A Travellerspoint blog


Side Trip to Scarborough

sunny 15 °C

Even though I booked months ago, space in the Whitby was a bit patchy – if I could have had a week or two clear to stay, I probably would have. As it was, I couldn’t even stay all of the long weekend, and had to take a night in Scarborough. I know, life really can be terrible at times.

The hostel is a couple of miles north of town, in a peaceful spot

I’d only been in my room a minute, maybe two, and I found myself in a fairly intense discussion with a retired school teacher, who had a lot to say about the state of the country, essentially that the Great has gone out of Great Britain. While I’d noticed some of the things he was talking about, at least I was able to reassure him that there were still, as Ian Dury might have said, reasons to be cheerful, by launching into some of the great things I’ve seen here. He was in New Zealand when he was young, even planned to move there but then met the lady that proved to be his wife, and that was it.

To go back to town for dinner, I decided to promenade along the North Beach Promenade

There’s not much left of Scarborough Castle

As I rounded the point, I had this weird experience, it sounded like there were about 50 8 year old kids chattering in front of me (having spent some time in hostels, I know exactly what that sounds like) but I couldn’t see how that would be, then spotted the culprits

I quite liked my wee wander along the waterfront

Behind me wasn’t so hot, classic English resort
but I still like the look of this hotel

Nice mural

Dinner was a great carvery, where I was once again struck with indecision: pork or turkey? Which is which? Have both, dammit. The man doing the carving was a bit of a grump (“Is that young bloke in the kitchen a foreigner?” “No.” “Well, he’s f*ng stupid anyway”) but generous with the food.

In the morning, I was saved from yet again having to walk into town to catch the bus, as my talkative friend dropped me off. Instead of going straight back to Whitby, I hopped off at Robin Hood Bay

This was a truly charming wee spot, as was its town, which basically had a single street

and then a bunch of alleys only accessible on foot

Posted by NZBarry 17:46 Archived in England Comments (0)

Back in Whitby

sunny 16 °C

As I write, it is my very last night in the UK, the end of the second phase of my trip, which has gone far too quickly for comfort.

When I left Birmingham at the beginning of May, I was a little torn about what I would do: in theory I was supposed to go to Galway, but there were places I wanted to see again and the cost of living in Ireland is a little frightening, even by comparison with the cost of living in England. So I put that aspect of the jaunt off for a little, and headed back to Whitby. It took me all day, but that was mainly because I had a three hour wait between trains in York – I might have made the earlier train which left about five minutes after I arrived, had I known about it or not had to struggle through the station with all my gear and take the time to stable my bike in York railway station. So, I found a quiet spot in the pub in the station, there was no way I was going to carry my bags about, and did some ale-powered work. Then it was up through Middlesburgh and across to Whitby.

Just seeing the place
again confirmed that it is my kind of place. Although the trudge up the 199 steps to the hostel
is not my kind of thing, by the time I had spent a long weekend there, I was really reluctant to leave. The hostel felt like home, helped by the really quite wonderful views from my room

Last time I was here, I found a good cafe but this time round, I found Beckett’s and once I did, the other place didn’t get a look in. I was in every day once I found it. Beckett’s is a cosy and very welcoming place which not only does good coffee, but has great cakes and has two walls devoted to books for sale. Breaking my rules about buying more stuff to carry, I bought two. One, I was reading the back cover and thought, hmmm that sounds a lot like Men Behaving Badly, who is copying whom? Then I saw it was actually David Nye’s Men Behaving Badly. Turned out to be pretty lame, as it happens, so I left it in the hostel book exchange.

On what was Bank Holiday Monday over here, I had a horrible attack of indecision: their cakes were good, their teacakes were good, how the hell was I to decide? I didn’t – I went for both. Somehow this same state of indecision found me paralysed outside another cafe on the way back to the hostel and in much the same state of mind, had to go in and indulge in more teacakes. My extensive research has revealed that the baker in Whitby makes a particularly yeasty and very addictive and fine form of teacake.

