Sunday, July 31, 2016

Day 31 -- The Flying Scotsman

The Flying Scotsman, a steam locomotive built in 1923, is undoubtedly Britain’s celebrity of the year. Named after the route it traveled between London and Edinburgh, the Flying Scotsman was the fastest train in the world in its day, traveling at speeds over 100 mph. The world famous engine was retired in 1963, and in 1969 began touring the United States, along with an entourage of mini-skirted, knee-high booted young women.

As the British fashion invasion of the USA subsided, so did the attraction of the Flying Scotsman. Ensuing financial troubles led to its sitting derelict in a San Francisco switchyard for several years. In 1973, the steam engine was brought back to England, and put back into special service, a mere hint of its former glory. After an Australian tour in the late 1980s, it passed through a succession of owners, no longer in the public eye. In 2004, the British Railway Museum purchased the Flying Scotsman, and after a £4.2 million restoration project (approximately $6.5 million), it is once again on tour.

Large crowds of railway enthusiasts now greet the Flying Scotsman wherever it travels. Lady Ann learned that it would travel close to our location during my visit; I insisted that we become part of that large crowd, railway enthusiasts that we are.

Flying Scotsman

So with that background, we visited the Flying Scotsman, and guess what? It’s just another steam engine. We had expected a massive locomotive of a size commensurate to its reputation. In truth, it’s no bigger than any other engine. Just like every other steam engine, it eats coal a shovel load at a time, and its wheels rotate and greet the track and it squeals and it hisses. Worse yet, there wasn’t even a mini-skirted, knee-high booted entourage of young women selling hats or T-shirts so we could pretend that we had been impressed by what we saw and gloat among other railway enthusiasts. “Oh, yeah. I saw the big one. I breathed its steam.”


And with that, we were among the first to leave the railyard.



Saturday, July 30, 2016

Day 30 -- Rookhope

Exactly five years and seven days ago, Dr. George and I stopped for lunch at a bus shelter in the little village of Rookhope – Day 53 of My 1200 Mile Summer. Today, at the same bus shelter, we stopped for a picture. Make no mistake. Lunch is always better than a picture – especially a picture of two old men sitting on a bench wishing the photographer would hurry up because it’s time to head for the pub.

It wasn’t the bus shelter that brought us to Rookhope today. In the five years since Dr. George and I passed through Rookhope, Iain and Shayne have established a farm here, raising championship alpacas, sheep, highland cattle, ducks, chickens, and a truckload of dogs squeezed into two dog bodies. In their spare time Iain and Shayne also run a bunk house for coast-to-coast cyclists. But it was the farming operation I was brought here to see – especially their award winning Fellside Alpacas.

Alpacas are members of the camel family, which makes them especially suited to endure the hot, dry climate of Northern England, where literally hours can pass between rainfalls. It seems that Iain and Shayne started with just a few alpacas not very long ago. They now have seven – soon to be eight. Or nine. Or maybe ten. All you have to do is get a couple of alpacas, shoosh them off to a secluded field (perhaps with a bottle of champagne and some soft music), and before you can say “E-I-E-I-O” you’ve got lots of little alpacas running around. It works the same way with their sheep. “E-I-E-I-O.” And ducks. “E-I-E-I…” And chickens. “E-I-E…” And… well you get the idea. E-I-E-I-O.

Highland Cattle

Then you get a truck load of dogs, and squeeze them all together until you’ve got two, weighing maybe a million pounds each. “E-I-E-I – Yikes.”

As we strolled around the farm, I admired the view while Iain gathered chicken eggs, laid here and there by their ranging chickens. “They could be anywhere,” said Iain. “You just have to know where to look.” I think I’ll look in the bus shelter.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Day 29 -- Durham

The old city of Durham is squeezed onto a peninsula within an oxbow bend of the River Wear. Most of the peninsula is occupied by the thousand-year-old Durham Cathedral and an equally ancient adjacent castle. A small commercial district, home to a mix of local and international stores, and government buildings pretty much fill in the remaining territory.

