Monday, 30 June 2014

Another Short Trip - The Reunion

We have just been to our annual reunion with my ex colleagues and this year it was based close to the home of our erstwhile North East trainer. We were all going to stay in a hotel in Saltburn, a seaside resort that I have never been to before. Since it is on the North East coast and we had to pass Bridlington and Flamborough to reach it, we decided it would be interesting for me and The Better Half (TBH) to stop off at those places on the way up. This is because some of my family used to live along this part of the coast and I used to stay with them during some of my school holidays and TBH had never been to that part of the country before.  So it would be a bit of nostalgia for me and somewhere new for TBH. Accordingly, we had booked ourselves into a seafront hotel at Bridlington for one night.  TBH always likes a sea view if at all possible and the hotel we picked gave her just what she wanted.
A room with a view
To the left we could see the harbour and Flamborough Head
 From our room we had a great view of the wide sandy beach and in the distance, the cliffs of Flamborough Head and the lighthouse. The lighthouse is still operating and we could see the beam sweeping around that night.

We arrived in the early afternoon and spent the rest of the day wandering around looking for places I could recognise. Since I must have been in my teens when I was last there (and that was quite a long time ago), very little seemed familiar, but it is a pleasant place and we both enjoyed the good weather we had brought with us until evening when we took a meal in the Rags restaurant overlooking the harbour.

The harbour

This round the bay tripper looked familiar, although the name seems to have changed

This picture is from way back showing Bridlington's round the bay tripper, looking rather similar to the one above, apart from the name
Some of the sea front fun palaces seem to have gone a bit Disney since I was last there

Some work was taking place whilst we were there and this rig was part of the wet end of the works, which were taking pipes under the beach to the deep water.
The next morning, we checked out and went on to Flamborough Head. We drove to the lighthouse and right to the tip of the head. On Flambourough Head there is a golf course which, a long time ago, was managed by my uncle. His children, two of my cousins who blog regularly on Blogspot, lived there when they were children.
The present day golf club enterance

I took this picture in 1966 when I was in the area.  This enterance is much further along the road towards the sea than the present entrance

The new clubhouse is very different from the old buildings
I must have spent more time at Flamborough Head than Bridlington, because I found it a lot more familiar and recognised all the places we visited as if nothing had changed in all the mumblty mumble years since I was last there. I was pleased to find that the open areas were still populated with skylarks, something becoming increasingly rare around our home.

Nothing much different here

Or here

This still looks the same

North Landing still looks exactly the same and they may well be the same boats pulled up on the beach
This picture is most likely from the mid fifties

This faded notice is now redundant as all the UK foghorns have been switched off, but when it went off in the night, you were blown out of bed by the sound
By lunch time, we had walked ourselves to a standstill and so reluctantly left to head north. We had intended to visit Scarborough, but when we got there, the traffic was so clogged that we decided to skip it and keep on heading north. Due to the heavy traffic in the outskirts of Scarborough, time had been moving on and we were by now rather missing lunch and so on the road out of Scarborough, we stopped at the Daisy Tea Rooms. This was a very popular place and the car park was quite innocent of any free spaces, always a good sign. We were able to park in the road and found an empty table inside. After a snack, we carried on towards our reunion hotel at Saltburn-by-the-sea, using the coast road and arrived around three PM. We checked in and found some of the rest of our crowd already there and after the greetings and all that goes with seeing a friend you have not seen in a whole year, we went for a quick wander around the sea front. The main business part of Saltburn is on a high cliff or as the locals call it, a 'bank' and you can walk down or use the lift. We walked down, but since it is 120 feet back to the top and we had done a fair bit of walking around Flamborough, we decided to use the lift to return. Saltburn’s cliff lift is claimed to be the oldest working water powered lift of its kind in the UK. This kind of lift is commonplace throughout the world and found at a number of seaside towns where there is a high cliff or in this case a bank.