Another great find in Whitby was the Board Inn. I’d been for a really good meal of fish and chips and wasn’t quite ready to climb the 199 steps so thought a pint was in order. This led to me going back for another every night I was in Whitby. Watching the sun go down had a peculiar fascination

Captain Cook is on the horizon – here he is a bit closer

On the way through to Whitby, I’d noticed a wee town that looked kind of cool, Grosmont, then I found out that a steam train
was running from Whitby to a festival of steam at Grosmont. It was something I had to do.

Now, when you travel on the 17:55 to Lichfield Trent Valley, or even the 14:02 Virgin Pendolino to Euston, people tend not to be out waving, but put yourself in a steam hauled train and everyone wants to wave at you. A LOT of people seem to be interested in just seeing a steam train arrive

Mind you, some were quite spectacular

I wonder if people can work out what the special story is about this train

The Tornado is the first steam engine made in the UK in something like 50 years, and was commissioned in 2009, just a couple of months ago. Grosmont is not the biggest of towns,
and trains seem to be a big part of its life – I think there were three shops selling railway souvenirs. Going back, I decided to travel first class

Back at the station in Whitby, there was sword dancing

I've managed to knock off the second volume of the Forsyte Saga over the past couple of weeks, which I found to be quite strange because the Forsytes are decidedly thin on the ground. Yes, Soames Forsyte is there as a central figure, and his daughter is to the fore, but the rest drop into the background. Instead, the Mont family, into which Fleur married come in for a lot of attention. So, I came to like Soames in this volume, and was sad when he took the ferry in quite a dramatic way. Fleur is horrible, completely spoilt - her only saving grace is that she knows it. One of the more interesting features of the novel is that it sets up oppositions between the old ways and the new, including the modern use of language. Some of the phrases have stuck, but a lot were just a fad and long gone, to the point I hardly knew what was being said at times.

Posted by NZBarry 11:25 Archived in England Comments (1)

Bye bye Lichfield and Birmingham

sunny 15 °C

London had one final gesture for me. I was not arrested. Instead, I was “detained”. Under the anti Terrorism legislation. Seriously. I was moseying along near Kings Cross station, hoping I might find a decent coffee when a wee constable who had been lurking in an alley came out and “requested” that I join him. I expressed my displeasure but really, what can you do but submit. I even managed to make a joke, wondering why he could not arrest the folk running the nearby Starbucks as a crime against coffee. So he carefully searched me, we had a bit of a chat but by the time he got to my bag decided he could let me go. Funnily enough, when I read the copy of the report he had to give me, he had stopped me for walking in a “vulnerable area” i.e. near two major railway stations, carrying a “large bag” i.e. my laptop bag.

That reminds me of a wee story I read in Tartu about a large cupboard. Apparently the library was pretty keen to maintain discipline, so when people talked in the library or were late returning their books, they’d be locked in the cupboard. One person spent three days in such fashion. Go into a modern library, you’d soon need a HUGE cupboard to apply these measures to the users!

Back in Lichfield, it was my last couple of weeks. They were pretty full on, as I was making as much use of the library as I could during the day then spending my evenings in a pub, as it offered free internet and mine was cut off at work. I did take time out for a few photos of the University campus:
Great Hall
Law library:
Law Faculty:
Main Library:
Random statue outside my window (the source was named, but not the statue)
and my favourite, Michael Faraday
He’s an impressive man and an unusual one for an educational institute to feature at its front entrance as not only did he have no formal education, but according to the theorists of the time, his most famous invention, the electric motor, simply could not work. Yet it did – he was the great experimenter, possibly the greatest ever. He later went on to become a Professor but not at Birmingham University, I have no idea what connection he might have with Birmingham – certainly not a strong enough one to feature in his Wikipedia entry.

I spent my last weekend in the area holed up in a hotel in Lichfield,
since my house wasn’t really conducive to hanging about in and decided to go walkabout with the camera.

Lichfield Cathedral is quite remarkably hard to get a good photo of, because it is so big and the Close is rather, well, close.

Walking around it at night was a pretty special experience, because it tended to be a ghostly looming presence when it was really dark. I tried taking a photo – you’d get the experience of seeing it!

Lichfield library:

Scooter convention:

One of the reasons to stay in town was to go visiting. First up, it was the house of Erasmus Darwin,
grandfather of Charles.

