When I got up at 6:30, the gulls were already wheeling and shrieking and when I looked down onto the walkway, L J and his partner – I’ll call her Jane – were already in their favourite place, with their beaks in their feathers in snooze position.
In contrast to Sunday, there were people and vehicles crossing the bridge and moving along the quays. Whitby was presenting its workaday face.
The sun was bright and the sky blue but with a good mottling of clouds. It looks better than yesterday with its occasional showers but with English weather you always have to wait and see.
Today’s jaunt is on the North Yorkshire Moors Railway, a steam train service. The ride starts at Whitby but you sometimes (see timetable) have to take the ordinary diesel service to Grosmont and change to the steam train there.
Steam railway staff comprise both paid employees and volunteers. It’s difficult to tell who is which, but whether paid or volunteer, all work with dedication and see to it that the railway runs with admirable efficiency and punctuality.
Our train was made up of several different sorts of carriages of different ages. We chose a carriage with compartments. The seats were surprisingly comfortable, especially compared with some modern trains.
The train made two intermediate stops at Goathland and Levisham before continuing to the terminus at Pickering, which takes about an hour and a half. We stayed aboard because we wanted to return in stages, getting off at each intermediate stop. We needed to change seats, however, as Levisham has a very short platform so you need to be in the front four coaches in order to disembark.
Levisham is a quaint little station in the middle of nowhere. It takes about 10 minutes to explore the station, slightly longer if you also visit the art gallery in the old station house which is now a private dwelling. The waiting room is next to the station house and in the old days, the station master could sell tickets through the hatch without leaving his house. Later, a new ticket office was built next to the signal box and the signalman then had to come down to sell tickets.
Goathland is a bigger place, though corrupted by the area’s association with a certain TV programme. Hint: we had a meal in the Aidensfield Bar of the Goathland Hotel where we had fried eggs and chips with coffee for a somewhat inflated price.
As we waited for our food to be served, we watched the coaches thundering through. On the plus side, black-faced sheep with horns roam free here and we enjoyed trying to get some close-up pictures of them.
Rather than stay in the village, we walked back towards the station. We found a path beside a stream and sat here for a while.
The next train going in our direction was for Grosmont (pron ‘grow mont’) only, but that was fine by us as that is where we wanted to go next to complete the set.
At Grosmont we had only 25 minutes or so to wait for our train, so we stayed on the station, watching what was going on. This train goes all the way to Whitby so we do not need any more changes.
The steam train brought us conveniently back to Witby where I photographed this beautiful gull, apparently quite relaxed among the crowds of people.
We made our way back to the hotel and settled with tea in our lovely bay window. Who should be on the narrow shore beneath our window but L J. Now I don’t usually feed gulls because doing so encourages them to beg and they can turn aggressive. It also discourages them from foraging for their own food. On this occasion, though, I broke my own rule. L J was soon joined by Jane and I dropped pieces of leftover scone down to them.
The interesting thing is that though they grabbed these pieces and ate them voraciously, they showed no curiosity as to where they were coming from. Even when I stopped dropping pieces they showed no further interest and went about their usual business.
I was quite glad about this as it seems to indicate a take-it-or-leave-it attitude far short of the near dependency on hand-outs that I have seen in other gulls, sometimes even very young ones.
It is 6:30 and the sky has become somewhat overcast. The temperature has fallen as a result. We will rest for a while longer and then think about dinner.
While Tigger was dozing, I noticed a young lad—in his early teens, I would guess—acting oddly on the bridge. Suddenly he climbed onto the rail, and then jumped into the water. He disappeared beneath the opaque surface and reappeared after a few seconds. He swam a little way upstream and joined another person, a young adult male. He too was wet though I had not seen where he entered the water.
They emerged from the water and climbed the steps beneath our window to the tiny pub terrace. I realized then that both were wearing wetsuits.
The elder of the pair exchanged a few words with a pub customer standing in front of the pub and then suddenly took to their heels and were soon gone.
While I admire the young lad’s courage I do not admire the other who is irresponsible to encourage him in activities that could easily end in disaster.
Unfortunately, something she ate has upset Tigger’s digestion and she doesn’t feel like eating. She has insisted that I go and eat so I have come out on a solitary prowl. I don’t want to go far, so I have come to Gatsby’s which is in sight of the hotel. In fact, I can see our bedroom window from where I am sitting.
Gatsby’s is a fish restaurant and grill but they do at least have a vegetarian section on their menu from which I have chosen couscous. The proof of the couscous will be in the eating…
The couscous was very good but not copious. It will see me through until tomorrow, though, when I hope Tigger will be feeling better. The service was very slow and having finished my meal I waited a long time in vain to attract the waitress’s attention. In the end, I played the old trick of getting up and putting my coat on.
We enjoyed our day our the steam railway. We explored the route thoroughly, stopping at each of the stations served. We also had some interesting chats with members of train staff. Whether paid employees or unpaid volunteers, all seem enthusiastic, knowledgeable as well as professional in their work.
Tigger feeling unwell has obviously put a bit of a damper on things and I am hoping she will be better tomorrow.
Our experience of “Aidenfield”, aka Goathland, was a little depressing as it showed the corrupting influence of fame and an unusual inflow of money. Nor do I understand people who invest so much in fantasy when the reality is so much more beautiful and engaging.
Apart from that, we had a good day, well worth the money we spent on the all-day train tickets.
Notes on names
Grosmont seems to have been named after the priory founded there in about 1200, rather than after any big hills of mountains in the area.
Goathland: tempting as it may be to link this name with goats, it is thought more likely that it was named after a man called Goda (i.e. “Goda’s land”) who settled there.
Pickering: like many Old English derived names ending in ‘-ing’ or ‘-ings’, this one denotes a settlement of a headman and “his people” (inga). In this case, the boss was called Picer.