Friday, 24 September 2010

Day 5 - Mummy suffering / Hutton-le-Hole

Woke up early today, around 6.30am, thanks to a noisy seagull and gale-force winds blowing against the caravan. Weather windy and rainy.

Ellen and kids got up at around 7.30am, with Ellen looking decidely hungover. This was soon confirmed and she went back to bed with a glass of water and some painkillers while I got the kids dressed and fed.

At about 9.45am Ellen finally rose, and after a light breakfast, we all headed on another day's adventure.

Today, we wanted to revisit Cropton, where we'd stayed for an easter holiday in 2004, as well as the nearby village of Hutton-le-Hole.

No sooner had we left Filey along the A170 when the sky brightened gradually before opening up into a lovely blue sky. The forecast was rain, yet were being treated to beautiful sunshine. We couldn’t believe our luck. And the sunshine lasted all day.

We arrived in Cropton around 11.30pm and passed the farmhouse where we’d stayed as well as the New Inn pub where we’d sunk a few local ales.

We passed through the stunning – and I don’t use that word lightly – little village of Lastington before arriving in Hutton-le-Hole around 12pm (pictured above and right).

We went straight to the Crown Pub for some lunch.

The Crown is located just off the village high street, overlooking a sleepy village with a little river-cum-stream trickling by. Here, all public land is open access, including highways, and white and black sheep enjoy equal access rights to road and land alongside their human superiors.

The Pub grub was not so much good as great. I got my first taste of fresh Whitby fish with thick-cut, homemade chips, although I was still looking forward to trying the freshly caught equivalents in Whitby proper before the holiday was out. Ellen opted for scampi and the boys both had Yorkshire pudding.

When we'd finished, we walked down to the river-cum-stream in the village and Ellen challenged me to cross the river on the slippery stones.

It wasn't deep and about 12 foot across. I got across and then leapt back across it triumphantly, almost breaking my wrists on landing.

Thanks to my experience, I've now got a simple formula for jumping rivers - always take the distance you think you can jump, divide it by 2, and that equals the actual distance you'll jump. It's all in the leap, not the run-up

After a brief walk up on the Moors (pictured above), we headed back to the car and went home for the remainder of the day.

It had been another day well spent and travelling through more sleepy Yorkshire villages, catching more magnificent views along the way. The kids enjoyed themselves too, walking around Hutton-le-Hole in particular, and they were tired by the time we got home. We put them both to bed early.

Ellen watched some telly while I edited my diary notes and tasted some more real ales (pictured right) before turning in for the night.

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Saturday, 18 September 2010

Day 4 – Paradise / Hail to the Real Ale

I woke up around 6.50am, more like normal time, and brought Ellen some breakfast and tea in bed.

After a quick cooked breakfast for all, we set out to complete our postponed journey from the day before to the North Yorks Moors.

We headed north along an A-road through Scarborough, flirted briefly with a B-road before leaping ridiculously high onto a precarious but breathtaking unclassified road that took us up and down through the stunning Esk Dale.

This road was mostly single-track with occasional passing points, snaking through the Dale across old stone bridges, working farms, little fords and past a windswept, barren Moorland peppered with purple heather.

We arrived at Goathland around 11am to begin our journey.

I made the naive mistake of stopping at the first car park I saw, paying £2.20 for the privilege. If I’d just waited a little longer, or thought this is Goathland not central London, there was ample free parking on the grassy roadside (pictured, below, right).

The weather was fantastic. Sunny and blue, clear skies.

We were looking for signposting to the Mallyan Spout waterfall, a sixty foot waterfall and the tallest in the Moors.

I’d banned Ellen from using GIS coordinates on her i-phone, as part of the fun of exploring for me is the navigation and if that means getting lost, so be it. And before we knew it, we were lost. I suggested that we go for a ramble on a nearby upland instead (pictured, below right).

I was amazed to read that Britain is home to around 75% of the world’s Moorland, and as we climbed about 150 ft up and were rewarded by some stunning panoramas, stretching miles. We clambered back down again and had some lunch (pack lunch again) on a bench by the roadside just outside Goathland.

After lunch, we found a narrow path leading down to Mallyan Spout, concealed by overgrown bushes beside the Mallyan Spout Hotel car park.

We decided to see how far we could get down with Ciaran in pushshair and Ben. Sound mad?

The path was a heavily nettled, holly and fern-lined stone trail. Several passers-by commented on our ‘bravery’ and we smiled pleasantly but ignored their hidden message – translation – “You’re mad doing that with a pushchair”.