The castle has been owned by Durham University since 1840, and is now primarily devoted to student housing. The cathedral is a massive structure similar to other massive cathedrals of the same era, and is distinguished as being the final resting place of St. Cuthbert, the Venerable Bede, and the head of Oswald, King of Northumbria, who was killed in battle in year 642. St. Cuthbert died a few years later and was buried at Lindisfarne (Holy Island). He was so revered that 200 years after his death, when Lindisfarne was threatened by an onslaught from the Danes, his remains were removed, eventually ending up in Durham. The Durham Cathedral became his shrine.

Bishops were strong political figures as well as religious figures. It is said that the Bishop of Durham was, in effect, the King of Northumbria, because the London King had little means of controlling land so distant. With such great political power conferred upon church officials, is it any wonder that the draftsmen of the U.S. Constitution forbade both a national religion and hereditary titles?

One of the bishops of Durham was an ancestor of George Washington, and the family coat of arms appears among others on a high ceiling (too high for me to photograph). The coat of arms of the Washington family consists of alternating red and white stripes, topped by a row of six-pointed stars said to be spurs. George Washington was idolized in his time, much more than he is today in America. There are some who believe that the stars and stripes of the U.S. flag were based on the Washington family coat of arms. It’s merely a coincidence that the city bearing his name sits at the head of a peninsula between the Potomac River and Chesapeake Bay.




Thursday, July 28, 2016

Day 28 -- Rest Day, Guisborough to Durham, by bus

Today was a total rest day. Travel to Durham by bus. No walking no blogging. Tune in tomorrow, same time, same place for a full report on touring the historic city of Durham.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Day 27 -- Saltburn to Guisborough, by foot, 7 miles.

Once again I let my smartphone guide me on the bus, this time returning to Saltburn for the walk back to Guisborough on the Cleveland Way. The Way passes  through a local park and continues up the scenic Saltburn Valley, under the Saltburn Viaduct, and along a narrow stream known as Skelton Beck. The gradual climb provides increasingly better views of the coastal cities and the distant North Sea.

View from upper Saltburn town
Saltburn Viaduct
Skelton Beck

At the town of Skelton, I recognized the bus stops where I changed buses yesterday and this morning when traveling between Guisborough and Saltburn. From Skelton the Cleveland Way passes over a ridge and descends to the village of Slapewath, where I found a pub and had a noon-time snack. I then left the Cleveland Way and followed a different footpath to Guisborough, passing by the Guisborough Priory remains (another Henry VIII casualty), and emerging 300 yards from my hotel. By taking different footpaths than I walked yesterday, I’m beginning to learn my way around – the sign that it’s time to move on. In fact, I’m only about 5 miles from Great Broughton, where I stayed when I walked the Coast to Coast last week. I could easily walk there in a few hours.


Guisborough Priory (remains)

Tomorrow I’ll leave the North York Moors and head to the city of Durham, where I’ll evolve into a tourist rather than a walker.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Day 26 -- Saltburn to Guisborough, by bus; Roseberry Topping, 9 miles.

Once again, my phone guided me on the bus to Guisborough. All of the buses here seem to have Wi-fi. I don’t know if that’s the standard everywhere, but I realized today why it’s a good idea – perhaps the reason the local buses have it.

In the past, groups of teenagers on buses tended to be rowdy and obnoxious. Some even brought boom boxes aboard and played their music loudly. Now with Wi-fi on the buses, they sit quietly and text their friends. They listen to their music through ear-buds attached to their phones, and disturb nobody. If you sit at the back of a bus loaded with teenagers, you’ll see their heads bobbing up and down and side to side in rhythm to their music, as if the bus were filled with so many bobble-head dolls. It’s comical, really. So if the buses in your town don’t have Wi-fi, start a petition. The drivers and other passengers will appreciate it.

