It is another warm but cloudy day with occasional sunshine. We breakfasted, as yesterday, in a cafe bar called Bristot. Then we made our way in leisurely fashion towards the station, visiting the magnificent Central Arcade on the way.
We are off to Whitby today, as it is within range of our rail rover tickets and we are very fond of the town. Also, I am wondering whether we shall see the lame gull we got to know on our first visit to Whitby. I called him "LJ" (for Long John) and wrote about him and his mate Jane in Whitby 2009.
There are direct trains to Whitby but they are few so we are taking the indirect route via Middlesbrough. We visited Middlesbrough on a previous occasion and what we saw there convinced us that a single short visit was largely sufficient. It remains an essential rail junction, however.
On reaching Middlesborough, we had an unpleasant surprise. There were no trains to Whitby before the direct Newcastle to Whitby service that would arrive in two hours. We had assumed, wrongly, that there would be a regular service from Middlesbrough. The Newcastle train would take about an hour and a half to get to Whitby, meaning we would arrive mid-afternoon.
So we called the Traveline (08712002233) who informed us that bus number 93 would leave for Whitby from Middlesbrough bus station at 12:20. So we hurried off to try to catch it. The bus station is probably a sedate 10-minute walk from the train station but we didn’t have 10 minutes. We did our best but arrived in time to see the 93 departing. The next would be in an hour.
Then Tigger spotted the X5 which was boarding. On the front it said “Whitby”! Traveline hadn’t mentioned this one, perhaps because it is a less direct service. Anyway, we hurried aboard. The journey lasted somewhat over an hour with the usual detours to take in towns and villages off the main road, but we arrived a lot sooner than if we had waited for the train.
On arriving in Whitby, we both had it in mind to go to Moutrey’s restaurant in Grape Lane for lunch, though we were not sure whether they opened at lunchtime. We had eaten there in 2009 (see Whitby 2009) and had been impressed with it.
We then found that the famous swing bridge was out of action, having broken down and needing bespoke parts for repair. This effectively cut cut off the eastern part of the town, with an inevitable effect on trade. A free bus service was running to take people to the other side via the A71 bridge but we decided to spend £1 to be ferried across by boat.
We were rewarded by finding Moutrey’s open and we enjoyed a fine meal. It is always good to find restaurants that maintain a high standard, as Moutrey does, both in food and quality of service. This time, I had the pleasure of introducing myself to Gary Moutrey, who had been kind enough to leave comments on my original page about our Whitby trip.
After lunch, we took the free bus back to the other side. Tigger was longing to have a ride on the steam bus but when we enquired, they had finished for the day. However, they kindly offered to give us a free ride to the cliff top, which we gladly accepted.
And yes, the good news is that we saw LJ, perched on his favourite lamp on the bridge. He was immediately recognizable by his deformed right leg, twisted into a form like a spoon. I was very happy to see him apparently still healthy despite his disability.
On the cliff top where the steam bus deposited us, we took refreshments at a small cafe shop and admired the scenery. The clouds were thick but open in places so that the Abbey was sunlit against a background of stormy sky.
The gulls were active, continually calling, arguing with one another and swooping to pick up scraps.
We worked our way slowly back towards the town, enjoying the different views and the changing light. We stopped off at Gatsby’s, near the swing bridge, for refreshments and then continued to the station, photographing favourite views. LJ was on station atop his lamp on the immobilized bridge. I wonder whether he will still here when we next return.
We are taking the 19:15 train out. We are not sure whether this train goes all the way to Newcastle or whether we will have to change at Middlesbrough.
No such luck as a through train. We have to change at Middlesbrough and take the 20:55 to Darlington. There, said the ticket inspector, we should board “anything going north”.
It’s quite amusing taking these local trains whose very existence is unknown to you until the moment comes to use them. The other passengers are mostly local people who use the trains to go to work, to go shopping, to visit family or go out for the evening. We, in contrast, are like exotic birds, blown off course and perching briefly here only by chance.
We arrived at Darlington and within a few minutes joined an Edinburgh train that had been delayed but was spot on time for our purposes.
Though getting to Whitby had proved more difficult than we had expected, it was well worth the effort because Whitby is an attractive and picturesque town which has managed to keep much of its charm intact despite the inevitable pressures to modernize.
The closure of the swing bridge was a minor annoyance to us (but not to the local traders) which was compensated for by a boat trip across the river, an adventure which enabled us to renew our acquaintance with Gary Moutrey’s restaurant, something we had wanted to do since our first visit.
Special mention should made of the steam bus team who, seeing how disappointed we were at being too late to take the tour, cheerfully gave us a free ride up the hill to the cliff top.
For me, one of the highlights of the trip, and perhaps the highlight, was seeing LJ, the lame herring gull, again and finding him in good health.
An all too brief visit to this beautiful town reminded us that we must come again soon and stay over so that we can spend longer enjoying what it has to offer.
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