The water powered lift
 They consist of two cars, on rails running up a slope. The cars are usually on a single cable and counterbalance each other. There are different means of powering them, but the simplest is to have a large tank underneath the passenger area that can be filled with water. The one going up is empty and the one going down is filled to act as a counter weight, so that the heaviest car will pull the other up as it descends. Once each car is respectively at the top and at the bottom, the bottom tank is emptied and the top one filled and the change in weight allows them to swap places. On more recent versions, an electric motor is used to winch them up and down, still counterbalanced to a great extent, but much less efficient than the water counter weight method.
This is the end of the pier
During our walk, we kept encountering our friends who had gathered for the reunion and we stopped and talked each time, making the tour of the place slow but friendly. Saltburn has a small pier which unlike the piers I grew up with, does not have anything on it. I am used to piers with rides and amusements and dancehalls and so on. This one is quite small and stretches out to sea for about 680 feet. Because the beach is quite shallow here, at low tide the pier does not reach the water, so is only useful as a promenade. At most times it is over some water, but it is quite shallow and diving off the pier is not recommended, since a broken neck is not something many people want.

Because the pier is more over hard packed sand and only shallow water, anyone who needs this notice should be nominated for a Darwinian Award. 
Whilst we were there, the World Cup was taking place and some charity group had knitted small players and symbols for all the different teams where they were fixed along one rail of the pier and attracting a certain amount of interest.
Little knitted football heroes from all over the world
Once back at the hotel, we changed and then we sat around and chatted until it was time for dinner. The next day we were to take the steam train to Whitby using the North Yorkshire Moors Railway (NYMR) and so we got up early for breakfast so that we could be out of the hotel in time to catch the train. Breakfast was served from 7:30, but because the service was overwhelmed by our group all coming down at the same time and despite being there just about 7:30, we only just got out by 9. Because the nearest station for the NYMR only had a small car park, this year’s reunion organiser had decided that it would be best to double up in our cars and travel by road to Grosmont station, a little over half way along the railway’s route. He had reasoned that it gave us a chance to drive across the Yorkshire Moors and see the views and there we would all be able to find a parking space.

On the North Yorkshire Moors. The Beggar's Bridge. A medieval bridge with a legend attached to it
We drove across the moors in a convoy of six cars and arrived in time to see our train approaching the platform and steaming gently, waiting to be coupled to the carriages. It had a plaque on the front that I found interesting, since it showed that it had been built in my home town in 1956, possibly one of the last to be built there. The railway works which had been a very large part of our town is now a retail outlet centre that attracts visitors from all the nearby towns that do not yet have a retail outlet centre of their own. By the food outlets of the shopping mall there is an almost identical engine stood by the tables and chairs. It may not be identical exactly, but it is big and painted green, has lots of big wheels and a big thing to put the coal in at the back, so to my eyes it looks the same.

Our train approaching
At Whitby we all went our separate ways and dispersed across the town. Whitby is one of my favourite seaside towns and once more TBH had not been there before, so I showed her around and we had a pleasant morning exploring.
We did not go up the one hundred and ninety nine steps, but visited the old town area below them. The sun was out and I believe that this day was the hottest day of the year so far. Since the North East coast can be very cold, even in summer we were very lucky.

Doing tours around the town is an ancient steam lorry, converted into a bus. We did not ride on it but some of our fellow reunionists did and found it a very bumbpy ride
We went to the Quay side restaurant for the mandatory fish and chips, but because we were going to have a large meal that evening, we had a single round of bread and butter between us instead of chips. The fish was as expected, very fresh.

I just could not resist this wonderful legal firm's name
At about two PM we went back to the station and met up with our group. There was a slight mix up at this point, because one of our group is disabled and needed to go into the goods van via a ramp, the only access for wheel chairs. The NYMR organisers had reserved a coach for the rest of the group which was supposed to be adjacent to the disabled access, but which turned out to be several coaches along and not everyone managed to find it.

 As a result some of the train was crowded at one end whilst the reserved coach had empty seats.
Our return train which was built in Newcastle on Tyne
We arrived back at Saltburn around three and TBH and I had time to explore the top part of the town.

Next morning, we checked out and headed for Beamish open air Museum. This is one of those places where an old otherwise abandoned industrial site has been converted into a museum by transferring historical buildings piece by piece and brick by brick to rebuild a community as it would have been back in time, some buildings and houses being Victorian, some as recent as WWII. Beamish is on quite a large site and has a town, a colliery and a farm amongst other things. One of the things that these museums do for me is to make me realise how old I am because so many of the exhibits are familiar. I grew up at a time when many houses still had outside loos, solid fuel cooking ranges and open fires in every room but the kitchen, where the range provided the warmth. The older generation of great aunts and great uncles still lived like that and so even in 1900s replica houses the interiors in them were familiar to me from visits to my own family. One house was made up for WWII period and that was frighteningly familiar right down to the old Anderson bomb shelter in the back garden just like the one we used during air raids. There is a tramway in Beamish and a motor bus service that runs all around the site which you can use to get from place to place. This is more or less a necessity because the site is so large it would take a long time to walk.