After dropping my bag at the hotel, I set off to climb Roseberry Topping. You may recall that is the imposing, shark-fin shaped hill near Guisborough, visible from the Coast to Coast footpath. I had planned to climb it tomorrow, but with good weather, I decided to attempt it today. In the back of my mind, I had anticipated a serious climb, like that of Yosemite’s Half Dome or Zion’s Angels’ Landing. Instead, I found an ascent suited to its name.


Picture a cross between my hometown’s Shinob Kibe and Boston’s Bunker Hill, only without British troops firing at you. Picture yourself walking uphill while licking the roseberry topping off an ice cream cone, while your head is bobbling to the rhythm of Tiptoe through the Tulips. That’s how serious the climb was. Now to be fair, there were some precipitous edges, and there were plenty of 4- and 5-year olds who caused mothers some concern as they skipped close to the edges, but it wasn’t as if anybody had to be roped up.


Still, the view from the top was outstanding, with the North Sea on one horizon and high moorland ridges on the other, patchwork quilt farms below and big cities in the middle distance. With a little route-finding, I returned to my hotel in Guisborough via the Cleveland Way, over moorlands, past farm fields and through dense woodlands, concluding a very nice day.



Oddly enough, my hotel didn’t have the Wi-fi as advertised, so this posting is several days late. Maybe I should have taken an over-night bus instead.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Day 25 -- Staithes to Saltburn, by bus; Saltburn to Skinningrove, 4 miles

I love my smartphone. Today I discovered a feature that makes traveling away from home much easier. First off, I’ve got to tell you that I’ve already used the features that allow me to make a call here in England by merely entering the phone number. No country code, no hassle, no setting up a special service with my provider. Just pick up the phone and make the call. I’ve been calling friends, making dinner reservations, calling hotels, etc., just like I would do at home. The cost is 20 cents U.S. per minute – less than the cost was when I used to buy a local SIM card.

But here’s what I discovered today. I boarded a bus to Saltburn. The bus was crowded and making many stops in places I’ve never been. I wasn’t sure which stop was closest to my hotel or when the bus would arrive there. The bus had W-fi, so I turned on my phone, and told it where I wanted to go. It immediately opened the GPS map, showing the bus moving along the roadways until it approached my stop. I pressed the bus’s “Stop” button so the driver knew I wanted to get off, but I suspect that the phone may have done it for me. Now I no longer have to anxiously watch for street signs to give me a clue where to get off the bus. Isn’t that great?

Following the route
Yeah, I know that 80% of my readers already knew smartphones do that, so what’s the big deal? But, hey, 80% of my readers are also walkers who’ve seen places just like I’m photographing, so what’s the big deal? I’m writing a lot of these posts for the two readers who haven’t got a clue about either smartphones or walking in England. You know who you are.
After my phone got me to Saltburn, I dropped my bags at the hotel, and set off exploring so I can share the scenery with those who’ve never seen such places. Saltburn (officially, Saltburn-by-the-Sea) is a major tourist destination. With its large sandy beach, fast food, beach-toy shops and buzzing arcade, it is Coney Island on a much smaller scale – but a British Coney Island with people standing in arrow-straight queues waiting to purchase cotton candy or to enter the lift to the upper town.

Town pier
Pier-railing cozies

Turning my back to the populated beach, I climbed to the top of the bluff to follow the Cleveland Way to the village of Skinningrove, 4 miles away. The bluffs were not so populated as the beach – Coney Islanders don’t walk.


Artwork on bluff

When I arrived at Skinningrove, I checked my smartphone for information on the bus back to Saltburn. It showed me the way to the bus stop, how long it would take me to walk there, which bus I should take, and what time the bus would arrive at the bus stop. It couldn’t have been easier.

