The Nostalgic Spring Sojourn | Part 6

Sunday – the day of rest. And that’s exactly what I had planned, feeling very much like I was running on empty. Not only was the lack of decent sleep catching up again I’d awoke feeling like I’d been gargling carpet tacks and suspected a cold was beginning to make it’s presence felt. No matter, it’s been a long while since I’d had one and was quite pleased to have avoided picking up any bugs over the winter – working with kids it’s an occupational hazard but I guess it swings both ways and your immune system builds up too.

That’s not to say it was a bad day because it wasn’t – the sun was out, intermittently at least, and I was happy just to laze around in my happy zone – radio on in the background and a good book that was holding my attention for increasingly longer periods. I didn’t even go off site, the furthest expedition being to the facilities for a lovely long hot shower in one of the sites’ excellent en-suite units.

Monday, and again the sun was making a a sterling effort. It was my last day in York and, to be honest, not feeling 100% would have been happy to mirror Sunday’s activities – or lack of them. However that seemed a bit of a waste so, having done a load of washing and hung it out, I had a shower, got tarted up then pointed Rosie roughly north-west in the direction of Thirsk.

It was market day so the main square was packed with stalls and cars, but I found some parking just around the back near the river and fed some coins in the meter for a couple of hours stay. To be honest I didn't linger that long but loved the area by the bridge over the river which had plenty of benches and seats and looked a great place for a picnic.

A walk around the mainly cobbled square and down Market Street led me on to Kirkgate where I came across the Thirsk Museum – and learned something new – that Thomas Lord – of Lords cricket ground in London – was born here.

Further on, St Mary’s church looked stout and impressive in the sun – the increasing strength of which was having me seriously question for how much longer the long leather coat would stay on. Yes it was that warm!

On the way out I took the opportunity to check out the club site by the racecourse – it was here we were to come last year until they had to cancel bookings due to flooding and it was easy to see why. I’ve pulled some footage off the dash-cam so there may well be a site arrival at some point but if not, it’s quite easy to get to – from the A1(M) particularly.

Next up was Wetherby, a few miles back down the aforementioned A1(M) thanks to a road closure. No market but it looked busy and, having heard good things about the riverside I headed down there, impressed by the free car parking offered. Clearly, so were many others as there wasn’t a space to be had. Rosie idled for a bit as a watched for any imminent departures but there were none so headed off to find somewhere else.

I happened across another free car park shortly after but given my previous experience, was not hopeful. There appeared to be more comings – and more importantly goings though, so I circled the car park slowly, waiting for a space. As luck would have it – or so I thought – I saw someone easing out on the opposite side and headed around thinking that it was my turn and fair play might prevail. Yeah, right. Some Victor Meldrew’ esque character appeared in his shiny little hatchback with  face like a slapped arse and clearly a greater sense of entitlement, despite having only entered the car park seconds before. This was HIS space and nothing was going to stop him, especially some Southern nancy. Not that he’d have known that but I added it for effect. I didn’t have the will or the energy to challenge him, remembering the adage ‘pick your battles’ - he was never going to give the space up. So I satisfied myself with a little launch of the appropriate digit before heading off to find somewhere else – which I eventually did.

Again, the town was pleasant enough but yet again it was down by the river that I really liked. Now coat-less, it was really quite warm and again there were benches to sit and admire the view. I rued not making some sarnies as it would have been a cracking place to pause for a spot of lunch.

I’d debated continuing the sightseeing – Selby and a return visit to Knaresborough were two possibles – but what was quite obviously now a cold was slowing me down so instead heading back to the site, pausing at the nearby Asda to stock up. I knew from experience that my next site was quite remote and wanted to avoid long round trips for milk and the like.

And so, my last night on site at York Caravan Park. The time had flown by – really flown by and although it might sound as though it ended on a bit of a downer, I didn't see it that way at all. I’d had three great days out, met up with some lovely friends and had a thoroughly good time. I take the view now that there is no need to rush and see everything as there will always be a chance to return – for me anyway. It’s about making the most of how things are, indulging in what I enjoy - and I’ll go back to Thirsk and Wetherby and enjoy them more - I’m sure of that.