A “rather you than me” comment soon followed and again, this comment was discarded as we made swift progress down the hill and down dozens of steps. About ten minutes later, there was still no sign of the waterfall and Ellen suggested we take Ciaran no further. I reluctantly agreed.

Ellen and Ciaran waited why the “big boys” made the rest of the journey to the foot of the hill and the rocky spring (pictured, below right).

When we got there, it was worth the effort.

I did a little rock-climbing with Ben and he then threw some (lots) of stones in. We didn’t quite make it to the waterfall though as Ben was knackered and I decided to take him back up again.

I had to carry him most of the way back up to his Mummy, and then push the plump Ciaran and pushchair back up to the summit over dozens more steps. Predictably, we were experiencing regular bouts of exhaustion when we reached the summit, as we knew we would, but it was a small price to pay for the experience.

We grabbed some much-needed sustenance from the Mallyan Spout Hotel, situated adjacent to the trail entrance.

It was an impressive place. A four-and-a-half star hotel perched on top of the Moor overlooking a valley and set up primarily for wedding receptions as far as I could see. I ordered a pint of Black Sheep from the bar, still catching my breath, and it tasted great. So much better than the bottled stuff – fresh from the cask.

We sat outside in a windy beer garden to make the most of the view, and it suddenly occurred to me, as we munched on our grub, that the caravan was pint glassless.

I’d gone three days tasting local real ales out of a 100ml glass and kept forgetting to pick one up, and it was driving me barmy. So, I hatched a plan to acquire this one.

Several friends and acquaintances of mine had recently acquired possessions from pubs and restaurants in my company, including one distinctly-shaped Peroni pint glass, salt & pepper cellars and linen napkins from Jamie Oliver’s restaurant in Bath.

Now it was my turn.

And this wasn’t just any pint glass. It was a Black Sheep pint glass with distinctive livery – my favourite ale.

I hatched a plan.

When we all finished up, Ellen was to have a fake race to the hotel garden gate with Ben, while I put Ciaran’s stuff away in his nappy bag before quickly catching them up as a fellow competitor in this phony race.

Ellen ran, I slipped the pint glass into Ciaran’s bag and ran.

I lost the race. But I had the pint glass.

I then started getting paranoia attacks all the way back to the car park – a 1 mile walk away on the main road (pictured right) – that the landlady who served would notice the pint glass was missing and come in pursuit, easily spotting us on the pavement with our ridiculously-red pushchair screaming “We’re over here”.

Every car that went by caused me grave concern, and I’d even drafted an excuse in my head. I worry too much.

She didn’t come in pursuit and I’d got away with it. I was now on a par with all my wayward friends acquaintances who had acquired possessions not of their own, just for the hell of it.

I (finally) let Ellen do some driving on the holiday, and she drove us home via Robin Hood’s Bay.

What a day.

Easily my nicest trip in the UK – stunning Moor land, wonderful pint of the freshest real ale, and if Yorkshire could bottle its beauty and sell it – well, you finish that sentence.

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Day 3 – Boring caravan site day / Tantrums galore

Kids woke up around 8.20am, so we all got a relative lie-in.

Good job as it had been a late night the night before, and I'd had a back-aching night's sleep on those tiny, ¾ lilo-size beds.

We said our goodbyes to Sally before I tiredly plotted a plan for the day’s activities over a mug of coffee.

Top of my list was a trip on the North Yorkshire Moors Railway line (pictured above), a heritage steam-locomotive line 18 miles long that runs between Pickering and Whitby via the stunning North Yorks Moors.

Many of the stations have been restored to early 20th century condition thanks to lottery funding, and I thought the kids would like it too.

We planned to alight at Goathland station (pictured below) - better known to fans of the Harry Potter films as Hogsmeade, and also the former terminus for the line - before taking the train through the Moors and down into beautiful Whitby for lunch on the harbourside. I wasn't going home until I'd seen what all the fuss was about Whitby fish and chips.

We’d travelled about 25 miles and were passing through the old market town of Pickering when we both agreed we didn’t have the energy to carry the day plan out. The trip was postponed for a day on the caravan site.

We took the kids on a whistle-stop tour.

The first stop was the kiddies outdoor play area near the entertainment complex. It was a wild assortment of slides, swings, climbing frames and other kiddie play accessories, and Ben loved it. Too much.

We spent a good 20 minutes there and when it was time to move on, Ben went into full tantrum mode. I had to carry him chest-high away. I kept telling him that there were plenty of other things to do on the caravan park and we going on an adventure to find them. He wasn’t having it.

A brisk walk away was the carousel wheel, and we plonked Ben reluctantly in a Cinderella-style carriage. He was still crying, crimson-faced and angry. Very angry.

