Archives for : September2012

Yorkshire Sep 2012 – part 1: Friday 21 September 2012

Friday 21 September 2012

Today started out with a nice sausage bap and cup of tea at Southampton Airport’s airside café. The flight to Leeds was, as usual, slightly ahead of schedule, arriving into the airport at around 8.00 am.

My original plan was to get the bus to Leeds and then onward to Scarborough; however, as it was raining steadily and there was a half-hour wait for the bus, with nowhere to go and nothing to do around there, I decided to get the next bus, no matter where it was going, and work things out from there. Bradford was the destination and the bus journey seemed a lot quicker than the previous time I took that bus but fortunately, there were only a few minutes to wait at Bradford Interchange for a train onwards (to Leeds, my original destination). I changed at Leeds onto a direct train to Scarborough, seemingly a long way away from Leeds.

I was intending to have a look at Filey but the train timings just didn’t match up and I had limited time. Scarborough is an odd seaside town, with it being on two different levels due to the fairly high cliffs. The first sight one sees on walking out Scarborough station is a massive and very ‘brutalist’ monolithic municipal building and after that is a high street, complete with the usual shops one expects to see. This meanders on for a while and the chain stores gradually change into independent smaller shops. No sign of the sea yet though!

Brutalist civic building near Scarborough station

Scarborough ‘s high street

I had dinner in a very nice café in the lower end of the high street and this boasted a nice view of the sea! Fish and chips, bread and butter and a pot ‘o tea for £6.00, now that’s good value compared with a lot of places, although finding fish and chips in somewhere like Scarborough was never going to prove too much of a challenge.

View from the Harbour View Cafe, Scarborough

After dinner I found the lower part of the town, where the seaside part of the town is. This is a nice promenade at the bottom of the cliffs and the land side had the usual assortment of amusement arcades, tacky gift shops and cafes, while the other side had a harbour/marina. Further South was the actual beach, which looked very nice.

Scarborough’s promenade

Scarborough beach

Scarborough harborough

I went up to the North end of the promenade and round a headland with the remains of a castle on top but there were major building works in progress so not much to see. I climbed the path part way up to the castle for some great views, although it was a bit of a rabbit warren of narrow paths and steps that didn’t seem to go anywhere.

Road around the castle headland at Scarborough

Building works by Scarborough’s castle headland

The doorway to nowhere: this leads to the steep slope of the cliff.

Panorama of Scarborough viewed from the path up to the castle

A bit pushed for time, I went south along the promenade and took the cliff railway to the top of the cliffs, although I was a bit disappointed as it didn’t seem to go very far. Next to this was another cliff railway, in a derelict state and obviously closed. I don’t know what the need for two almost adjacent was. At the top, near the aptly-named Grand Hotel, I went across a bridge that spanned a valley, or chine and again, offered good views.

Scarborough’s short cliff railway (the one that is still in use)

Scarborough as seen from the top of the cliff railway

Scarborough’s grand footbridge

Disused cliff railway, Scarborough

Back outside the station, I got the Arriva X93 bus towards Whitby. £7 for an all-day ticket between Middlesbrough-Whitby and Scarborough was good value and the scenery of the North York Moors was splendid. Before going to Whitby itself, I wanted a look at Robin Hood’s Bay. This is a delightful village on a steep hill that winds itself towards the sea. The bay itself, at the bottom of the hill, is stunning but as tempting as the adjacent pub looked, I was in a hurry so climbed back up the hill and got the next bus onwards for the short journey North.

Top of the road to the lower part of Robin Hood’s Bay

The Bay Hotel – Robin Hood’s Bay

Panorama of Robin Hood’s Bay

Whitby is a very nice small town with a fishing harbour like many places in Cornwall. It has an active fish market and a myriad of fishing trips on offer. There is a large column on one of the harbour jetties (presumably used as a lighthouse) and there are also two other attractive navigation towers. I thought I’d stop in one the many pubs by the harbourside but the one I chose (The Ship) was very dead. The other one I tried, by the station, seemed to be a bit rough so I didn’t hang around.