As I sat in Patsy and watched the beautiful sun set I reflected again that, despite what happened last summer I was still pretty fortunate – and will continue to make the most of that.

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The Nostalgic Spring Sojourn | Part 5

Right, and after the excellent guest blog post from Sandra I’m afraid you’re back to wading through my old drivel again. Here we go:

After a hectic couple of days I was feeling pretty jaded Friday morning. My usual lack of decent sleep had caught up with me but I’d nothing planned anyway and for the most part took it easy. That’s not to say it was a wasted day though. I had a good read, pottered doing a bit of cleaning here and there and started – and eventually finished - a blog post. I don’t know about you but – as much as I love spending time away in Patsy – I can get a bit of cabin fever if stuck in all day. Sometimes a wander around the site does the trick – particularly if I’ve been chasing letters around the laptop keyboard. In this case though I went for a wander around the Monks Cross retail park about a five minute drive from the site. Pretty uninspiring to be honest but then as most know, I don’t do ‘stuff’ and there was nothing in the usual chain stores that appealed to my sartorial er, bent…

Another minor issue had surfaced soon after my arrival on site and, after having ignored it for a few days thought it was about time I took a look. The taps were spitting and spluttering and I guessed there was some air getting in the system somewhere. Having checked thoroughly for leaks, I did the usual and drained the system down before refilling again but the problem remained. I wondered whether there was an issue with the float in the mains water supply kit – I was on a serviced pitch again – but soon eliminated that from the equation. I was starting to see fivers – or more likely tenners - flutter down the road thinking a component somewhere had failed and decided the best bet was a cuppa to ponder my next move. It was after I’d drawn the water to refill the Brita jug that I heard a hissing sound outside after the pump had turned off and scurried out to see if I could find it’s source.

The problem was immediately evident and more importantly easily and even more importantly, cheaply fixed. They’d given me a new water filter when Patsy had her service in December suggesting I put it in at the start of the season. Well, like many my touring season doesn't stop but I completely forgot about it, tossing it in the front locker and only remembering to change it when I pitched up in Warwickshire. Clearly I hadn’t tightened it up quite enough as a firm turn on the blue cap and the hissing stopped. Running the taps for a few minutes cleared the pipes of any air and all was good.

After that I finished the blog post then made tea – OK, warmed up a portion of sausage casserole and mash – and had just cleared up when there was a tap at the door. It was fellow caravanner Mike who had said he was coming over for the weekend with his wife and had just got on site. We had a quick chin-wag then agreed to adjourn to his van later for some er, research. I’d raised the idea of going out prior but in truth was quite happy to stay on site, as was Mike – and knowing that another busy day lay ahead a quiet and early night wouldn’t hurt. Just a couple of hours I said to myself…

‘Just a couple of hours’ should be up there with ‘OK then just the one’ in my book of ‘Who do you think you’re kidding Rich’ phrases, as it was nearly the witching hour by the time we called it a night. It was a cracking evening and although we’d never met in person before, conversation flowed. The beauty of social media in this case being that you feel you know someone already. A thoroughly enjoyable evening.

Saturday and back on the bus to the station, where I was to board a train for Leeds - Leeds has been on our list for a while. Last year was probably the most serious attempt when we had planned to go in from Thirsk but when the site closed due to the weather those plans went tits up.

Although I’ve been fortunate enough to travel a lot I’ve never been particularly disciplined in doing research on a place – in fact I generally flip through any guide book afterwards bemoaning the fact that we’d missed stuff out. Anyway, friend and fellow caravanner David very kindly created a walking tour for me to ensure I wouldn’t miss out on the essentials. I was never going to ‘do’ a city as big as Leeds in a day but it would hopefully give me a good overview.

And so it proved. David’s excellent route took me from the station, past City Square and to a delightful light oasis of green call Park Square where I took an early lunch, noting that I really need to up my game, sarnie wise.

From there it was on past the Town Hall to the Millennium Square with the lovely Nelson Mandela gardens and the Civic Hall sitting proudly in the background. A great place to pause again and coffee was duly necked.