He was the only kid on the carousel, and we waved and smiled with each revolution as the irate Ben went by. He looked tortured.

Still crying, we took the raging Ben further round the park before finally stopping off at the cliffs at the top of the Park, overlooking the sea.

By this stage, Ben’s cries were reducing to a repetitive sob, but he was still huffing with Mummy and Daddy. We sat on the grass and Ben wouldn’t join us, standing on the same spot 30 feet away refusing to move of it for about 5 minutes.

The time was around 6.30pm and we'd been spoit for weather again - sunny and bright. Ciaran was getting tired and we decided to head back to the caravan after a bog-standard day on site with nothing spectacular to note apart from Ben had fun at the beginning, Ciaran seemed chilled out throughout and we saw lots of site facilities.

Ellen put Ciaran to bed and fell asleep too, while I watched Transformers the movie with Ben. He couldn't work out who the Autobots were and soon fell asleep on my lap.

Now, what would I do for a good night's sleep?

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Friday, 10 September 2010

Day 2 - Scarborough's Fair

Ben was first up today, waking us up around 7.15am.

Not long later, the kiddies were marching around the kitchen like starved farm animals until breakfast was served.

It was nothing grand. We’d brought one of those Kelloggs variety packs that normally lasts an average bloke a day but is perfect for the kids, and Ben chose the most chocolaty one he could find. In fact, the boxes disappeared over the course of the week in descending order of chocolatiness.

We were expecting visitors today and early – around 9am – in the shape of Ellen’s sister Sally.

Sally lives in nearby York and we all headed into Scarborough for a bit of sightseeing, but more importantly, to buy a pushchair for Ciaran as we’d left our pushchair in the boot of Ellen’s car 200 miles away.

We picked one up in the Brunswick shopping centre and decided to walk down the beach, no mean feat as Scarborough is 230 feet above sea level. We wandered down a meandering cliff pathway onto an esplanade and along the seafront.

The place looked impeccable. Victorian buildings everywhere, colourful flower gardens, rockeries, and very clean. I’d read that Scarborough was one of Yorkshire’s ‘Renaissance Towns’ and had received a lump sum of Government regeneration funding. It had certainly been put to good use.

Scarborough harbour stretches round in a giant horseshoe shape from the old Town Hall to Scarborough Castle and it wasn’t long before we gave in, totally unplanned, to the delights of the beach.

Ben was stripped of shoes and socks in no time, positively kicking off each sock, and sprinted down to the sea with Mummy barely keeping up. I stayed on the beach with Sally and Ciaran. If I’d brought my trunks, I’d be in the sea too.

And not to disappoint, Ben soon tore of his shirt - his last item of clothing - and was swimming naked, before returning to the beach to make weird shapes in the sand in what can only be described as odd ‘snow-angel’ motions. This was quickly followed by naked snake movements. He was covered in sand.

Ciaran kept munching on sand and insisted on running over to the donkeys. There was definitely an attraction building there.

We stayed on the beach until about 1.30pm before heading off to get some lunch.

We chose the Lifeboat CafĂ©, next to the beach, as it looked like a fish and chips hotspot. The food didn’t disappoint and we left well-fed and walked right round the harbour to the foothills of Scarborough Castle before deciding Ciaran was freezing and needed to go back.

Ben had also developed a major tantrum at this stage - the first of many on the holiday.

He's at that stage where if he sees something, he has to have it. There's no areas of mutual understanding, no questions asked or middle ground. It's like negotiating with a terrorist.

This time, we'd passed (another) ice-cream parlour and he'd already lost about five previous battles on the way here, passing numerous amusement rides, arcades, a kiddies fun-land centre and, yep, more ice cream parlours. We had to get him one, and we did. A 99 cone with flake.

His face was soon plastered in ice-cream but at least there was a smile there...I think...behind all the ice cream it was hard to tell.

We all caught the bus back and then the tram back up the 230ft cliff to Scarborough town centre, before returning to the car for the 7-mile trip back to Filey.

Sally sagely observed on the journey home that there was an indecently high proportion of bald men (not balding, bald) in Scarborough and in ‘The North’ generally. She speculated that this was most likely due genetic deficiencies oop Nooorth and before we knew it, we were back in the caravan site.

Dinner was had in the caravan site restaurant. Decent prices, great choice, ok food –what food I could get my hands on that is – I offered Ben a bite of my burger and the little beggar nicked my breast of southern fried chicken.

Kids were in bed relatively late again, and we all had a few beers and a thorough chat before turning in for the night.

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