Friday, 10 July 2015

Straight ahead, turn right at the tank

Just got back from a few days away from it all in a rented cottage in Pickering on the edge of the North Yorkshire Moors. Leaving home nice and early to make the most of the day, we headed north via Lincoln, the Humber bridge, and Beverley. We wouldn't be able to get into the cottage before 3pm, so a stop-off elsewhere to kill some time was in order.
With good memories of a previous visit, we though it might be a good idea to swing by Bridlington on the way. I recalled having what seemed to be the world's best fish & chips from a chippy next to the harbour, and as by this point it was lunchtime we made a beeline for the same place. My how things seemed to have changed. Not only was the fish disappointingly tasteless and the chips slightly soggy and greasy, there was a large number of seagulls with a penchant for dive-bombing raids on anyone daring to leave their food unguarded for even a moment. During the walk from the car park to the harbour it became obvious that Bridlington is in dire need of a major dose of urban rejuvenation. I don't remember being anywhere else where so many buildings are in a state of delapidation at best, and at worst actually falling apart. Building maintenance is clearly not on the list of priorities in Bridlington.
As we sat eating our crappy fish & chips with one eye on the circling aerial bandits, we noticed that there seemed to be an uncomfortably large proportion of those who appeared to be a bit...well...let's just say the lower end of the social spectrum. Every other person who walked by left in their wake an aroma of either stale tobacco, rampant body odour, or that special smell only found on someone who cooks every meal by frying it in lard.
We finished our uninspiringly bland lunch and went for a walk. Just as the thought crossed my mind (considering the obviously common social denominator of the town) that this was a place that could possibly be described as 'banjo country', we walked past a fairground shooting range that was actually playing banjo music. Taking this as final confirmation that this was somewhere we really didn't feel we belonged, we decided it was time to beat a hasty retreat, wondering why it seemed so different to last time and whether it might be that we've unwittingly become a little snobbish over the past decade or so.

The further away from Bridlington we went, the more pleasant the surroundings became until we arrived in Pickering and quickly located the cottage that was to be our base for the next few days.
Pudding House turned out to be a delightful old place that has been renovated to a very good standard. The owner gave us the tour and left us to it, and once we'd got our bearings, stocked up on few basic groceries at the local supermarket (essential stuff like bread and beer), and had a walk around the town, there was just enough energy left (thanks to only having had about three hours sleep the previous night) to spend the evening vegging out before bed.

The weather forecast for the next day was for heavy rain showers, so the idea of getting caught in a downpour while walking on the moors held limited appeal. Determined to not waste the day we managed to find something to do that was mainly under cover.
Eden Camp was a prisoner of war camp during WW2 and is now a museum of Britain's 20th century military history with all the exhibits, with the exception of a few military vehicles and large weapons, housed in the old POW huts.
On arrival, we paid our entry fee at the gate and, directing us to the car park, the woman said "Go straight ahead, turn right at the tank". It occurred to me that the likelihood of having that said to me ever again was rather slim.
Eden camp isn't a bad way to spend half a day, with some interesting exhibits, but by the end we began to feel that unless you happen to be in the area you'd do just as well reading a good book on the subject and saving the journey.

Wednesday's trip out was to Whitby. Pickering station is at the southern end of the North Yorkshire Moors Railway, so we left the car at the cottage and took the train so we could all enjoy the scenery on the way and not have the issue of finding somewhere to park when we got there.
Unfortunately, by the time we got to Whitby, the heavens had opened yet again, so the first port of call ended up being a cheap shoe shop because my trainers had sprung a leak. On the plus side I didn't need to worry about my hair getting wet.
Whitby is a lovely town that I have dreams of retiring to, but like most places the shine does come off a little when it's pissing down.
After a lobster lunch and a decent walk the sun decided to prove that it really did exist after all, but by then it was time to catch the return train so we headed back, planning to stop off at Grosmont on the way to investigate the locomotive workshops.
The queue for the return train was already pretty long by the time we arrived at the station, and the guard was holding everyone behind the barrier until the train had expelled its previous occupants.
This wouldn't have been too bad apart from the one remaining passenger who was taking an eternity to walk along the platform. The old boy must have been pushing 90 years old, and had the most hilarious walk that looked like he was powered by clockwork. His legs went up and down a lot, but very little of his effort was being translated into forward motion. At this point I looked up and down at the queue of waiting people, then back to the waiting train and the Energiser Bunny on the platform who by this time was being overtaken by continental drift, and thought to myself "What the fuck are we all doing?" The wife and I discussed this philosophical poser and we concluded that the human race is nuts and we should just give up analysing it.

Thursday saw us back in the car to take in the wilderness of the moors to get ourselves the good dose of scenery therapy that we'd been craving. The Yorkshire Moors are not as breathtakingly beautiful as the Yorkshire Dales, but they can certainly be very wild and dramatic. The roads through the moors tend to be tight and tortuous with plenty of steep inclines, lined with an endless sea of heather and suicidal sheep. They are also immense fun to drive and, for a few miles when there was nobody in the way at least, I was able to push the Civic hard enough to put a grin on my face, terrify the wife, entertain the boy, and cause the stink of overheated brake pads to infiltrate the cabin.
After stops at Danby and Goathland it was back to the coolness of the cottage to make a decent dinner, which made a welcome change from all the overpriced and very disappointing meals out. After this week we've decided we'd rather spend more on the grocery shopping, buying stuff we really like, rather than constantly being ripped off with the substandard food so often found when eating out.

We had to vacate the cottage by 10am Friday morning and as by this point we were ready to head home, we packed up the car and made a fairly early start.
Made it home alive in about four hours despite the usual attempts of white van man and assorted blind old farts to foil our plans. Unfortunately the cupboards were bare so once we'd unpacked and had a quick cuppa, it was off to Tesco to stock up.
The Yorkshire moors are very nice, and if the boy hadn't been with us we would have done more with our time, but we also concluded that maybe we've reached the end of our rented cottage holidays now. Perhaps it would be preferable to get ourselves some passports and try one of those all-inclusive packages where you sit by the pool with hot-and-cold running waitresses serving tequila sunrises with little umbrellas stuck in the top.
Whatever we do next time, someone else can do the bloody driving.