Continuing on Leeds cathedral was next before heading into and through the main shopping district, admiring on the way some of the lovely arcades that cut through from one street to another.

The famous Kirkgate Indoor Market was next and then across to the old Corn Exchange building now housing an eclectic mix of independent retailers. David had given me some other possibilities but they were a bit further out and, although that part of my anatomy that shall remain nameless had largely been behaving itself, I didn’t want to push it.

David and Gary joined me late afternoon to commence ‘research’ proceedings before a meal in town, followed by yep, more research. We’d not seen each other since the funeral so it was great to catch up again under better circumstances.

Even allowing for the different accents I’ve never had any trouble understanding David but the bar maid seemed to have a bit of a problem as he came back with the last round of four pints instead of three, blaming his cold. I could blame that for the reason I missed my intended train back to York but, in truth I didn’t want to go anyway as we were having such a great time and the evening was just too short. We hugged and said our goodbyes at the station and I quickly located the carriage with the loo which made the twenty minute journey much more comfortable. Luck was on my side in York and I didn’t have to wait for the last bus back to the site as the previous one was running late.

Another great day, made even more enjoyable by the company of friends – and that has been a feature throughout this trip. There’s someone missing of course but I reckon I’m doing a decent job of making the best of it.

The Nostalgic Spring Sojourn | Part 4

I was back on the bus Thursday morning, this time in the opposite direction, into York and to the railway station to meet up with my companion for the day. The walk from Patsy to the bus stop seemed to get the curtains twitching – quite possibly black leather is not considered ‘de-rigueur’ for caravanners, sporting as I was my new waistcoat, procured as a Christmas present to myself in Canterbury. Thankfully people that know me can see past what may well be considered slightly odd attire – and find a slightly odd person. Anyway..

I had about twenty minutes to kill, so the default activity – at least this early – was necking some caffeine before heading to the relevant platform to meet Sandra – fellow caravanner from near Chester and now someone I consider a very dear friend. I’m delighted to present for you below, Sandra’s blog post of the day’s events:

Tour de York & A Mash Tun

The day started as it meant to go on, the train was on time and the sky bode well for a lovely day. Our first port of call was the left luggage office to one side of the station, in a small portacabin type of building. There was a small queue of people patiently waiting their turn to offload their bags and get off to do sightseeing in the city. Well I heard a phrase a while back, namely, Sales Prevention Officer; this person definitely qualified and then some! We were treated to a speech of monologue proportions about everything that was wrong about his job and strongly worded admonishments about failure to return to collect our bags before the bewitching hour of 8pm! I tried to get him to agree to 7.45pm, which would fit in with train times but no, 7.30pm, take it or leave it! Knowing glances, or maybe stifled giggles passed among the waiting queue.

As we had had the fortune to do a fair bit of advance planning and research, we had a loose plan of what we wanted to do. But first priorities need to be addressed and we had picked out a lovely little independent coffee shop, in a turret overlooking the river bridge, near to the station, The Perky Peacock Coffee Shop. Tea, coffee, biscuits and brownies were consumed and allowed a good look at the map to work out a suitable route for the day. Given the lovely sunny weather, we also agreed on a boat trip in the afternoon.

Following the coffee etc, we ambled up towards York Minster and spent a pleasurable half hour walking around the outside in the warm spring sunshine and people watching as we went. Our ultimate aim was to visit the Shambles. There were the usual number of cafes, souvenir shops, Harry Potter themed shops and one butchers left, (The Shambles was originally a road of butchers plying their trade). In a way, we left wondering a little if it is one of those places which is a tad overhyped, down to personal choice of course.

There was an outdoor market selling food and clothing but the find was the sandwich shop, Henshelwoods Delicatessen, again highly rated on trip advisor, to buy some lovely sandwiches for an impromptu picnic sitting in the gardens by the river and the York Castle Museum which was our next port of call. Sitting out in the warm sunshine, a time to sit in peace and quiet watching the world go by and a good old natter when the mood took us! We also noted the amount of flood wood and leftover mud from the river flood earlier in the week.