Artwork at Skinningrove

I’m back at the hotel now. I won’t ask my phone for directions to the pub because I’ve got a natural sense of direction about some things.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Day 24 -- Whitby to Staithes, by bus; Staithes to Runswick Bay and Return, 8 miles

Fridays walk from Robin Hood’s Bay with a heavy pack convinced me that I can’t carry that weight between towns – at least, not if the walk is to be enjoyed. This morning I took a bus to Staithes, checked in at my hotel, dropped most of the weight, and started walking on the Cleveland Way back to Whitby. On a beautiful Sunday, there were dozens and dozens of people walking on the trail, each one desperately looking for somebody to talk with. I was that somebody, and as a result of speaking with everyone on the trail, I barely made it to Runswick Bay. So, what was intended to be a 12 mile walk to Whitby and a return by bus, became a 4 mile walk to Runswick Bay, and a return by foot on the same route. As always, I met all sorts of interesting people – too many, in fact, for me to comment on or post their pictures.

Staithes is an old fishing village nestled at the base of neighboring bluffs. Its main street is called, oddly enough, High Street, although there is nothing high about the village. Narrow passageways predominate. There are a few shops catering to tourists, but not many tourists can crowd into the picturesque village. I was one of the lucky ones.

The route to Runswick Bay required a steep climb to the top of the bluffs, which the Cleveland Way skirts between farmfields and precipitous cliffs. The scenery is lovely on a fine day.

Runswick Bay is much the same as Staithes, except that it has a long, wide beach during low tide. The beach pretty much disappears at high tide, and warning signs and tide tables abound. Someone walking along the mile-long beach could easily get caught between the cliffs and the incoming tide. I didn’t go any farther than the pub.

Runswick Bay also has a very upscale residential area, well-maintained and inviting.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Day 23 -- Whitby to Pickering to Whitby, by Train

The North York Moors Railway is a “heritage” railway, meaning that it transports contemporary passengers on outdated trains to outdated stations for exorbitant fares. Although trains and stations have been refurbished, they typically don’t meet current standards for disabilities or comfort. Most of the “employees” are volunteers – many probably doing the same jobs they did while employed. The heritage railways are for fanatics, which may include me because I enjoy riding on them.

The ride from Whitby to Pickering is only 18 miles, but takes about 1½ hours. The tracks generally follow the Esk River valley, providing the same scenery you would enjoy if you walked it. Many people hop on and off the train and walk parts of it. I didn’t hop off, but I did nod off from time to time, if that counts.


I timed my trips to take an historic diesel engine to Pickering, and return to Whitby on an historic steam engine. Once aboard, you don’t really see the engine except on tight curves, and then only if you are in the last carriage, too far to get a picture. You could hear the difference, though; at each stop the roar of the diesel engine grew louder when accelerating, while the tempo of the steam engine’s chugging increased, but not its decibels.


Due to my schedule, I had less than an hour in Pickering, which was more than enough. I’m still not mentioning the U.S. election campaign, but I thought it interesting that these two establishments were right down the street from each other. Maybe our cultures are closer than I thought.


To round out my tourist day, I took a hop-on, hop-off bus tour of Whitby. I did the entire tour without hopping off, because I knew I wouldn’t hop back on once I got off. The good thing about the tour is that it was on a modern bus, so the fare was low. It was worth every tuppence I paid.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Day 22 -- Robin Hood's Bay to Whitby, 6 miles

A short walk along the bluffs above the North Sea is a delightful way to spend the day. It was diminished only by the weight of my pack, 10 or 12 pounds more than I’ve been carrying because there is no baggage transfer service for the remainder of the walk.

The views were outstanding. The day was only slightly warm, made agreeable by a pleasant sea breeze. Rain the past week has brought wildflowers to full bloom.

I met many day walkers – far too many to photograph or report on. All were headed in the opposite direction. If any walkers had been headed in my direction, they would have easily passed me, given the weight of my pack.

Since a picture is worth a thousand words, I’ll stop writing and share the scenery.

Robin Hood's Bay from north

Looking north on Cleveland Way

Looking North

Former Lighthouse at Whitby Bay (now a holiday rental)

Hundreds of nesting sea gulls (enlarge for better view)

Whitby Abbey