The third day of our travels have been blogged by Becks which you can read here – http://www.happyrambling.com/this-is-england-blog I’ve also included a copy of it below!
Day 5 – Leicestershire, Lincolnshire, Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire, South Yorkshire, West Yorkshire, North Yorkshire
Written by Rebecca Morgans
B&Bs can be odd lodgings; something about the intimacy of staying in someone’s home that leads you to creep about, attempting to be unobtrusive. Or maybe that’s just me. Cam was happy to wander into their kitchen for a chat and come back very pleased with herself, waving a bucket of ice and two glasses.
Drinking half a bottle of whiskey between us probably wasn’t the most sensible idea the night before a long day, but someone had the daft idea to blog this trip as we go and something had to break the writing block brought on by car crazy braindeadness; so that’s what we did, until god knows what hour.
The result: a palpable air of hysteria carrying us through today. We laughed almost solidly all day, for the most part we know not at what, but everything was funny. It’s not often you can spend almost an entire day laughing and its good for you, so that justifies the whiskey consumption!
Pork pies aren’t very nice. But the pork pie hails from Melton Mowbry in Leicestershire and Ye Olde Pork Pie Shoppe opened at 8am so that was breakfast. We had some hope that, being the original, hand crafted specimen, it would change our feelings towards pork pies. It didn’t. It was OK, but the congealed jelly of suspect origin that sits between the meat (from god knows what part of the pig) and the pastry is nasty.
Leicestershire, self-proclaimed ‘heart of rural England’ (it’s all pretty rural, so one can only assume they wish to claim to be the heart of all England … not with pork pies they’re not), is also home to national treasure Sir David Attenborough, so maybe that’s why.
Woolsthorpe Manor wasn’t open when we arrived, but we knew this would be the case. I’d visited many years before and had a lovely time playing with the sciency things, but we chose this spot anyway, to reflect on the genius of Isaac Newton … by dropping apples on our heads. Have you tried to balance an apple with a pointy bottom on your head? It’s not easy! But we persevered, because once you decide to balance an apple on your head and take a selfie you’ve got to keep trying until you get the shot. Cam developed a headache shortly afterwards from dropping her apple on her head from too great a height, hoping to make a great boomerang clip. It didn’t. All this, of course, was absolutely hysterical. We’re easily amused.
There’s more to Nottingham than meets the eye. Hundreds of individual hand dug caves lie beneath the city, their uses varied from basements to pub cellars; tanneries to cesspits (or ice houses, the archaeologists can’t decide). During the war, tunnels were made between caves to create air raid shelters. Just as well as evidence shows that some of the basements were bombed to buggery. It was fascinating. Working in the tannery in an airless cave must have been a particularly gruesome profession.
Continuing our tasting tour of local ales, we stopped at Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem – England’s oldest Inn allegedly – for a swift half. When planning this trip, I fell down a rabbit hole of trying to identify the oldest thing in each county; along with the local food, birthplace of the county’s most historically important resident and so on. An over-ambitious assignment to say the least, but at least we found the oldest inn.
Of course, there’s much more to Nottinghamshire than caves and pubs. More English folklore permeates Sherwood Forest, stomping ground of Robin Hood; that altruistic outlaw in tights. We opted out of prancing through the forest in tights.
Derbyshire is utterly beautiful. I’ve always particularly loved the area around Matlock. There are rivers and waterfalls and beautiful landscapes. But we chose to head underground, to explore one of England’s cave systems.
Poole’s Cavern was first inhabited by Celts, then the Romans came, along with Arnemetiae (goddess of the grove), and moved in for a while. Fast forward a while and Mary Queen of Scots, whilst under house arrest in Buxton, would be allowed to bathe in the spa water at Buxton to relieve her ailments, and visit the caves. She declared one particular stalagtite as the most beautiful thing she’d ever seen. Clearly she’d gone mad. It was ugly and resembled a giant slug. Just as slimey too.
The cavern has among its formations, rare ‘poached egg’ stalagmites. So called because they have an orange tip. They look nothing like poached eggs. They look like giant dildos. Which, of course reduced me to giggles. Cam tried her best to shield the earnest 20 year old tour guide from my convulsions, but it was hard in our small group of four. It was a fun hour, but my favourite of England’s cave systems is still Wookey Hole.
We chose Wigtwizzle as our stop off for South Yorkshire, purely for its name; and that we needed a point of reference to take us through the Peak District to enjoy the drive. Which we did. But no wigs or twizzles to be found in Wigtwizzle; just a barn. I suspect the woods were it.
The Peak District actually lacks peaks! It’s named after the Anglo Saxon Pecsaetan tribe who inhabited the area in the 6th century. What it does have is softly undulating hills, and lush green fields bordered by neat dry stone walling, creating patchwork patterns dotted with cows and sheep.
Sometimes the distinction between sheep and cow was not clear as we whizzed by. There were some, sheep we concluded, that were enormous with fluffy brown coats and aspirations to be highland cattle.
“What are they? Are they sheep or cows?”
“No, they’re sows!”
Much hysterical laughter
This is the most intelligent conversation that took place all day.
As the skies became tempestuous, we stood (me sulkily) and looked at the meagre ruins of an unremarkable castle littered with broken glass bottles (clearly a hang-out for the local youth) somewhere outside of Wakefield. While it possessed a bit of history – the battle of Wakefield during the War of the Roses was fought here – it wasn’t our intended destination in West Yorkshire, which has so much more to offer!
But we hadn’t considered the rush hour traffic and holds ups around Bradford, so we ditched our plans to visit the Salt Mills at Saltaire in the interests of finishing the day before mid-night.
There are cats adorning the buildings of York. We had planned to walk the streets in search of them. But pretty much the only thing on our minds as we approached York was Yorkshire pudding, so we forgot about the cats. (Sorry cats). First we were distracted by our lodgings, a working convent since 1686 which has a secret chapel – the dome is not visible from the outside to provide protection since Queenie had outlawed Catholicism – and Mary Clitherow’s mummified crushed hand. St Mary was crushed to death for harbouring catholic priests in a time when it wasn’t the done thing to harbour catholic priests.
The nuns used to run the school until it became a comprehensive, then turned their hands to offering lodgings – very comfortable they were too – and being generally good and wonderful in the community. The convent is now also a living heritage centre.
Washed of all our sins – we showered in the convent, that counts surely – we hit the streets of York, soon to be distracted by a tavern on The Shambles, before heading to Mr P’s Curious Tavern, on the recommendation of Sara from the convent (not a nun, but the very lovely lady who showed us the priest hole and the manky mummified hand). We could have eaten everything on the menu twice over but it had to be the Pig in Pudding!
Other than a quick gawp at the Minster, that was our tour of York concluded but it’s worth spending more time exploring what is one of my favourite cities. Besides Lindisfarne, which we don’t have time to visit on this trip, York is the best for Viking heritage. Also a short hop from York is Scarborough which is the most delightful, step back in time, English seaside town. And I haven’t even started on the raw, honest beauty of the Yorkshire dales.