The replica Old Bill bus based on the1912 version
A very old style of tram.  The ones I remember had glass windows and the driver was inside
We were able to ride on several of these at different times and again some of it was frighteningly familiar. I can remember as a child riding on the London trams and I always wanted to look closely at the fascinating big shiny brass controls. In Beamish I was able to have a much closer look than when I was just a kid who was discouraged from getting too close. They had two busses running that day, a single decker and a double decker Old Bill kind of open top bus. The Old Bill type of bus had been requisitioned to carry troops in WWI, but this one, I was disappointed to find, was a replica built in 1988. All in all it was a fun, but scary day, even having a pig sty full of pigs on the farm, just like my childhood home. Yes, I grew up with pigs, which probably accounts for some of my poor manners! After our trip to Beamish, we went on to look for the hotel at Birtley where we were all booked in for the night and in a convoluted drive around some of the most northern parts of the A1M road junctions, which took us close to the Angel of the North, we found our hotel.

Hard to miss and impressive simply because of its size, but in my list of great art, it falls way below Scotland's Kelpies and Morecombe's Eric.

That evening was the last supper for that year’s reunion and we frightened off all the other diners with our slightly rowdy behaviour as farewell speeches and so forth went on until quite late. Late that is for a bunch of pensioners who find museum exhibits more familiar than some of modern day life. In the morning, we bade our farewells and started on our approximately 300 mile journey home. It was a good trip, with few roadworks and no stationary traffic which is something of a record for any long road trip in the UK.

Saturday, 14 June 2014

Always Catching up - part whatever; the last of these posts

On the last day of our Welsh trip we set off for Llandudno, where we were booked into the Quay Hotel, a rather posh place right on the estuary of the Afon Conwy, overlooking Conwy Castle on the opposite shore.
The Castle at Conwy

On the way we stopped in Conwy and had a short walk around the town.  Conwy is another walled town and still has an almost intact castle.  We did not bother to go into the castle this time but wandered around the water front, looking at the boats. 
Conwy's fishing industry seems to be thriving

The tide runs very fast in the straits there.  I would not want any boat I owned on that mooring, if the painter broke, the damage would be immense when it crashed against the bridge or some other obstacle
Conwy boasts the smallest house in Great Britain and it is open as a tourist attraction.  A woman dressed in traditional Welsh dress shows people around, in what I imagine must be rather small numbers becaue not a lot of tourists can fit inside all at once.   She had no customers that day, there was only one other person around and TBH was not interested in a visit, so we gave it a miss. 

After a coffee in a small café just inside the town wall, we drove on to Llandudno.

We stopped on the sea front, being very lucky to find the only empty parking space anywhere near the North promenade.
We wandered around the sea front and then decided to have a go on the Great Orme tramway and have a look at the summit, which overlooks the town.
The name Orme is said to be derived from Wyrm, the olden name for a dragon or sea serpent.  Llundudno lies between the Great Orme and the Little Orme and so looks a bit like a great serpent with its tail at the Little Orme end and its head being the Great Orme.
The tramway is one of four ways to the top of the Orme.  You can walk, drive, take a cable car or use the tram.  We were not going to walk, TBH is not comfortable with heights, so the cable car was out and I had found the drive up to the top was not exactly simple, due to narrow streets, the steep incline and the tram which always takes priority over cars, plus the last time I tried there were no parking spaces.
So it was the tram.  

