Anglotopia Article (world wide web)
I was invited to a birthday party but not just an ordinary birthday party, this was an English enthusiast’s birthday party;
Why? Because this party would be travelling through stunning English countryside, it would visit a famous seaside resort, stopping in quaint rural towns and villages, riding up and down one of the most beautiful train lines in the UK, on a fabulous steam locomotive, with a fish and chip supper to wrap up the day – all nestled amongst the enveloping North Yorkshire Moors – and yes it was as good as it sounds.
My route finder said it was going to take more than three hours to get there from the Heart of England so we set out early heading up the M1 all the way to Grosmont (pronounced GrowMont) to catch the 12:30pm North Yorkshire Moors Steam Railway Service to Pickering.
Even though it is a huge industrial highway sometimes as wide as eight lanes of traffic, the M1 is actually a lovely route through the English countryside, passing by in clear view you can see Beacon Hill (the highest point in Leicestershire), Hardwick Hall and Hardwick Old Hall (Bess of Hardwick’s homes, the most powerful woman in Tudor England), Sutton Scarsdale Hall and Bolsover Castle (Derbyshire) (both built for heirs of Bess); which are all stunning buildings set in gorgeous surroundings and fabulous to be able to see from the road.
I was however disappointed to discover that the Cooling Towers which were sited right next to the raised section of the M1 in Sheffield, have recently been demolished – I like Cooling Towers and those ones were so close to the road that you could see the water pouring from the bottom of them as you drove by. Oh well.
Grosmont is a typical small Yorkshire village – grey stone, slate roofs, a few winding streets set at the bottom of a valley but with a train station in the centre. The station deals with both steam railway travellers and normal rail commuters from neighbouring platforms, mixing both locals and tourists together.
The North Yorkshire Moors Railway runs trains daily in the summer and we had a private Observation Car attached to the front of the train where we could sit in Victorian/Edwardian luxury with lovely waitresses bringing us food and drink as we travelled up and down the line from Grosmont to Pickering and back through the gorgeous Esk Valley, all afternoon. The Birthday boy (and his brother) both got to don an Engine Driver’s Cap, overalls and ride on the footplate – which is literally a dirty job! You should have seen their soot blackened smiling faces.
It really was a wonderful afternoon, we were the envy of the people in the carriage behind us and of those that pulled up next to us at the numerous stops along the route (Pickering, Levisham, Newton Dale Halt, Goathland, Grosmont), each stop allowing people to stretch their legs or to buy an ice cream (it was swelteringly hot); it was a very lovely lazy way to spend a sunny afternoon.
In the evening we travelled from Grosmont to Whitby where we met for a slap up Fish & Chip Supper at the famous Magpie Cafe, as we arrived (a group of twenty one people) there was a queue from the street leading up the stairs to the front door (clearly very popular) and I felt sorry for them, when we were let in past them all due to our pre-booked status (I would advise making a booking if you want to eat on a particular day/time at the Magpie, as it is very busy).
The food was fantastic and I think by that time we had all eaten and drank far too much but hey it was a party. The Magpie is situated on the Whitby Harbour front below the imposing St Mary’s Church and the looming Whitby Abbey sat on top of the opposing headland.
Whitby is famous for many things but in particular the Abbey is said to be an inspirational place for Bram Stoker’s ‘Dracula’ and the town is famous due to its Victorian precious gem ‘Whitby Jet’ and is very popular destination during the tourist season.
Our B&B for the night was a lovely property set down a pitch dark moors path crossing the sheep grazed village green in nearby Goathland, there was nothing visible by the time we got home but the occasional frog crossing the path to accompany us to the door as we returned late, seeking a much needed bed.
Goathland is a quaint and rural moor village which is also the outside location set for ‘Aidensfield’ the village featured in the British television series Heartbeat, there were many tourists visiting the village by the time we had had breakfast and started our journey home, they were all taking photographs of the buildings and the vehicles that hark back to a bygone age that are the haunts of their favourite characters from a TV show that I have to confess, I have never ever watched.
We then drove through the moors taking in the wonderful sites (like the Hole of Horcum) and visited Pickering Castle and the town of Pickering (I found a fabulous gift for someone in the Flea Market but that information can’t be shared here just yet). The castle is a lovely ruined site managed by English Heritage and we had a lovely Yorkshire Tea in the town for a very reasonable price.
I had a fabulous time in Yorkshire just over 24hours packed with as much as we could muster but I would gladly have done more; Please Sir, can I have some more? No? Oh well, back to the daily grind!