On the Road Again

16 Jun

Suffolk, The Fens, Lincolnshire, North-East Lincolnshire, North Lincolnshire, East Riding of Yorkshire, Stockton-on-Tees, North Yorkshire, Cumbria, Yorkshire Dales, West Yorkshire, South Yorkshire, Peak District, Staffordshire, West Midlands
We had a week before we were due for our next job in Sussex so we took the opportunity to do a bit more travelling in our motorhome.  We had asked several English people what their favourite place in Britain was and they were unanimous in their answer that the Lakes District is the best.  The Lake District is on the west side of England, from the border with Scotland and down as far as Barrow-in-Furness, 64kms in length and 52kms at its widest point.  The Cumbrian Mountains run down the middle with many lakes either side of them.  The whole district would probably be half the size of the Wairarapa in NZ.  Starting our travels from Eye, south of Norwich on the east coast, we slowly progressed up, following the coast, up through Scarborough until we reached Whitby.  That first day it felt so good to be moving again so we just kept on driving and after eight hours we finally came to rest on the Whitby Marina Carpark.  For NZ’ers it is extraordinary to travel through the countryside for 430 kms  and not see any farmed animals, only the alternating paddocks of varying greens and yellow.  We did see a few deer running about in the woods from time to time, which is exciting, and bold rabbits feeding alongside the busy roads everywhere.  The scenery is beautiful, no doubt about that, but other than a change of crops here and there, the scenery stayed the same all that way!   It is no wonder that tourists in NZ can’t get over how many sheep we have, when they are used to this.

This stack of hay is what is left at midway through spring!  In this district they specialise in growing the hay as there are no signs of cattle anywhere near here.

ALL the tractors are massive and take up most of the road

Just an aside: Motorhoming etiquette means that you are frequently cheerily waved at from other motorhome occupants but don’t try waving to any caravan owners as all you’ll get back is a scowl! 

The farmers seemed to have the most luxurious tractors, none of the old Massey Fergussions around here, and plenty of them.  I reckon they have as many tractors each as they have implements, maybe they don’t like the hassle of changing the plows, farrows and reapers, and they often have a big yellow digger as well.   The farms are so productive though, now that spring has arrived the growth is pretty phenomenal.  At home it’s normal for the seasons to slowly glide along but here being so far north the daylight hours extend so suddenly!  Writing this in the middle of June, it gets light at 4a.m. with a loud dawn chorus and the sun doesn’t set until around 7.30p.m.    You can just about read the paper outside until 10p.m.

Miles and miles of very productive land

Humber Bridge is a toll bridge, the 5th longest in the world, spanning the Humber Estuary.  The rivers Trent and Ouse combine in this estuary, creating a huge deep waterway for large seagoing ships

Dennis wanted to visit Whitby as Capt. James Cook was an apprentice seaman here back in 1746.   They had a good Museum, in the house where he boarded with his boss, with a slipway into the river.  The little town was so cute, with many old buildings still in use.  We took a stroll after dinner and inspected all the fishing and tourist boats lining the wharves and generally enjoying the atmosphere of this quaint settlement.  We were tempted to come back the next day to take a sail up the harbour but upon our return were put off by the crowds!  It was amazing the change of pace.  Earlier in our travels the constant refrain was one of us being too early for the tourist season, with many businesses closed until Easter, which was a bit annoying but we came to think that the lack of queues and the relaxed manner in which we could wander here and there, was the norm.  Today we learnt the awful truth of our delusion!  Now that Easter has well and truly been and gone, the grey brigade have hit the road as well and they are everywhere!  Now we get asked frequently if we qualify for the over sixties discount rates, which is a bit demoralising!  Bus loads of grey-headed men with their wives who sport richly hued locks, spill out onto the footpaths and line up in front of cafes and shop windows.  They all stroll and take up most of the pavement, so that we are the unlucky ones who have to step out onto the roads just to get past.  Whitby is very proud of their “son” James Cook with many statues, museums and the like dotted around the town and surrounds.  The ships he sailed south in were all made in Whitby.   If one was interested one could follow a whole tour of things relating to Cook’s life in and around this whole region, where he was born, where he went to school, etc.  However one could not visit his parents’ last home, as it is now in Melbourne, having been moved from England and reassembled, brick by brick, in 1934!

Looking up the coast from Scarborough towards Whitby

Whitby, what a picturesque town on a lovely day

A scaled down version of The Endeavour was berthed just opposite where we parked for the night. Dennis has been inside a full-sized replica in Wellington, NZ

The man himself

On the other side of the plinth there was another plaque from Australia

As we were keen to spend as much of our time in the Lake District we headed for Penrith the next day.  The scenery from Whitby to Penrith proved to be much more varied, from heath covered moors of the east, to up and over The Pennines that run down the middle of the island and into the woods of the Lake District.  Here and there we even came across a few sheep farms!  

