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.

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