Friday, 16 September 2011

Thursday 15th September

Two apologises - firstly I should have changed the ‘blog skin’ as the weather was brilliant on Wednesday. Secondly, I posted some photos to the wrong site on Sunday, so there should be a few extra for you to see now. (scroll down to the bottom of the page and click on a photo)

After my conversation with Geoff, It did not seem practical to take in Newcastle, Gateshead and Durham, plus Whitby, and be in Grantham for early evening. I decided a return trip would be needed one day to see Geordie Land, so headed for the A1 and Whitby.
I did, however, allow myself a short break to see the ‘giant’ Angel of the North - the monstrous steel sculpture by Anthony Gormley that dominates the skyline overlooking the A1.
I am still not sure what it represents, but like the Millennium Wheel in London, or the Pyramid at the Louvre, we soon get used to these permanent structures - a strange mix of technology, geometry and art.

I reached Whitby at 12.30. Parked by 1.15. It was packed. I don’t know why I keep being surprised by meeting crowds of holiday makers - the ‘older generation’ mostly on permanent holiday.
Whitby needed more time than I allowed to explore it properly, but managed a good walk through the cobbled lanes with their smart souvenir shops, art shops and many patisseries to admire. I snaked my way through these alleys to the harbour walls and the impressive expanse of beach, which always looks more photogenic when the tide is out.
I climbed the 199 stone steps up the cliff face to see Whitby Abbey, the iconic gothic ruin. Nearby is also St Marys church, much later than the Abbey, around 1905, but with hundreds of ancient headstones surrounding the church.
From here, the panoramic views of the Yorkshire coastline are magnificent. (Note to myself - must go back and stay longer).

I considered moving on to Scarborough as I had been told this too is an interesting seaside town, but time was not on by side. I calculated it would take around three and half hours to Grantham, so I pencilled Scarborough in for another day.

I headed out of Whitby and found myself driving through the North Yorkshire Moors. I thought for a moment I had been transported back to Scotland - the rugged contours of the moors, the vast expanse of deep purple heather, and the sheep, gave me déjà vu.
For some bizarre reason I followed a signpost to Goathland, deep in the moors. I still do not know why I was drawn to this route, but it was an interesting experience.
I obviously do not get out enough as much as other people, because, you guessed it, the village of Goathland was packed with visitors. I approached it from the north which took me in via the wonderful old wooden Victorian station, and in the station stood a steam train, complete with four carriages. I learnt later this is a magnet for steam train enthusiasts, as it runs regularly from Pickering, on the south edge of the Moors, to Grosmont, about a 10 mile journey.
Needless to say, I could not park near enough to take a closer look so continued into the village which was even more congested with visitors - where had they all come from and why?
This picturesque village is overrun with visitors because it was the location for the TV series Heartbeat, the quaint 1960’s police drama. I really could not park anywhere close enough to enjoy a walk around the village, so it will be on the list to revisit with the rest of the East coast.
That would have been then end of my description of my journey over the Moors except for one spooky thing that happen. I turned on Radio 4 to hear the news headlines (I had not kept up much over the last week except for weather reports). Immediately after the news there was a ‘Country File’ type of programme from!!!!! The North Yorkshire Moors . . . they were interviewing the men who lease and run the 7,500 acres of heather land, primarily for Grouse Shoots, but also for conservational and wildlife projects. I had driven over this area just 30 minutes ago and now I was getting a first hand account of its management and history. . . what a coincidence.

The remainder of the journey down to Grantham was uneventful, but I was glad in a way it was coming to an end. It was also good to see our old friends Mike & June again, and thanks guys for the room and the excellent dinner.

I headed on home to Surrey after a light breakfast (no more fry-ups for a month at least) and thought of the journey I had just been on; ten days driving, 1,919 miles, nine B&B’s, four concerts, 500 photographs and a life time of memories - but it was worth it.

If you think the Blas festival sounds interesting for next year, visit for more information.

If you are staying on the west coast of Scotland I recommend Balcarres B&B at Fort William. 10 out of 10, and very reasonable.
On the east coast near Inverness I highly recommend Cromal Bank B&B at Ardersier.

I have thoroughly enjoyed the experience of discovering parts of this country I had been so unaware about. The people I have met have been kind, friendly and welcoming, and despite the weather, I have to say it has been one of the best (solo) holidays I have undertaken.

Thanks to all who have taken the trouble to read these ‘letters’, and I hope it may have inspired you to visit some of this wonderful and exotic country of ours one day.

Goodbye until next time

David Balaam

Question: Who is George Morton?

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