wine, lager, Guinness and absinthe is perhaps not the best combination. 

With my hunger problems solved, we headed off to the old station picnic site, at Fimber roundabout (or as le Tour de Yorkshire people would have it, Cote de Fimber). The Yorkshire Wolds Railway people were out in force, as at 11am today, their visitor centre was officially opened to the public by none other than Sir Tatton Sykes himself. The little diesel was trundling up and down the track and we got a cab ride! Hurrah!
Mum got somewhat overexcited when the driver let her sound the horn, and I was torn between amusement at the fact they were collecting donations in an empty camembert cheese box, and admiring the rather attractive young man operating the brake levers. Very nice eyes...

But anyway, bought a fridge magnet, and headed back to the car. Was unsure where to go next. JP didn't care, Mum didn't care as long as there was wine, so I consulted my handy 1920s road map (always travel prepared), and directed us to Pocklington.

I've only ever been to Pocklington once before, about 12 years ago to buy a sausage roll, so had no idea what to expect. Luckily, the first car park we located was right next to the old station - and what a splendid station it was! It looks a bit like the one in Filey, crossed with Whitby Town. It closed in 1965, when the line from York to Beverley was hacked away by Dr B. but from the front it's very hard to tell. It's now used as a sports hall for Pocklington School - I peered through a window (half term, so no risk of being suspected as a pervert) and it was all set up with neat rows of desks for forthcoming exams.
We found a pub - the Black Bull - it was very quiet, but had a decent smoking area at the back. Mum approved of the wine! I had a pint of Carling, which was fine - the same as most pints of Carling the world over...
Managed to persuade JP that what he really, really wanted to do next was take me to further old stations. Nunburnholme was next - it's now a house. It isn't very interesting (better than Scalby, obviously). There's not much I can really think to say about it. It was more an exercise in box ticking, but here you are:
Mum was by now, once again wishing for wine. Nunburnholme doesn't appear to have a pub nearby, so we drove vaguely northeastward, in an attempt to head towards home (or at least a branch of Wetherspoons). We passed through Middleton-on-the-Wolds - no idea if we passed the station site there. I believe it's been demolished, and sadly, however attractive my 1920s map is, it isn't very useful for locating things. Managed to find Bainton though - now greatly extended and surrounded by a high hedge. It's barely possible to recognise it's railway origins. Oh well.
We found a pub eventually - not a Wetherspoons (the one we passed in Driffield looked rank), but the rather pleasant Anvil Arms, in Wold Newton. It overlooks the duckpond - I now wish I'd bothered to take a photo of the lifebelt attached to the phonebox, rather than just poking the decaying corpse of a duck with my foot...

Saturday, 31 January 2015

No Chelsea, but a few tractors

Belated New Year greetings!

A chilly one today, with Faux-Bro. Originally the plan was just to go out and hunt down some sort of abandoned tunnels, but after a few pints of the black stuff at The Merchant last night, it was decided that viaducts might be more today's thing. Now - Larpool excepted - the closest to here is the big 'un over the Derwent at Stamford Bridge, and handily the disused station is close by it.

Accompanied by the dulcet sounds of The Travelling Wilburys, we sped off along the A64 - passing Faux-Bro's former marital home (cue a bout of cursing and swearing aimed at the ex-wife), and across the fringes of The Wolds. After a few wrong turns, and an incredibly narrow bridge at Buttercrambe, we finally made it in one piece to Stamford Bridge's main square.
Shit. Quite.

The moment of stepping out of the car was marred by nasty sleet, and the double whammy of dropping my gloves straight into a puddle! Bastardo! Even the graffiti on the side of the electricity substation appeared to be agreeing it was not a good start to the adventure.

But anyway, not letting it get us down, we wandered off, through a small, and particularly dull, suburban housing estate, in an attempt to locate the old station buildings. After just a few minutes, a (presumably replica) level crossing gate came into view, so I knew we were at least heading in the right direction.

Stamford Bridge
The station complex - formerly an intermediate stop on the York to Beverley (via Market Weighton) line, which closed in 1965 - is quite complete. Both platforms are still extant, as is the goods shed. The main station building is in use as some sort of social club, or maybe a community centre, imaginatively called "The Old Station Club", and the trackbed is tarmac-ed reflecting it's new role as a cycle route and nature trail. I believe it's part of the European cycle network, but haven't a clue what route it takes either side of the town.

Continuing eastwards, past a board showing various flowers and birds and the like, the path heads out onto the viaduct. It's not particularly high - the countryside is pretty flat in these parts. They could probably have gotten away with just a bridge really, were it not for the fact the Derwent is prone to flood, and in the olden days was navigable right up to beyond Malton. The views were still quite nice though, with snow capped hills in the far distance making it feel quite wintry. Not surprising for January I suppose...

Of course, the main issue with walking over viaducts and bridges is that you can't really see their best bits. Luckily here, steps have been cut into the embankment which lead onto a lower path back to the riverbank, so the arches can be seen from below, revealing the monumental brick arches, and delicate iron centre span in all their glory.

There is a plan, by a group called Minsters Rail, to reopen this line to rail traffic - I think it'd be quite sensible, if only so the people of Hull have another escape route - but I'm not sure if it'll ever happen. I suspect if this was Scotland, they'd be tracklaying by now, and arranging for local schoolchildren to have their photos taken while some local dignitary wields a pair of giant scissors, but things don't work quite that way south of the border...

Back in The Square, the next stop was obviously a pork pie, from a butcher who spoke remarkably like Arkwright from "Open All Hours", with the intention of following it up with a pint, but plans change, and my ultra-practical 1930s map showed that there were other stations in the vicinity, just crying out to be photographed...

After much deliberation, it was decided Fangfoss should be visited, a couple of miles south east, purely for the value of its comedy name, so we headed off into the sleet, which was returning with a vengeance. 

Fangfoss (I have no idea why my eyes look so spazzy)
Other side of Fangfoss, without my gormless face
After almost turning off into HMP Full Sutton, we finally found Fangfoss. Like Stamford Bridge, it's also pretty complete, and seems to be used as the offices of a small caravan site. I suspect in the Minster Rail thing ever does come to fruition, they won't bother reopening this one, as it's a fair way from the village it purported to serve, and even that's pretty small so I can't imagine it'd be particularly worthwhile.

A pint and a log fire were looking very appealing by this point, so we decided to head back towards home, via The Stone Trough Inn, overlooking Kirkham Abbey. Unfortunately, in trying to decipher 1930s map, we missed a turning off the main road, but luckily by sheer coincidence (!) this took us directly past our third and final station of the day, at Gate Helmsley.

"Gate Helmsley?" I hear you cry? "Why, the Big Tile Map shows no such place!"... Indeed it does not. Thanks to the confusing naming policies of the N.E.R, the station at Gate Helmsley was renamed "Holtby" early on in its life - presumably to avoid confusion with the more important Helmsley, further north. Holtby, incidentally is about three miles away to the south west.
And with that, our days work was done. We scooted off to the pub, sat by the fire and had a pint of Landlord. And by now, finally, my gloves were at last dry...