Whitby harbour

Whitby harbour

Whitby’s western beach

Whitby’s famous ruined abbey

Whitby harbour wall tower

Whitby harbour wall tower

I then continued on the bus route, across the bleak splendour of the North York Moors, towards Middlesbrough. Most Northern towns and cities appear to have had a scrub up and are quite tidy now but Middlesbrough is definitely an exception to that. The outskirts had some very rough-looking places and further on in, it was like a massive industrial wasteland, the engine room of Great Britain.

Travelling from Middlesbrough to Darlington was relatively easy. Darlington is much larger than I thought it would be, with a suitably-grand station to match. Unfortunately, it is one of those towns where the station is at the far extreme of the town centre, with my hotel being on the opposite far extreme. It seems like a nice town, with a nice town hall and market hall and the usual myriad of shops, including two shopping centres.

Darlington market hall

My hotel, the Greenbank, was rather eccentric, with a lot of military ephemera in the lobby, bars ands corridors. That was a nice touch of character; a departure from the usually-bland hotels I am accustomed to.

The evening’s proceedings started off in the Joseph Pearce (sp), a pub with cheap drinks that was popular (unsurprisingly) and busier than I would have thought bearing in mind how young the night was. I then went in the Golden Cock, the name of course being part of its charm. This was quieter apart from the karaoke in progress but the staff were friendly. I finished in The Britannia, a more traditional pub near the hotel.

The Golden Cock pub, Darlington

Coastal walk 8 September 2012

Faced with the prospect of a sunny weekend, perhaps the last one of this year’s poor summer, and no particular place to go, I racked my brain for some outdoor pursuits so I didn’t stay in all day and feel guilty for wasting the nice weather. The seaside would be nice but can’t go too far, saving my pennies. Bournemouth? Nah that’ll be heaving. In the end, a look at my trusty OS Explorer Map brought about the idea of filling some gaps in my conquering the Solent Way along the east coast of Southampton Water. Every August, when I take the ferry from Southampton to Cowes, I notice the unusual golden-coloured cliffs between Warsash and Hill Head. I was very familiar with most of that area but the Warsash to Hill Head section was completely unexplored.

So, I took the no 4 bus from Southampton to Warsash, noticing on the way the free Wi-Fi on board (which I discovered by accident in attempting to get my laptop to connect via my mobile) and, more significantly, that the Crow’s Nest pub has been demolished. This was a large suburban pub and a landmark at the top of the hill on the main A27 through Bursledon. A place that I enjoyed many karaoke nights a few years ago. It was one of those pubs that made it into bus timetables, like the Target in Sholing was and I’m sure there were others.

Arrival in Warsash was marked by the sighting of an unusual pebbledash clock tower.

The pebbledash clock tower of Warsash

The walk itself is fairly unremarkable at first, going across heathland and marshes, and is marked by a lot of massive houses and a large Brutalist building of some kind, I presume it is part of the sailing college that’s in Warsash. Most of the views are dominated by Fawley Refinery and Calshot Power Station; the latter in particular seems to muscle in on nearly every photo. The walk was surprisingly quiet, apart from people walking their dogs and their children, and eager twitchers.

Dog walkers and children; an occupational hazard for adventurers like myself.

The remains of gun emplacements like this are common along this part of the coast.

Coastal path near Warsash

A bit further on those elusive cliffs appear and I was surprised to find cliffs like that in the otherwise-very-flat surrounding area. They are golden in colour rather than chalk or granite, most unusual. The best thing of all was that there was not another soul as far as the eye could see. There is no way down from the top of the cliffs for most of their length and it felt like being somewhere very remote; an oasis of tranquillity in the otherwise-hectic Solent conurbation.

The golden cliffs!

The cliffs

The next leg of the walk brought me into the middle of an unusual settlement that consisted entirely of small wooden single-storey chalets. Nearly all of the shacks had a wind turbine on the roof; perhaps it was a self-sufficient community? The only place it reminds me of is Dungeness, which has similar small shacks but those are spread out much more sparsely. This brought me back into the familiar territory of Titchfield Haven, which gets the twitchers very twitchy but I don’t have the patience for such pursuits. The place hasn’t changed a bit. The small marina round the corner was inhabited by a load of Mallard ducks making laughing noises, perhaps jealous of all the attention the twitchers are paying to other birds.