He was a doctor, and quite a guy. Mary Shelley credits his experiments in which he tried to re-animate corpses in the basement (visitors can only go down there under very special arrangements) with inspiring her to write Frankenstein, and he influenced Coleridge and Wordsworth with his own poetical works. Patients would tell of his travels to see them, his carriage laden with a pile of books to one side and food to the other. He invented all sorts of things, including a talking machine, a horizontal windmill
and a system for independent turning of front carriage wheels (to stop carriages falling over) which still informs motor engineering today.

He also had a few thoughts along the lines of a theory of evolution, but ran into a little opposition from the neighbours

His house was an important focal point for 18th century Lichfield intellectual life, which made Dr Johnson
a frequent visitor. Johnson’s house is right in the centre of Lichfield,
where his father was a not very successful bookseller

I have no photos at all of Birmingham. I was initially reaonably impressed with it as a city, but after spending four months there, I actually had trouble picking out any specific thing that I had warmed to, unless you count my Asian greasy spoon under the railway station. I think I managed three visits there in my last couple of weeks. One regret I have is that I didn't get to go back and say a finale farewell to Wolverhampton, as it had provided me with a variety of homes for a month or so and there's a very nice curry shop I wanted to dine at.

But time run out. At around 7:00 on 1 May, I slung my bags over my shoulder, reunited myself with my bike at Lichfield station and I was off.

Posted by NZBarry 07:43 Archived in England Comments (0)

More London, Again

sunny 14 °C

After coming back from Latvia, the feeling of everything being about to end was strong, so I thought I’d have a final weekend in London, staying at the newly re-opened (“last Wednesday, Sir”) St Pancras YHA. Also newly re-opened is St Pancras station, which is a star among railway stations (sorry about the fogging on the photos).

I planned to get a photo of its impressive front, but somehow forgot. There are several storeys facing the road in a kind of red brick gothic style, I don’t know what all the space was used for, but had the impression that it was barely used at all so am glad to see that it is getting new life as a hotel and apartments. Inside, there has been a massive redevelopment. Trains are on the upper level
along with a statue of John Betjeman
and a couple, obviously just re-uinited or about to separate for a journey

Downstairs there was enough to amuse me for my entire visit to London, a branch of Foyles, lots of cafes and various interesting shops.

I didn’t actually stay in a railway station for two days, however, I had films to see. First was the Swedish Let the Right One In, about a 12 year old boy who is a bit of a loner, picked on by the other boys, but then he makes this friend, when a new girl moves in next door. So, at one level it is a sweet movie about two outsiders finding each other and forming a bond, but the wrinkle is that she’s a vampire. Such is the sacrifice that her dad will make that he goes out and kills for her. The oddity of this as a vampire movie is that the audience is left empathising with the vampire.

On the Sunday, I had a fairly hefty walk as I planned to see Camden Market. On the way, I found St Pancras Old Church
which has been here since the 11th century, although it has had a bit of refurbishment along the way. There’s a cute story about burying all of the Church’s treasures so that Cromwell’s men wouldn’t steal them, but then not being able to find them again. It was only when the church was being rebuilt in the 19th century that they were found. Mary Wollenscroft is apparently buried in the graveyard, but I never found her grave. This
is a sundial which one Baroness Burdett-Coutts saw fit to give to the public (she was heavily involved in slum clearance in London (which has curious links to my reading in The Forsyte Saga), the first woman peer).

I’d heard that Camden Market had burnt down, but that was a bit of an exaggeration: much of it was still going strong,
completely crowded and still selling much the same sort of stuff it has always sold,
even though they have become mainstream in the meantime, such as Doc Martens. Even the street outside was chocker

It was nice to see that there were still some freaks among the civilians, young and not so young. DSCF1090.jpg