We then ambled over, neither of us do fast these days, to the York Castle Museum to begin what turned out to be a fascinating couple of hours travelling through the ages. There were rooms decorated and furnished in a relevant decade right up to the 1970’s. Cue much giggling and finger pointing of, yes remember seeing this that and the other. Then it was the turn of clothing through the ages right up to the 1990’s and a Vivien Westwood exhibit of shoes. Again, much hilarity about what we used to wear and the styles. We also visited the Castle prison, so grim and dark but ended the visit on a high note in the 60’s style room. A real life Lambretta motorbike and for the technically minded, early computer games and toys like Spiralizer, Cindy Dolls, magazines and comics from years ago completed the picture.

We were in need of another sit down, fortunately the landing stage for the boat tour was a 5-minute amble and departed almost as soon as we boarded. By now the sun was high in the sky and sitting down in the saloon, quaffing refreshing cool drinks, we remarked how lucky we were to be there. Drinks consumed we ventured upstairs and passed the rest of the trip sitting outside in the sun with magnificent views of York Minster and the various bridges and sights of the city. We were fortunate, or not, depending upon your viewpoint to have the Captain of the boat who had clearly missed his vocation as, in his opinion, a stand-up comedian. We, on the other hand, were not so sure ….

We got off the boat down river by the York Museum Gardens and strolled through, people watching and commenting on how, as the sun was out, people were lying or sitting on the grass, sunbathing. Given the area had, undoubtedly been well flooded by water, we were somewhat surprised. The gardens are home to St Mary’s Abbey ruins and the Yorkshire Museum. By now time was fast approaching the only time booked event of the day … The Tour of the York Brewery and so we made our way there.

There was a short wait and we were off … fortunately there were only 4 of us on this tour, so plenty of questions and answers, helped by a really good tour guide, meant a fun and interesting time was had by all. Now for the prize of doing the tour, time to research several of the beers, some of which will ultimately end up in the Ale Archive blog in due course.

By now, we were starting to get rather hungry, we were fortunate to be advised to go to Brigantes Restaurant in the adjacent street. A lovely meal was had, with excellent service and, of course, a couple more research beers. We then suddenly realised that the 7.30pm curfew of the Left Luggage was approaching very fast indeed. A quick look at the map and we realised we were only 5 minutes’ walk away so we managed to arrive bang on time. However, the Sales Prevention Officer had yet more stings in his tail. We opened the door to be greeted by what can only be described as a sauna level of heat!! One very grumpy sales attendant who wasted no time in informing us we were the last people and he was waiting to go home!

A short amble to the station, meant that we were on time, a quick coffee and goodbyes until next time. All in all, a fabulous day.

There was a twenty-five minute wait for the next bus that would take me back to the site – and the York Tap with it’s twenty-something handpumps was thirty seconds away. I availed myself of just the one, considering that no dedicated ‘researcher’ worth his salt passes up any opportunity. Lazily though I didn’t bother to don my specs to check the writing on the handpumps and ended up with something akin to fizzy grapefruit with an aroma of bleach. Oh well.

All in all a cracking day – thank you Sandra for your lovely company and for saving me writing a blog post too!

The Nostalgic Spring Sojourn | Part 3

Tuesday, and time to head north again for the second stop of my trip and a return to York Caravan Park on the outskirts of er, York.

With around 135 miles to do and a check-in anytime after midday I’d planned on a 10’ish departure but for once was running early and pulled away at 9:40am, heading north on the M42.

I was in no rush and soon came up behind a Turners lorry doing a tad over fifty, so I tucked in behind at safe distance and watched with satisfaction as Rosie’s MPG climbed gradually, soon hitting the heady heights of 30 as we continued onto the A42 then the M1.

Clearly Rosie had sated her thirst on the way up from Brighton 4 days prior as the figure continued to rise – 31, 32, then more slowly to 33. Surely it couldn’t climb any higher – Patsy is no lightweight even though I had had a bit of clear out at the end of last year. Then it hit 34. That must be it I thought then at some point on the M18 the display edged to 35. I couldn’t believe it and thumped the steering wheel in delight. My darling Rosie, hardly in the throes of youth was truly awesome. It couldn’t last of course and a number of inclines in the A1(M) saw the figure drop but it still read 33mpg as I pulled in to York Caravan Park and was very happy indeed.

