Tuesday, April 16, 2013

One Direction - As Long As It's Left.

Yes I know, another 'clever' title that I'm hoping will get me pop fan readers !  Desperate times etc but it IS sort of relevant.

Anyway, no one has asked me, but I'm claiming that yesterday was the first day of Spring here in the UK. 

Given the winter we've had, my recipe for Spring was a hint of sunshine, a drizzle of blue in the sky all coming together with a soup├žon of heat.

Yesterday we got all that although personally, I could've done without the gale force wind which blew my hair all over the place...a bit like Mick Miller in a wind tunnel !

Given my penchant for staying up till 3am and thus not rising till about noon, I was a bit annoyed that the weather was so good and half the hours of daylight had already passed me by. Still, I'm nothing if not adaptable and no sooner had I showered and come down the stairs than I was planning on having a trip out.

I fixed some coconut and date porridge (highly recommended) as it only takes a few minutes and is very filling - a good idea as I'd no idea when I would eat next.  

12:15 and I was off.

Off where ?  I'd no idea.....not a clue.

Back in the day when I got my first car and petrol was (relatively) cheap, I used to go off with little clue as to a destination. I just fancied touring the countryside without a care in the world and lots of 60's cassettes to keep my fingers drumming on the steering wheel. Ahhhh cassettes. Google them.

For obvious reasons, I've rarely done it since.

So it was that I sat in my car in my driveway and tried to think which way to go for my first move. When in doubt I always pick left, being that I'm left handed I suppose. Thus my neighbour on my left was quite surprised when I pulled up onto her driveway and her net curtains twitching couldn't disguise her look of horror ! 

Deciding to go a bit further afield, I set off again and kept turning left when I had a choice to make. I found myself at a junction with the A58, the main road between Leeds and Wetherby and remembered that just a few hundred yards to the right was The Wellington, a carvery pub I used to frequent in the days before I discovered the slightly better, although more expensive, Queens on Harrogate Road.

I'd been on the road for all of 7 minutes and clearly I needed a break and what better way to have a break than to rest and stuff my face at the same time.

The Wellington do a 'small' carvery for £3.49 which I think they expect only children to take up. Ha ! For £3.49 I'm your man.

The carvery choices are exactly the same, it's just that the plate is smaller for the small price.

Evidently The Wellington hadn't heard of my food stacking ability and I managed to get my usual quantity on board despite the size of the plate. Ok so I left a trail of carrots and peas in a rich, dark gravy as I carefully made my way back to my table but hey, them's the rules.

40 minutes later I was back in the car with a destination in mind. I'd used some of my eating time to check the map on my tablet (free wifi at The Wellington) and I decided to go to Pickering, a North Yorkshire market town where I felt I'd get some much needed exercise by exploring its delights on a sunny Monday afternoon.

The drive was delightful. My mp3 player was blasting out 100 Top Power Ballads, the roads were quite empty and the countryside was basking under the rays of a blinding sun. England is truly grand on a good day. We just don't get many.

Approaching Pickering I had an epiphany. I wanted to see the sea.

Just like that. I'd ruled out a trip to the sea when at home thinking where to go. Now I wanted it. Go figure.

The sign said Whitby 21 miles and that was good enough for me.

The great thing about going to Whitby meant I'd be going up over the North Yorkshire Moors and I'd recommend that A169 road to anyone who loves driving. The route also takes you past "The Hole Of Horcum" which, sniggers aside, is a wonderful natural depression that reminds me of Meteor Crater in Arizona, but with more grass !

I stopped for a bit of fresh air but it was a bit TOO fresh as the wind almost blew me off the ridge. I felt sorry for the ice cream van owner who was parked at one end of the car park surveying the only car there.....mine. But not sorry enough to buy anything from him.

At 3:30pm I arrived in Whitby and was just delighted that the weather had, if anything, improved. The wind had dropped a lot, there was much more blue in the sky and it was quite warm. 

I wasn't sure what to expect, tourist wise, for a Monday afternoon in April. It wasn't too bad at all. Whitby can be very crowded in mid summer but yesterday it was almost perfect. There were a few student groups (French and Japanese) but for the most part, I only had to wait a few seconds to get photos of the main sights with no one getting in the way.

I started off on the swing bridge over the River Esk as that view is always picturesque with the houses and the boats and, naturally, the water.

I then decided to go up to the church and abbey on top of the east cliff overlooking the town. This was clever thinking as to get there requires one to climb 199 steep steps and having been to Whitby many times, that climb is not to be attempted at the end of a day's exploring. Fresh legs are definitely needed. 

Most of Whitby's streets are narrow but on the way to the 199 steps, the aptly named Church Street is only wide enough for one vehicle - so a good idea that it's pedestrianised. Then it gets even narrower.

At the start of January, prolonged rainfall, plus a burst drainage pipe, caused a large portion of the cliff in front of St. Mary's Church to fall away. As this section contained part of the graveyard, the news headlines reported that the landslide opened up these graves, causing remains to slither down to the homes below. The link between the town and Bram Stoker's Dracula was gleefully brought up in this reporting.

There were men working on the cliff and the whole area was condoned off which was a shame as I used to love sitting on the benches near the edge, taking in the vista before me, the town and harbour below and the views across to the west cliff and the imposing statue of the famous maritime explorer, Capt. James Cook.  

I looked around the graveyard and was quite surprised at the age of some of the residents when they'd died. We tend to think of few people living beyond 50 or 60 in the 18th/19th century but clearly some were made of sterner stuff....

Back down the steps, there were many interesting speciality shops along Church Street and their windows were as interesting as anything at the top of the cliff.

Back in the town, everywhere you looked there was a photo op. I wanted to go to parts I'd never been to before and that took me out along a small stone pier on the east side of The Esk before strolling along the west side towards the lighthouse. 

I'd never been beyond the lighthouse before but as the setting sun was casting a lovely light on Whitby, I walked to the very end which gave wonderful views back towards the town.

Here is the final shot I took and just as well as after taking it, my camera battery ran out ! 

I was pretty drained by this time too and as it had been 6 hours since the carvery meal, I was ready for the Whitby food experience.....fish and chips.  Yum.

I took my takeaway to a bench by the harbour and was immediately pestered by seagulls, coming right up to my feet and continually squawking to get some of my food. I knew better than to throw anything at them as that would produce a fight and attract more gulls.

But when I'd had enough to eat, I still had loads of chips in the box so I did toss a few onto the ground before putting the box in a nearby bin.

Well what followed was a scene worthy of Hitchcock himself as the dozens of gulls on the ground suddenly went into a fighting frenzy and were joined by dozens more from above. I had to walk through them for a few feet and was only safe from them when I tossed the box in the bin. Then they all disappeared as quickly as they'd arrived !  

I returned to the car and could see from a distance that of all the cars in the park, mine was the only white one.  As such, it has 2 gulls on the roof and one on the bonnet (hood) and as I got closer and they cleared off, I saw plenty of poop on the car too.

A trip to the car wash will be needed and because bird poop is like acid, it had better be in the next few days.

The drive home was lovely too as there was still just enough light for half the trip to be able to see the countryside....even the Hole of Horcum again.  Going at 30mph through a small village a few small birds flew across my path and I couldn't avoid hitting the last one. I felt the bump as at least one wheel went over it and when I glanced in my rear view mirror, it lay unmoving in the middle of the road.

I was really upset about it but today when checking my car, there was no damage !

Sorry bird lovers.

So considering my late start and having no initial idea where to go, I'd had a brill day out and have decided to do it again as often as possible.....weather permitting.

Which probably means twice in July and once in August !

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