11/7/90

HERIOT COUNTRY  Northallerton Market proved to be a bit of a letdown. We wanted to go to a stock market but it had been cancelled due to lack of interest as all the farmers were at the Yorkshire Show. So Beat and I just pottered round while Helen and Linda went shopping.

About 12:30 we set off towards the town of Richmond to find the Yorkshire Dales. Richmond is dominated by Richmond Castle, an imposing mediaeval fortress built on a cliff overlooking a bend in the Swale River. The castle was begun in 1071 and over the following 500 years it was owned by numerous families of royal descent. But because it was of little strategic importance, the castle hardly played any part in the momentous events that helped shape England during that period.

Much of the original masonry is still intact and along with the White Tower in the Tower of London and the great tower of Colchester Castle is the only masonry remaining from the first 20 years after the Norman Conquest. We climbed to the very top of the battlements and looked out over Richmond and its surrounding countryside, and explored the extensive remains of the triangular outer curtain wall in which was set many small sally ports, arrow slits and other small openings. Some of the east wall has collapsed and what remains is tilting way out of plumb as the foundations have subsided over the centuries.

When we left Richmond we began following the directions from a leaflet which took us deep into the heart of the Yorkshire Dales to some of the places where All Creatures Great and Small¹ was filmed. Dark and brooding storm clouds covered the land as we drove through some of the most beautiful country I have ever seen. Endless rolling hills were covered in a labyrinth of dry stone walls and everywhere we looked the neatly built walls and farm buildings covered the land.

The Yorkshire Moors

We followed Swaledale to Gunnerside where we had afternoon tea then followed a steep road up over the tops which were enveloped in a thick mist. We stopped to look at some curious rock formations called the Buttertubs then a bit later on an old lead smelter before dropping down into Wensleydale.

The lovely market town of Askrigg stands in as Darraby in the TV program and a house called Crinkly House is the Skeldale House of the story. The  local pub, The King’s arms, doubles as Darraby Drovers Arms and the Wheatsheaf Pub India by capable as we’re James and Helen spent their honeymoon. Further along the valley is Castle Bolton where James proposed to Helen and where, in real life, Mary Queen of Scots was imprisoned.

Castle Bolton

That night, after tea, Linda and I went for a walk through the trees behind Sutton Hall. We met h and b on the street so we went for a drink at t’pub!

¹ The TV series All Creatures Great and Small was based on the books by James Heriot about life as a vet in North Yorkshire. The story was set in the fictional town of Darraby and the filming locations on the moors were part of a popular tourist drive.

10/7/90

Scarborough Castle.

SCARBOROUGH, CAPT. COOK AND EARLY WARNINGS.  We arrived in Scarborough at 11:30 on yet another cold, overcast day and drove through the town to the sea where we spent an hour or so wandering around amongst the ruins of Scarborough Castle which occupied the large headland between the South and North bays. The site has a long military history going back to Roman times when a signal tower was built there to provide early warnings of invasion.

Robin Hood’s Bay

When we left Scarborough, we drove north up the coast to Ravenskar on the southern end of Robin Hood’s Bay. We drove around through the town of Robin Hoods Bay and into Whitby, the thriving fishing port when Captain James Cook first joined the Royal Navy and where his ships Endeavour, Resolution and Discovery were built.

We spent 3 hours in the fascinating little town which unfortunately was crawling with the most horrid English daytrippers. On the headland above the port, a statue of Captain Cook looks out over the North Sea watching over the entrance of the harbour as seagulls wheel and cry on the stiff north wind.

Whitby

When we left Whitby we drove up over the moors to Beck Hole. The clouds had cleared and the sun created a beautiful picture as we drove down the steep road leading to the village which was really only a pub, a bridge and several houses. The road then took us past the early warning radar station at Fylingdale. The three radomes made a strange and sinister sight, clustered amongst the heather with a bright afternoon sun shining on their perfectly symmetrical surfaces.

We left the moors and once again got onto a main road which took us back to Thirsk and Sutton Hall.

9/7/90

We spent a couple of hours at Thirsk Market which wasn’t much as it was packed with tourists. After we had lunch at a pub called The Black Bull we once again drove into the moors to explore.

The first village we came to was Coxwold where we stopped to look around the charming 12th century church. Then we drove deeper into the moors to Byland Abbey. The day had turned cold and grey so we just looked at the imposing cistercian ruins over the fence. The Abbey was founded in 1177 and the church there was larger than Rievaulx or Fountains abbeys. All that remains now however are the walls and the dramatically broken circle of the rose window in the west front.

Moving on, we passed through the large market towns of Helmsley and Kirkbymoorside then we turned off the main road and drove up through the truly beautiful Farndale. We stopped and looked at a tiny country church and drove up and over another bleak, windy top through Hutton-le-Hole then back to Kirkbymoorside and from there back to Sutton-under-Whitestonecliffe.