Down in Camden Lock, someone was actually using the canal

It was then a fairly long walk along to the top of Upper Street in Islington, and an unfortunately rushed walk down that street – so many interesting looking cafes, but I had no time to longer, as I was headed for the brutalist splendour of the Barbican
to see another film, 400 Blows, one of Truffaut’s early movies and said to be one of the defining moments of the French New Wave. I’ve seen a few movies from that movement that have left me completely bewildered, not as to what was going on but why they made it into a movie, but this one I enjoyed. Antoine is a troubled school boy, where he has a hard time behaving and is given progressively worse punishments. He kind of brings things upon himself: when asked why he was not at school and has no note, his answer is that his parents both died. Not sure how long he thought he’d get way with it but it wasn’t long. Home life isn’t much better – he has to sleep in a cot in the kitchen, and there doesn’t seem to be much of a relationship either with or between his parents. There is an almost farcical scene when, to get some money, he and his mate steal a typewriter (of all things) from his father’s work but are caught when trying to return it. This is the final straw, the cops get called in and it is off to borstal, on his mum’s recommendation. This suits him, in that he’d always wanted to be by the sea.

Posted by NZBarry 08:33 Archived in England Comments (0)

To St Just

sunny 14 °C

I don’t know what happened. I had about 200 miles to go, I left Bournemouth good and early and yet it was well after dark before I arrived. Traffic wasn’t bad and the sun was shining
yet the drive took more than 12 hours! Of course, meandering up every side road and gawking at various things does slow one down. First stop of any substance was just outside Weymouth
not sure how it happened but instead of making progress

I was curious to see Cheshil Beach, after Ian McEwan named his novel in its honour. All I knew was that it had a few pebbles
but it is unusual in another way

Those pebbles provide a challenge to those wishing to take a gentle stroll along the beach, particularly if you’re trying to go up or down. The noise made was curious as well, a kind of crash to start with, then a lingering scrunching rattling.

After a coffee at a very tempting looking restaurant, it was already noon and time to go – I had a date with a pic’n’mix bin. One of the major victims of the recession has been Woolworths, probably the most iconic and longest established (over 100 years) brands to go (well, there are a bunch of empty shops still around). In Dorchester, however, the manager decided that wasn’t good enough – her branch was making a steady profit, her community was behind her, her workers all saw Woollies as their family, so she re-opened her branch. This hit the press big time, and there was even a TV documentary on her last week I happened to see; she’s one of my heroes of the recession, and seemed like a lovely person to boot. So, I headed for Dorchester, which is about 20 miles north. Here’s her shop
The place was humming, and I did see the manager, had this weird impulse go shake her hand or hug her or something – luckily she left the premises before I got myself arrested. So I bought a gallon of pic’n’mix and had some lunch. Dorchester is just a solid sort of market town, but it has a nice church

Next stop was Lyme Regis – now this is town which knows how to be a beach resort! It has the beach
with plenty of bars and cafes fronting on to it
There are even pebbles for those who feel a need
Pity about the homeless guys

Lyme Regis is a town with a looong history - it is recorded in the Domesday Book (1086) and gained its Royal charter in 1253. It is still a nice town, one of the more genteel along the Jurassic coast:
and in between was a glorious garden

I must confess that I don’t know where this is, somewhere not far from Lyme Regis, and it might even be Beer (Devon) but it seemed peaceful
Ah, it is Beer, a fairly small town, a full 139 miles from my destination according to the marvels of google maps. I think the pub in Beer has one of the lamest sort of punning names I have ever come across - Barrell O' Beer. It was so warm I had to have an ice cream then, since the time had crept on to being well after 5:00, I basically tramped it.

Even so it was around 9:30 before I got to the hostel at Lands End (down a one way mile long track behind a farm).
Lands End itself was closed – no loss, there is a big building that obscures any sort of view, and the building doesn’t seem to have changed since I saw it twenty years ago. It was tacky and new then, now it is tacky and old.

So, dinner was a bit of a step down from last night – a mile the other side of the hostel is the stone town of St Just. All I could get to eat at 9:45 was Chinese takeways, so I sat with them and a beer in the near freezing cold at a picnic table and dined al fresco (the picnic table reminded me strongly of Massey, as I spent half my life at a picnic table there). But the Star Inn
was still going strong, so I went in and had a nice St Austell’s ale as a nightcap.

Posted by NZBarry 12:40 Archived in England Comments (0)

(Entries 1 - 5 of 17) Page [1] 2 3 4 » Next