Titchfield Haven chalets

My good self (!) at Hill Head

This concrete wall at Hill Head protects the nature reserve and provides a nice walkway for kids.

It was over four miles and not a drop of fluid had passed my lips so I went into the Osbourne View, a massive gastro-pub with an enormous garden adjacent to the beach – nice. A cold pint of Stowford Press went down like a treat, although I was very tempted by the Tanglefoot and Fursty Ferret ales (I used to drink those a lot in Isobar last year). Adjacent to the pub was a very modern new house, something that Frank Lloyd-Wright and Le Corbusier would have been proud of. It goes without saying that you’d have to be seriously rich to live on top of the cliffs with those views.

Aren’t I clever? Both the Osbourne View AND the modern house in the same shot. Two for the price of one.

Put off by the pub prices for food (£2.95 for a bowl of chips?!), I continued onwards, past a long row of beach huts (and it was fascinating to see how each hut occupant had personalised their small space) and came across a seaside caf like I was hoping to find. Sausage and chips for £1.50, that’s more like it! ‘The Shack’, at the northern extent of the Marine Parade road is the name of the place. Highly recommended.

A graveyard for elderly hovercrafts, like Concorde, that high-speed dream never took off (pardon the pun)

I continued along the seafront at Lee-on-the-Solent, past giant aircraft hangars and giant mothballed hovercrafts, past the playground where the lido used to be and to the main seafront (next to the amusements where the station used to be). Lee-on-the-Solent and Art Deco architecture have some interesting links. There used to be a wonderful Art Deco lido but every trace of it to the smallest detail was destroyed to make way for a kids’ playground. There used to be an Art Deco tower next to the station as well, and that was also destroyed. I’ve always loved the Art Deco shops (in the parade where the famous Bluebird Café is) and fortunately, they are still there.

Fab Art Deco shops in Lee-on-the-Solent

It became apparent that Lee-on-the-Solent is very bereft of any pubs in that main shopping area and on the seafront. The only one I know of is the Old Ship. I went in here for another drink, and noted that the food prices were more reasonable here although I had already eaten. There didn’t appear to be a gents’ toilet anywhere; they must have hidden it well. There’s no shortage of public WCs along the coast path though, although some of them are probably of a dubious nature.

After Lee-on-Solent, the landscape changes dramatically, and gives way to gravelly heathland, part of the MOD training camp at Browndown. The MOD seems to own half of the Gosport peninsula but this part is open for the public to walk through. The only signs of its military use are the badly-broken remains of concrete walls about 2 metres thick and a large concrete mushroom (which on further inspection was some kind of ventilation shaft).

Browndown beach, MOD-owned land

Onwards to Stokes Bay, familiar territory again and the beach here was fairly popular; not surprising given the weather and making the most of it. After Stokes Bay was Gilkicker Point and rounding this felt like I was onto the home straight. Not far to go now…that was until the coast path came to a very abrubt stop, with a fence topped with rolls of barbed wire going far out into the sea, and no indication of where the path went. I couldn’t be bothered to get the map out of my rucksack so I thought I’d follow the perimeter of the fence until I got back to the sea. This meant going across a golf course and then back onto a very suburban road. This eventually led to the car park I remember next to the prison. I thought the aforementioned fence surrounded the prison but my map says it is ‘Fort Monckton’, the prison being the other side of the car park.

Gilkicker Point

It is rare to see The Solent that blue (near Haslar)!

I continued along the coast path from the prison (now known as an ‘Immigrant Removal Centre’) and passed the large Haslar hospital; not sure whether this has closed yet or not; I know there were plans to close it. It’s very big and very Victorian. After this, the path once again came to an abrubt halt, this time with padlocked gates adorned with razor wire. I had to retrace my steps and eventually found the road between the Haslar hospital on one side and whatever the top-secret Qinetiq site is on the other. I’ve been to Gosport many times but I don’t think I have ever been to that part of it. A sort walk over Haslar Bridge and past those tower blocks with the fab 60s mosaic murals on brought me to Gosport bus station, very weary!


Haslar hospital

Tower blocks in Gosport. These two have became quite an iconic landmark, with their groovy 60s mosaic artwork and rooftop observation decks.