Fountains Abbey.

8/7/90

THE MOORS  The day dawned cold, overcast and windy but patches of sunlight were occasionally breaking through to brighten and warm the land. We left the hall at 12:30 after having drinks in the main lounge of Sutton Hall with the other, mostly snobbish guests¹. We drove up the steep gradient of Sutton Bank and had a look through the information centre at the top.

Rievaulx Abbey.

Eager to explore the Yorkshire Moors we headed off through the rolling, windswept wheatfields, slowly climbing higher until the farmland gave way to the bleak moorland. En route we spent an hour or so looking at the impressive ruins of Rievaulx Abbey. The Abbey was founded in 1131 by Cistercian Monks from Clairvaux in  France. The Abbey prospered for several centuries, but overspending by the monks on building a huge cathedral put the Abbey into debt which it never recovered from and by the time of the Dissolution only 28 monks remained of the 200 to 300 which once lived in the Abbey at its height.

Up on the moors it was cold but very very beautiful. The endless expanse of heather was reddish brown with patches of purple flowers to break the monotony. Amongst the heather grazed scraggly blackface ewes, their long coarse wool giving them ample protection from the harsh wind.

The road led down off the moors through small wooded gullies in most of which a small neat village nestled. It twisted and wound in and out of small valleys, crossing and recrossing small creeks and finally it led us back to Sutton Hall.

¹Sutton Hall is an 18th century manor house which had been converted into eight timeshare apartments.

7/7/90

We got up at 8 and packed up then walked down to Waterloo after saying goodbye and thanks to Lucy who was still in bed, and Alex who was an hour late for work. Over at Helen and Brian’s hotel we waited while they checked out and then we caught a black cab around to South Kensington where we picked up their hire car – a Volkswagen Jetta – from the AA hire car department.

It was reasonably easy to find our way from South Kensington through Knightsbridge and onto the Edgeware Road which led to the M1 motorway. There was a lot of traffic and we had to sit amongst a couple of tailbacks so when we got as far north as Leicester we turned off and took some of the A-roads¹ leading North through endless rolling feels of cereal crops to the Humber River. Across the huge Humber Bridge we drove into the rolling hill country of South Yorkshire. It was raining and cold but still the countryside was very pretty and soon we turned off the A19 at Thirsk and drove the last 4 miles to the village of Sutton-under-Whitestonecliffe.

The huge 17th century mansion of Sutton Hall was like a palace to Linda and I after our adventures of the last 2 years. Helen and Brian’s suite contained two bedrooms, a huge lounge, kitchen and bathroom and the place was full of comfortable furniture and Nouveau antiques. As we settled in we couldn’t believe our luck!!

Sutton Hall.

¹Roads in Britain are designated M for motorways, A for main roads and B for secondary or back roads.

6/7/90

We met Lyd, Jen and Megan Francis for breakfast at the pub when Lyd and Jen work in Mayfair. We had a great couple of hours laughing and talking there. Then we walked up to Piccadilly Circus and met H&B in the London Pavilion. First of all we took them up to the top of NZ House for a look at London then walked up Whitehall and had lunch at a restaurant by Westminster Bridge.

After lunch we sent them off on a cruise down the Thames and we sat in Parliament square for a couple of hours until they got back. It was 4:30 by then so we walked up to Westminster Abbey and got there just in time to be let in for Evensong.  We sat in the front pews of the great Cathedral next to the altar where’ for a thousand years, kings and queens have been married, crowned and buried, and listened to the exquisite voices of the choir echo around the church.

When we left the Abbey, we caught a bus over to Oxford Circus and went to Break for the Border for dinner. Later, back at the nurse’s hostel we watched music videos that went to bed.

1/5/90

Brian gave me the morning off to make up for working all day on Sunday so I took Jim’s bike again and headed off at 8:00 into the hot and hazy morning. I rode over to the Embankment and turned left downstream to Tower Bridge. The traffic on the roads was really heavy but on a bike I could nip in and out of the rows of cars.

After I had crossed Tower Bridge the first place I stopped to explore was St Katherine’s Docks, one of the first of the old Thames docks to be re-built. What was once a seedy and atmospheric old shipping dock is now a haven for the yachts of the rich surrounded by sterile apartment buildings but it was quite picturesque so I took a few photos then moved on, parallel with the river through rows of renovated warehouses on cobbled streets.

After a mile or so I came across the Prospect of Whitby pub, the oldest riverside pub in London and the place where, in times long gone, sailors would go to look for work on the ships of the English Merchant Navy.

Another few miles brought me to the Isle of Dogs where the huge monstrosity of the Canary Wharf development is going on. I didn’t linger long amongst the noise and traffic there and left the towering cranes behind to go and find the river again. Eventually, after traipsing around a series of bland dead-end streets I found a park with the river on the opposite side of it. I stopped for a rest here and decided that this would be the furthest downstream I would go on this trip.

