Day 3, Thursday 29 September 2022
Despite being totally exhausted last night I was wide awake again at 1am and stayed that way for another few hours. Bloody jet lag.
We also had a drama this morning of the kitchen variety. Grant went to cook up some bacon and even though nothing was burning and the range hood was on the smoke alarm (which sits almost right above the cooker #designfault) went off – and man did it go off. The whole flap the tea towel thing at the alarm did nothing and in the end we had to ring the housekeeper to come and turn it off – it needed a fob key to turn off and reset the main alarm. I suspect that will be the last time we use the cooker while we’re here.
Anyways, bacon sandwiches consumed, today we’re headed northeast, so let’s go…
Our first stop this morning is Kirkham – just a mile or so down the road – and the ruins of Kirkham Priory on the River Derwent. The priory was founded in the 1100s and was surrendered 400-odd years later as part of the dissolution of the monasteries.
Its story, however, doesn’t end there as it was used in WW2 to test the D-day landing vehicles. Winston Churchill himself visited on that occasion.
As an aside, the pub in town is worth a visit…but we’re way too early on this occasion.
The next stop isn’t that far up the road at Helmsley – a very pretty market town at the edge of the North York Moors National Park.
It’s one of those towns whose history almost mirrors that of England. According to Wikipedia, it was first settled around 3000 BC and there’s evidence of farming communities through each of the Neolithic, Bronze, and Iron Ages and into Roman times. The Vikings also left their mark here, as did the Normans and, during the middle ages, marauding Scots visited periodically as well.
It’s a lovely town for a wander with a couple of good providores, a bakery, sweetie shop and bookstore in the market square and a gift shop I could have gone quite mad in, but didn’t. We bought some tea and jams and a couple of Eccles cakes for morning tea.
The main family in town is the Duncombes – the Earls of Feversham. The original Lord Feversham, Antony Duncombe had inherited half of the fortune of his uncle, Sir Charles Duncombe, who was, at the time of his death, the richest commoner in England. A statue of William Duncombe, the 2nd baron, is in the town square.
Just out of town are the ruins of Helmsley Castle and Rievaulx Abbey. We didn’t stop for a look at either but did have a wander around the churchyard.
Helmsley to Stockton-on-Tees
From here I’d planned a route that took us through Sutton Bank and (apparently) amazing views. The road, however, was closed so our option was to retrace steps and head back to Thirsk or press on with a magical mystery tour…of course, we chose the latter. It took us along single-lane roads/lanes with grass growing up the middle and hedgerows brushing the side of the car. It was, however, beautiful and eventually we popped out on the A19 near North Allerton.
I’ve been doing quite a bit of research into Grant’s birth family – the majority of whom hail from around Stockton-on-Tees and the towns around here. While we drove through where his mother and grandparents lived at the time of his birth, we didn’t stop and kept going until we reached the coast. Read into that what you will. Although we both knew it was a heavy industrial area, I don’t think we’d realised just how industrial it really was until we saw the smokestacks and the evidence of that.
There are two parts to Saltburn: Old Saltburn down the bottom of the hill, consisting of a pub (The Ship), some fishermen’s cottages, and a history of smuggling; and Saltburn at the top of the cliff, a Victorian seaside resort.
If you’ve watched the series Sanditon, based on the unfinished novel by Jane Austen, you get a sense of how Saltburn as a seaside town came about.
Essentially, in 1858 Henry Pease (whose family had developed Middlesbrough as an industrial centre, owned Middlesbrough Estate, and had control of the S&DR ie the railway) was strolling along the coast path to Old Saltburn and had a vision of a town on the cliff. Long story short, they formed the Saltburn Improvement Company (SIC), planned it (with a pleasure pier and as many houses as possible having sea views), and built it. And, with the railway now extended to Saltburn, people came.
The main problem with all of this was the fact that the town was built on a cliff and the sea (and the pleasure pier) was at the bottom of that cliff. So they built a water-powered funicular cliff lift. Problem solved.
From the cliff-lift you can see the smokestacks of Middlesborough in the distance and the offshore wind farms.
Lunch was at The Ship at the bottom of the cliff.
Grant ordered corned beef slice which he thought was going to be slices of corned beef with veg but instead turned out to be corned beef slice – something we hadn’t come across before (and, spoiler alert, won’t be rushing out to have again). Essentially it was corned beef hash and potato pie served with a mountain of beans and chips and was made even less palatable by the sight (and sounds) of a child at the neighbouring table regurgitating it. Delightful…not! I had lasagne which, while average, was by far the better choice.
Commencing our drive back to Westow we chose the route through the moors to Goathland where the old police TV series, Heartbeat, was set and where the railway station doubles as Hogsmeade Station in the Harry Potter films.
Much of the land around here is owned by the Duchy of Lancaster which is the private estate of (now) King Charles, the purpose of which is to provide a source of independent income to the sovereign. Thanks to a common right that has extended for hundreds of years, the Duchy’s tenants graze their sheep on the village green and surrounding moorland. The sheep have attitude too – standing in the middle of the road and staring down drivers.
Despite being a small village and a Thursday afternoon, the carparks in town were full and there were three tourist coaches pulled up. As a result we kept going and the pics below have come from Instagram.
My pics, on the other hand (below), were taken through the front windscreen.
Just outside Thornton-le-Dale is Cedarbarn Farm Shop. Never able to drive past a farm shop, we stopped for ice cream, some clementines, and to check out the pumpkin patch.
Thornton-le-Dale is well deserving of its status as one of the prettiest villages in Yorkshire.
There’s a bubbling brook, a duck pond and a lovely little woodlands walk. Just gorgeous.
Rather than venturing out again tonight, we opted for a night in by the fire with a platter made up from some of the produce we’ve purchased over the last few days…and another early night.
Tomorrow we’re off to the sea.