The Great Orme tramway opened in 1906 and consists of two tram cars attached to a cable.  As one is winched up the track, the other is lowered down, passing each other at a passing loop. The trams themselves have no motors, only brakes.  They cannot stop by themselves and only apply the brakes if something goes wrong, so any cars sharing the road must keep clear of the trams.
The Great Orme  tram station

Cars and trams share the road on the lower part of the tramway
The distance to the top of the Orme, which is 207 m (679 ft) high, is just over one and a half kilometres along the tramway.  The cable cannot be made to work safely over that distance, so the Victorian engineers who designed the tramway made the ride in two stages.   The first stage travels 797m to the halfway point and then you get out and walk through a building to get onto another tram which is one of another pair of trams on a second cable.  This tram goes the remaining distance to the top, a further 756m.  Once on the second tramway, there are no roads and so no one can cross the track and the cables are exposed for easier maintenance.  They make an unusual sight as the rollers rotate and the cables run ahead of you as you climb. Not easy to describe, but once seen you will understand why it is kind of fascinating. 
The upper section of the trasmway
That day, it was hazy and a light mist prevented us from seeing far when we got to the top, it was the coldest day we had experienced on our trip, so after a quick look around we headed for the cafe and had ourselves some lunch. 
Heading back down, Llandudno spread before us
We rode the tram down again in the afternoon and then walked around to the pier. This was crowded and had all the usual candyfloss stalls and amusements and we continued past without stopping. Nearby is Happy Valley Park which is reached by some steep paths and we walked up to the top where there is, as I remembered, a small hut containing a Camera Obscura.  

These pre photographic devices were a source of wonder to our ancestors.  If you have never come across one before, there are no windows in the hut, so once the door is shut it is very dark but via series of lenses and mirrors, the camera obscura would project a view of the immediate area outside onto a screen on the wall.  In most of these, by moving the optical lenses, the operator can then scan the optics in a 360 degree panorama revealing in full colour all the scenery and movement outside.   
In Llandudno, the view from the top of the hill was quite spectacular, taking in the whole town and as described in their advertisement from Liverpool Bay to Anglesey.  Our ancestors must have thought it was magic.
Part of the view that the Camera Obscura would show
The hut with the camera obscura was still there but not yet open for the main season, so we walked on into town and looked at the curious shop fronts that I recalled from my previous visits.  Many shops have a cast iron and glass awning or balcony over the front of the older part of the shopping area which must date back to Victorian times. 
This is the National Lifeboat charity shop and is slightly more elaborate than many.  After looking at several shops that we could have visited in any town in the UK, we returned to the sea front, where we had an icecream each before going to look for our hotel and check in.

The view from our room was all it was cracked up to be and after admiring it for a while, we changed and went down for dinner.  

The view of Conwy from our balcony

A closer look at the castle
Nearly sunset
Conwy Castle at night
 Next morning it was TBH’s birthday and I gave her my present, which had been packed away in my suitcase.  Being a special birthday, I gave her a necklace, which she had picked out as a possible gift a little while before our trip.  
In the morning, there were a number of Oyster catchers right on our balcony and we could see them wading around in shallow water as the tide ebbed.
I had lived by the sea for some years of my life and I was unprepared for the speed at which this stretch of water could change as the tide rose and fell.  One minute you were looking across a single sheet of water with yachts and boats serenely moored up in what appeared to be deep water, and then returning from a meal you were confronted by acres of mud flats and sand banks, with all the small boats stranded on these and standing up on their keels. 
An oystercatcher on the balcony
High and dry with ostercatchers wading nearby
The final part of our trip was to head for The Daughter’s (TD) home further north via Morecombe.  This would have been an easy journey but for roadworks in Lancaster.  The shortest route to get to Morecombe from the M6 from the south is to head for Lancaster and skirt that town via its often congested ring road.  The alternative is to head two junctions further north and then drive all the way back practically to Lancaster.  Foolishly we decided to do it the slower but shorter route.  Big mistake!  Lancaster had a vital part of its inner ring road dug up and so closed to traffic.  The resulting chaos kept us for almost an hour moving at a snail’s pace in heavy traffic as all the different lanes of traffic tried to squeeze into one.  We would have escaped sooner but the one road sign that would have helped us early enough to miss at least half of the jam was broken in two and the important bit with the name of our alternative route was missing.  Later another signpost was hidden by trees and could not be read, so we arrived in Morecombe much later than anticipated.

When in Morecombe, I always head for the Old Pier Bookshop, one of those Terry Pratchett L-space emporiums which I find fascinating.   Nearly forty minutes later and loaded down with a pile of ancient SF magazines we then went on to our final destination, in time to celebrate both TBH’s and The Granddaughter’s birthdays that evening.