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.