Having successfully moved Patsy onto her pitch without the motor mover for the second time, set up was fairly swift and after a cuppa and quick sarnie I set Rosie on course to the Monks Cross shopping centre where as thank you for her efforts replenished her with cheap supermarket diesel then picked up some bits and bobs in the shop. I’d come away with plenty of meals from my batch cooking efforts at home, crammed into the freezer compartment but, needed a bit of variety. Needless to say (too late) some new research samples were also procured for a thorough evaluation at some point.

York Caravan Park has many great features – nice serviced pitches and luxurious en-suite shower rooms to name but two – but one of the handiest ones is the bus stop almost literally outside the entrance. Trev and I used this many times when we we were here last – 2 years ago – but always into York. On the Wednesday though I boarded the bus travelling in the opposite direction – destination Whitby. I have to say I was a little apprehensive – 2 hours is a long time on a bus – but it was actually very comfortable with comfy spacious seats. I grabbed a seat on the top deck to make the most of the view as we travelled east to Malton, Pickering then onto the moors diverting off to Goathland, better known to many as Heartbeat country, before arriving at Whitby.

Back in the days when there was a ‘we’, I’d been to Whitby several times, once staying at a lovely little site behind the pub in Lythe just up from Sandsend. Remarkably though we’d never got to climb the famous 199 steps from the town on the eastern side of the Esk, instead getting to the famous Abbey by the road out of town.

I must admit to being a little out of puff by the time I got to the top - and thanks to the emerging sun, quite warm too – although the coat stayed on. Just. It was worth the effort though and the views across to West Cliff and back along the Esk around the harbour were terrific.

Lens clicking was interrupted as I found a spot in the grounds of St Mary’s church to devour a rather uninspiring home made ham sarnie and neck some caffeine, amused that most of the local er, residents up here wouldn’t appreciate the view:

The Abbey site was closed for building work until April but it was still possible to get some photos from the path by the perimeter wall, the traversing of which brought an unexpected ‘research’ opportunity in the shape of Whitby Brewery. The pint of Jet Black went down very well indeed and the courtyard was such a sun trap, the coat was reluctantly shrugged off. Temporarily I might add. I did ponder bringing some research samples home but at over three quid a bottle soon decided against it.

The descent was quicker and I had a pleasant amble through the shops, checking out some of the famous Whitby Jet, thinking that maybe a pair of cufflinks wouldn’t go amiss but nothing really caught my eye, so I crossed the bridge and made my way along by the harbour mouth and up to the West Cliff. Again, oddly, we never made it up here but once again the views back across to East Cliff and the Abbey were lovely and I got to see up close the Whalebone arch and the Captain Cook memorial.

I began my descent back into town, noting that there was still an hour until the next bus and after a brief consultation with that troublesome part of my anatomy that divides my left leg, decided that some medication was in order. The dispensary of choice was the Little Angel, a pub I remember from our previous visits – quelle surprise - not least because on Wednesdays they have a promo on all real ale at just over three quid a pint. Perfect.

Whilst taking my medicine I thought about my visit – both this and previous ones - and it reawakened a few dormant thoughts. You see Trev and I often talked about moving ‘up north’ and Whitby was one of the places that we considered – nice little town close to the sea and affordable – but we’d more or less discounted it because of it’s relative remoteness. It had got me thinking again though, after all, who knows what the future holds? Thankfully.

On my return to the bus station I got to meet Adam, one of the regular Coastliner drivers who would be taking us back as far as Malton. We’d talked a little on Twitter and it was nice to at last meet properly.

Predictably, given the medicinal intake earlier, the walk back to Patsy after jumping off the bus was a little brisker than ideal. Entirely my own fault obviously, but it had been a really good day however, a quiet night in was most definitely called for as there was another busy day ahead on Thursday.