Fish and chips.. and mushy peas… this must be the most traditional of English dishes and when cooked properly with the freshest of fish, preferably eaten outside, it is the most delicious meal imaginable! And so it was in Whitby on the last day of our lovely holidays. Fish straight from the sea and into the batter and into the fryer, chips cooked as we waited, and mushy peas with loads of pepper (actually there was no pepper so I had to use my imagination!) Superb!
Whitby Abbey is a splendid, magnificent ruin standing dramatically above the town. it can be viewed from far away and is both mysterious and romantic… and maybe a little creepy!
The original abbey was founded in 657AD by King Osiu of Northumbria and built on the site of an old Roman Signal Station. King Osiu appointed a niece of the first Christian king of Northumbria to be the abbess, she became St Hilda. The abbey was home to both monks and nuns. although no doubt strictly separated; one of the servants of the monks was a cattle boy called Caedmon who became one of the greatest poets of the Saxon age after seeing a vision and having a mystical experience.
A dreadful attack by the Vikings on the abbey in 867 led it to be abandoned and it wasn’t refounded until after the Norman Conquest, in 1078. This abbey lasted for over five hundred years until it fell victim to Henry VIII’s purge of monasteries, convents, abbeys and religious orders in 1540. The buildings fell into ruin, and local people plundered the old buildings for stone, however, enough of it was left to serve as a landmark for seafarers and an inspiration for Bram Stoker who visited the town of Whitby in 1890.
There is something about cooking and sharing meals with family or friends when on holiday which is really special, and it is no different with this holiday. On the first night we had a splendid curry, then we had pork and beef meatballs in a tomato sauce, then chicken fajitas, sausages and mash, we ate out at a wonderful Italian restaurant in York and then the young people produced a fabulous lasagne; I have to say one was the chef and the other an encouraging observer! Eaten with plenty of conversation, accompanied by wine and salad the meals were such fun.
Being on holiday and active in a different way from being at home, always stimulates the appetite.
Robin Hood’s Bay, which has as far as I can tell, no association with Robin Hood, is another little fishing village, nestling at the bottom of the ancient cliffs, tucked into a fold in the rocks and surviving now as much on tourism as on fishing. A friend of ours spent every childhood holiday here, and when she herself married and had children, the family spent every summer here following the tradition. They must know the little winding lanes so well, every little ginnel and back. Like Staithes which we visited a couple of days ago, there are very few people living here all the year round, the pretty little fishermen’s cottages are second homes or let out to holiday-makers.
Wikipedia tells us:
A plaque in the town records that a brig named “Visitor” ran aground in Robin Hood’s Bay on 18 January 1881 during a violent storm. In order to save the crew, the lifeboat from Whitby was pulled 6 miles overland by 18 horses, with the 7 feet deep snowdrifts present at the time cleared by 200 men. The road down to the sea through Robin Hood’s Bay village was narrow and had awkward bends, and men had to go ahead demolishing garden walls and uprooting bushes to make a way for the lifeboat carriage. It was launched two hours after leaving Whitby, with the crew of the Visitor rescued on the second attempt.
Not the most brilliant weather, but on the other hand, it’s dry, it’s not cold, and we’re on holiday with our cousins! Today after the usual leisurely breakfast and chat and look at the sea which is just opposite the cottage we’re staying in, we’re off to Staithes, which is a little fishing village, now a tourist destination, just north of us here in Whitby on the north east coast of Yorkshire. I describe Staithes as a little fishing village, but it was once one of the most important along this coast!
It is an enchanting little place of higgledy-piggledy streets, tiny winding lanes and alleys, and set at the bottom of a steep descent from where cars have to be parked. One of Staithes most famous residents was Captain Cook, he who sailed the world, exploring, charting, discovering, a great captain who took care of his men. He was one of the first to recognize the problems of scurvy, vitamin C deficiency which plagued sailors in the olden days.
Staithes’ sheltered harbour, protected by high cliffs offered protection to fishing boats and other vessels. As with other villages along this coast, there is industry exploiting the minerals here, iron, alum and potash. Jet can be found along the beach, and there are more fossils than you could imagine to be found in the cliffs!
Staithes is a favourite place of artists and painters, and while we were there we saw maybe a couple of dozen people with easels set up and palates in hand! In the nineteenth century there was a famous set called the Staithes Group or the Northern Impressionists.
For all its attractive quality and curious and interesting features, it’s impossible not to think back to the lives of people in former times, which must have been so very hard.
I went to York many, many years ago, and remember it as being very sunny, the grey stones of the buildings and streets warm and speaking of the thousand years of history of the place. Richard III was the Duke of York and he is still remembered there to this day, 700 years later. A friend went to buy a poster of him and the woman in the shop remarked as she wrapped it, “Aye, he were good to us, Richard were.”
York is where the rivers Foss and Ouse meet and was supposedly founded by the Romans, but at such a place as this I’m sure local British people must have lived there before, probably in round houses…. it took the Romans to bring building to Britain! York became a great place for trade over the centuries, and it is a delightful place to visit redolent of the history all around you; Roman remains, a Viking town, wonderful, huge cathedral – York Minster, medieval shops and houses, railways… and now a modern city with a first class University.
We had a great day visiting and my husband even found his own restaurant:
Strolling out of the front door on a sunny morning and looking across the road at the sea must be one of the best things in the world… and this is what we did on our third day of holiday. We’d had another pleasant evening, playing board games after a dinner of meat balls, crusty bread and salad.
We strolled southwards along the prom and then cut up into the Mulgrave Estate; it was a beautiful woodland walk and we ambled along admiring the scenery and nodding to other walkers. There were seven of us, four adults and three young people and during the walk we each managed to have conversations with the others, drifting on or lingering back, there was always someone to chat to.
The Mulgraves are an old family, barons, dukes, sirs, and deep in the woodland on the highest land is a magnificent castle.
This on the site of an ancient castle of myth and legend, which reminded me of the mysterious Dark Fort I write about in my fictitious Camel Wood. The old castle or fort disappeared beneath the Norman buildings which replaced it in the years following 1066. In the seventeenth century that too was replaced by a more ‘modern’ building. The castle now commands a commanding view and it is easy to see why it was of strategic importance.
I really like getting up early, to be out and about as the sun lifts above the horizon, when there is that particular moment of calm before the day properly begins….Yes, honestly, I love it… the only trouble is I most often am engulfed by sleep and even if I wake early I’m sucked back into dreams.
On holiday it’s so different; I set my alarm and wake and I am awake and without much difficulty get up. I go to the window and look out on the new day, fine or dreary, it doesn’t matter, I’m on holiday! I go and make a cup of tea and on a family holiday I’m usually soon joined by my cousin, either Simon or Will depending on which family I’m away with! Cup of tea, gentle natter, then maybe reading, maybe writing, maybe just emptying the dish-washer and getting the breakfast table ready.
Up in Yorkshire, nearly three hundred miles further north, it is light when I wake, for some reason at just past four. The sky is bright behind the curtains and when I peep out the sea is flat and calm and silver, just waiting for the sun to rise. I actually d go back to bed, four is a little toooo early, but at six I’m up and with my first cup of tea – and it is warm enough to sit outside!