Slate mines in the Lake District reminded us of Wales

This whole area really reminded us of Queenstown, very tourist oriented towns, lakes, mountains, B&B’s, hotels,  YHA’s and beautiful scenery whichever way you looked.  The mountains are not nearly as tall, the tallest peak here is 949m verses 4000m of Mt. Cook but the scenery is every bit as lovely.  Lots of deciduous forests that were just coming into leaf.  The new oak leaves are slightly yellow and so the vista of woods has an almost autumnal feel to it.  We were excited to see a red squirrel, skipping along a hedgerow but by the time Dennis stopped and I got out with the camera it had shot up a tree, out of view.  Red squirrels are native but quite rare, the grey ones have aggressively pushed them out of their own land.  Once again the grey brigade was out in force in the small towns, I read that this whole region, which really is not very large at all receives 15 million visitors each year!!   We felt quite young and sprightly amongst them, mind you some of the ramblers put us to shame!  Some of them must surely have been in their eighties and looked so fit and healthy, striding out with their walking poles along the ubiquitous walking paths.

Read the sign and take a look at that road!

Beautiful scenery in the Lake District

Even though you may be in a National Park, with so many ramblers, etc around, you are required to pay for your parking in the most remote spot! Ten pound for up to four hours, and no repeats!

After driving around a few lakes we decided to go back to the coast and stayed the night at a little rundown port of Maryport.  I say rundown because it was “off the beaten track” and did not cater for the tourists so it wasn’t all shiny and full of cafes.   That night we slept beside the ocean looking toward the lights of Scotland and rows and rows of wind turbines in the sea, by morning it was all shrouded in mist once again.
Whitehaven, 10 miles down the coast, is a pretty place as well.  We decided to become ramblers ourselves, but without the walking poles and flash wet weather gear, and set off up along the cliff tops.  We came across the remains of the Saltom Pit (1729-1848).  The entrance to the shaft was 6m above sea level, the mineshaft 146m deep and 2kms long.  Little nine-year olds used to work in the coal mine, way out under the sea, in the dark, unbelievable!

Low tide from almost the same spot

High tide in Maryport

Looking across the Solway Firth to Scotland from the beach in Maryport

Isn’t it lovely?

The old works for the Saltom Coal Mine set back from the cliffs, south of Whitehaven,….

…and the opening to the shaft on the beach

As I mentioned earlier, there were crowds of visitors in the towns when we first arrived in the district during the week, what a shock when the weekend arrived and brought out the young families as well!  We just are not accustomed to so many people, seemingly all English, keen to get out into the great outdoors.  Cyclists, ramblers, yatchies, windsurfers, people in kayaks, along with parents, pushchairs and toddlers all enjoying the sun.  After travelling up one side then down the other of Lake Windermere, the longest of the lakes, we decided to leave all the people behind and head for the Yorkshire Dales.
I remembered the Yorkshire Dales from James Herriot books and the TV series, years ago.  It is lovely, rolling hills (taller than what we’re seen down south) divided into small paddocks by dry-stone walls.  I listened to a BBC Radio 4 farming programme (15 minute slot every morning) between the interviewer and a tutor of traditional country skills, talking about how many people she trains in the art of dry-stone walling, hedgerow plaiting and hazel hurdles.  The hurdles are actually woven panels, made either with hazel wood or willow, and then joined together for a windbreak or an attractive fence.  There’s even a GSCE qualification for it nowadays.  The Government recognises that so many tourists come to see the quintessential countryside that they are busy training up young people to learn these skills from the older farmers and now there are  self-employed skilled tradesmen who work throughout the country.  The main farming was in sheep with a few cattle farms but little cropping in this whole area.  Lots of tiny villages with the usual selection of stone houses.   It’s interesting to notice how the stones change colour depending on which district you are driving through.  