It took about 3/4 of an hour to get back to Tower Bridge as I explored some of the leafy backstreets of Wapping en route. I left the river at the Tower of London and pushed my bike up the hill to St. Paul’s and pottered about in that area for a while, gradually working my way back to Parliament Square and back to the pub via Lambeth Bridge.

The evening was very quiet.

8/4/90

We had a leisurely get up after a busy night behind the bar. There was a disco in the top bar and Linda, John Doherty [barman] and me were rushed off our feet from 10pm till midnight. Linda and I caught a bus over to Trafalgar Square to go to the National Gallery but it wasn’t open when we got there so we walked up Haymarket and went to a cafe called the Three Lanterns for a good value lunch of beef stroganoff for me and roast beef for Linda. The whole meal only cost us 16 quid with starters and drinks.

We followed a Hari Krishna parade back to the square and stood on the terrace overlooking the fountains watching them dance while making a passive protest about their temple being closed down. It seems that inflation has even hit Krishna as a bald, pig-tailed guy offering free books on how to achieve heightened conscience demanded “at least a pound” for one of his Divine Highness’ books!

There was a large, jostling crowd filtering into the National Gallery so we decided to give it a miss and go over to the Magnum Exhibition at the Hayward Gallery on the Southbank.  After crossing the Hungerford Bridge, ignoring the pathetic pleas of the assorted dossers gathered there, we finally found the entrance to the gallery with a long queue and an entry fee of 4 pounds which we didn’t have.  So we settled for watching a group of kids skateboarding in the car park then wandered back to the pub.

5/4/90

April 5th. After work Linda and I caught the tube over to Gloucester Road to meet Jenny and Lydia for tea.  Linda forgot to take Jenny’s written instructions but by trial and error we found our way to the flat where they were staying with Lydia’s sister Avril. Posh would be the only way to describe not only the flat but the whole neighbourhood!  We settled in to gin and tonics while we chatted and decided where to go for tea and eventually the decision to go to the nearby Texas Steakhouse was reached. We had a wholly un-memorable meal there, then went back to the flat for further g&ts and copious quantities of Kahlua and milk. It was a very relaxing evening and it is a long time since we have spent time just sitting in a friend’s flat talking over drinks.  We were sorry to leave at 10:30 and catch the underground home.

Footnote: Throughout my diary-writing life I always included the lyrics of the Talk Talk song April 5th in my entry for this day. Here they are from that day in 1990.

31/3/90

HAMPSTEAD HEATH AND RIOTS After a late and drunken night, we slept away a good part of the morning, then had a big breakfast of bacon eggs and sausages.

We decided to go out to Hampstead Heath to get some fresh air so we caught the Underground over to Oxford Circus then caught a bus out to the Heath. It was a bright sunny day but there was a cool breeze blowing by the time we got off the bus.  We bought some pastries and fruit then walked up into the park, which covers a couple of hundred acres of rolling hills. We lay in the sun talking and watching the many different varieties of dogs going by with their owners.

After an hour or so we wandered on through the park and eventually ended up amongst the posh, uppercrust houses of Hampstead Heath. We had a drink in a local pub full of rich kids comparing their allowances, then walked back into another corner of the park and lay in the long grass beside a small Lake. Finally we walked up the main street of Hampstead, a ghetto of flash cars and flashier people, and sat on the steps of a building watching the efforts of a hectored traffic warden to stop an unending stream of Yuppies and tossers from parking their convertibles on the No Parking line.

We caught a bus back to Kings Cross Station and from there another to Victoria. Finally, we caught another bus to Piccadilly Circus where the bus conductor informed us a riot over the Poll Tax¹ was in progress. The bus became jammed in traffic about halfway up Piccadilly Circus, so we got off and walked up to the fountain [Eros] in time to see the tail end of the mob as it moved on it’s path of destruction up Regent Street.  A black swarm of police keep the crowd of sightseers and tourists at bay, while the sounds of the mob, left unchecked, could be clearly heard as it smashed it’s way up Regent Street, above the roar of people chanting “NO POLL TAX” and the screams of sirens.

We walked down Haymarket where every window was smashed in by uprooted rubbish tins and pieces of asphalt dug out of the street. Horatio Nelson looked down on the scene of the battle. Trafalgar Square was a mess of broken wood, scaffolding, bricks, cardboard, and 100 other forms of rubble. The portacabins on a building site next to the South African Embassy had been set on fire and their burned-out shells still smoldered as groups of punks skinheads and other dropouts who hadn’t gone off on the rampage, milled around the square heavily outnumbered by grim-faced police.

We walked up Whitehall past number 10 Downing Street where it appeared that the fighting had started, then over Westminster Bridge and back to the pub. For the rest of the day, and long into the night, the scream of sirens echoed through the city. 

¹For a description of the cause and result of the Poll Tax Riot, check out this entry on Wikipedia.