Yorkshire Dales

Peak District

Between the Yorkshire Dales and the Peak District we drove through many towns situated at the bottom of a steep gully.   It was obvious by the huge buildings beside the fast flowing rivers that these towns were once centres for cotton milling.  The factories were powered by watermills initially, then later modernised with steam engines.  The focus of the entire town was these privately owned cotton mills.  The factories, the workers’ cottages, the large, grand owner’s house and property and the shops were owned by the lord.   Charles Dickens was inspired by these towns to write some of his famous novels.   150 years ago all these towns had the Midlands Railway running through them to transport the raw materials in and the finished articles to the cities north and south but after many years of service the railway was closed down in the 1960’s leaving miles and miles of empty rail trails.  I learnt last night while watching a programme on BBC2 (TV this time) particularly aimed at ramblers, that there are 10,000 miles of disused rail trails in the UK!  Boy, they love their ramblers and cyclists around here, dedicated programmes both on TV and the radio!  Most days when we are driving we will come across a group, with maps encased in plastic strung around their necks, a pack on their back, camera in hand and each carrying a stick of some description, walking with purpose.   Moving up into the Peak District, the scenery changed again.  Up here it was slate mines, water reservoirs, a bit of forestry and more sheep farms.  Don’t think of tall mountains when you consider the name “The Peak District” for the highest is only 636m but rather it is the contrast between the many gullies and then up over the peak into the next gully.  

Copper Beech trees look great in spring, especially when alternating with the more common Green Beech

Only once, when we first started this camping lark, have we phoned up the chosen campsite and booked.    After that time (October 2011),  we would just turn up late in the day or early evening and find the campsite about a quarter filled.   Checking our map of Caravan Club Campsites we chose one in Castleton but when we arrived at the entrance we were astonished to find a sign on the gate telling us that the site was FULL.  This was just  an ordinary weekend, admittedly the weather was fine but it wasn’t a holiday weekend or anything!  Now we know where all the ramblers and cyclists on the rail trails go to sleep at night.   So we carried on to Buxton and tried the Campsite there and managed to fill one of the four vacant places out of 150.  We have learned that from now on, all weekends are busy.  What a contrast.

The campsite was a stone quarry 200 years ago!

Several people had asked me, on different occasions, if I had tried Pork Pie while in England.  They were astonished to hear that “No, I hadn’t” and warmly recommended this delicacy describing the exact brand to buy, rather than a supermarket’s home brand.  Well, the day came when I was perusing the shelves that I happened upon the suggested Pork Pie, took it home and cut out a wedge.  Oh dear, it looked very much like my Mother’s brawn encased in a thick layer of jelly, surrounded in cold pastry.  Gulp!  But with all these recommendations I thought it only proper to at least try, so I served the first slice to Dennis.  He looked at it a bit suspiciously but gave it a fair rating and was happy enough to have another slice.  I took a nibble at the pastry first then another bigger bite including the jelly and meat and almost threw up!  My original reaction was indeed the correct one, Mother’s brawn all over again!
Continuing on down south just past Lichfield and on to Tamworth we stopped to visit the National Memorial Arboretum.  This is the national site to remember all those English men and women who have died serving their country.  We had just missed, by several hours, a service held to unveil a new memorial to those who perished during the Falklands War (around 250).  It was the 30th anniversary of this conflict.  The place was crowded with very well dressed ladies and uniformed men.  The idea is to not only have various statues, plaques, and sculptures dedicated to the different branches of the armed services but they also include around 50,000 trees.  This centre has only being open for about 10 years so the trees are not very mature as yet but you can imagine that over the decades this will be a spectacular site.   As in NZ and Australia, all the villages, towns and cities have their own memorials to commemorate those fallen in both World Wars, but here pride of place is a huge stone semicircle, with the names of those English men and women killed in wars since WW2.  There are 16,000  names carved into the stone!  It was sobering to see all those names, and imagine all the sorrows behind the deaths, many in conflicts we had never even heard of.  Since WW2 there has only been one year (1968) where there have been no British service men or women killed in active duty!  It is quite “normal” to hear of British soldiers being killed in Afghanistan.  The British have been in Afghanistan since 2001 and have suffered 419 casualties, not to mention all those injured.  We have found the country to be surprisingly patriotic and have never heard a negative word about the troops being in either Iraq or Afghanistan, though they do criticise Tony Blair for sending them to Iraq in the first place.  The wives of servicemen in Afghanistan produced a CD before Christmas raising funds for the wounded service people and they are extremely popular.  You often see stands in malls, raising funds for these disabled servicemen.  The conductor of that choir received an honour, OBE or something, as part of the Queen’s Birthday celebrations.

The Armed Forces Memorial

16,000 names from 1948 until the present day

The Memorial has been designed to allow a shaft of sunlight to fall through the gap and …

The Gallipoli memorial. Dennis’ great Uncle died at Gallipoli two days before the campaign was called off, he is buried at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission cemetery in a named grave there.

….across the sculpted wreath on the central stone at precisely 11.00am on the 11th day of the 11th month

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