Posts Tagged ‘Scarborough Castle’

Eventually it had to happen and the great work rhythm  of the last two months hit a snag, probably because of the Labor Day holiday Monday that I worked through which started a bit of a downward slide in my overall attitude. I alone am to blame for that, although I may or may not have named a few particular clients in my hourly prayers for patience, peace and sanity. (It’s possible.) I am grateful though for a great work team who kept me laughing and by Friday I felt back to an even keel.

I had wanted to plan a big trip to north Yorkshire before the weather turned cold (it got a little nippy this week in the mornings) and when I showed Bear some of the photos online he went on point like a bear who just strolled past the Lazy Bee Honey Factory. Given the distance, we planned a 6 a.m. departure with a cooler of food and plans for a picnic snack on the grounds of Rievaulx Abbey, about halfway through the itinerary.

Bear checking the cooler in a lay by off the A1 highway for a refill on drinks

For the drive, I had managed to get a decent copy of an audio book version of George R.R. Martin’s A Storm of Swords which will be the basis for the upcoming Season 3 of Game of Thrones. The book itself is wacky long (over 1200 pages and the paperback in some countries had to be split into two) and I had started it about a year ago but stopped for the strange reason that I was enjoying it too much. I like to pace myself on things and GRRM is only on book 5 out of 7 for the overall A Song of Ice and Fire series, and that’s taken him 16 years so far I think, so I was trying to make it last, but Bear keeps asking me questions about the characters and I get tired of repeating I don’t know, I don’t know, I don’t know. Bear sort of gets a pass on this one though because usually he just doesn’t remember that he’s asked before or that you’ve already told him you’ve never read the third book, even if you said that just two sentences ago. He simply does not remember. I have no idea where it goes but it’s pretty amazing.

This is hilarious to me — J.K. Rowling has a valid point since she really does make some hard choices for a children’s author and kills off characters. But no one, absolutely no one, kills off beloved characters like George R.R. Martin. Do not get attached to anyone in his books.

Once we started listening, all frustrations were forgotten because it’s an extremely absorbing story and the miles flew by. The road took us up through the North Yorkshire National Park and I got my first view of the purple heather over the moors.

Purple heather on the north Yorkshire moors

As I was climbing through the heather I had a small moment of revelation. Cars here often have a sign in the back window or on the hatchback–a big block capital letter L which stands for Learner. It’s not quite as scary as seeing “Student Driver” on top of a car in America since those are nearly inevitably teenagers who haven’t got much grasp on how to safely go about things. Here, a Learner can be anyone, including reasonably experienced, smart adults who just haven’t gotten around to getting a license yet. (J.K. Rowling never got her license, so it can apparently happen to anyone.)

This really sums up everything. Everything.

There in the heather was a magic car sign — L is for Learner. When it comes to this country, I need to wear this sign on the front of my shirt just so people will know to steer clear if I’m tackling anything complex like getting a top up on the mobile phone or ordering a drink.

We got to Whitby before the abbey opened and drove through the harbor town and walked along the pier.

Across the harbor

View out of the harbor toward the fishing pier

Beach towards the West Cliff at Whitby

The town has a feeling similar to a New England boardwalk town with game arcades, carousels, tattoo shops, ice cream cotton candy, and a psychic’s booth.

Fishing from the lower level

Not to miss the Dracula connection to Whitby Abbey

Whitby Abbey is located on top of the headland cliff overlooking the harbor and sea, which had served as inspiration for Bram Stoker when writing Dracula.

Whitby Abbey on the headland

Also, I was embarrassed that I didn’t realize Caedmon was connected to the original Anglo-Saxon double monastery which was on the site before it was destroyed by Vikings and later rebuilt as you see it here.

In my Anglo-Saxon literature class at UGA, we translated Caedmon’s surviving poetic work, “Caedmon’s Hymn”.

nu scylun hergan   hefaenricaes uard
metudæs maecti   end his modgidanc
uerc uuldurfadur   swe he uundra gihwaes
eci dryctin   or astelidæ
he aerist scop   aelda barnum
heben til hrofe   haleg scepen.
tha middungeard   moncynnæs uard
eci dryctin   æfter tiadæ
firum foldu   frea allmectig
Translation
Now [we] must honour the guardian of heaven, the might of the architect, and his purpose, the work of the father of glory — as he, the eternal lord, established the beginning of wonders; he first created for the children of men heaven as a roof, the holy creator Then the guardian of mankind, the eternal lord, afterwards appointed the middle earth, the lands for men, the Lord almighty. [From Wikipedia]

Whitby Abbey

Whitby Abbey

We had gotten up so early that the hunger was kicking in so we split a scone from the Whitby tea shop. I’ve been working out a lot more to get rid of the accumulated scones since we got here, but splitting a scone was certainly an improvement over every other tea shop trip.

We drove down the coastline to Scarborough which Bear informed me is noted for having a really big fair every year. For that, I managed to find a copy of “Scarborough Fair” on my mp3, a more traditional arrangement by Mediaeval Baebes (yes, I went there, I said that) until he admitted it had been a really bad joke. The song however is no joke and this is a more authentic arrangement than what you usually get.

There was a pretty stiff hike up the hill from the closest parking to get into Castle Scarborough which is located on the flat headland overlooking the water. It’s an amazing naturally defensible spot that has signs of habitation for thousands of years. (I enjoyed some of the prehistoric artifacts like a bronze Age axe head and some flint tools.)

The walk up the hill to Richmond Castle — not suitable for attacking armies

We walked around the headland and watched the sea kayakers down in the water and the people bodysurfing and playing on the beaches. There was bungee jumping too, which Bear said he would never ever be doing. I love my spine too much to try it either, so we’re agreed in that.

The crane visible in the center was for the bungee jumping

This structure known as St. Mary’s Church is built on the ruins of an old Roman signal tower

We drove along the beach edge below and this is the look back up the cliff to the headland where Castle Scarborough is. Definitely not practical to scale and attack.

We tried to find Helmsley Castle on the way to the next stop but instead stumbled on a really nice little town square with a monument to a major landowner. Never did find the castle, but if we park and walk and try, then I say we get credit for the effort.

It was just two more miles on to the big stop for the day, which was Rievaulx Abbey. I had been drooling over pictures of it online for several months since we met some Yorkshire natives at Lindisfarne Priory who told us we really needed to visit if we ever had the chance. I had also been planning a campaign to try to convince Bear to have a small picnic. There is something of a history to this that is important to understand:

Our one stab at a picnic was on the weekend of July the 4th, 2001, a few weeks before we got married. It was not what one would call an unmitigated success. The food was good, perhaps the best sandwiches I’ve ever made: rosemary-crusted ham with smoked gruyere and honeycup mustard on rye bread. There were chips and drinks and we tried to sit outside to eat under an oak tree on the grounds at the Southwood office complex and that lasted about nine minutes. You would think that having lived in Florida for most of my life I would have remembered that July really wasn’t the best time to attempt a picnic.

I may have been done with my sandwich (but I don’t think so) when I noticed that Bear had packed up and was looking at the car with all the anxiousness of a 4 year old who had to go to the bathroom. Fine, this would be a good excuse to prove that I would be an understanding wife. “Would you like to go for a drive?” I suggested. “For a little bit?”

Two hours and 103 miles later we were in Steinhatchee, my first and last trip to that outstanding little example of coastal Florida, part oyster bar, part death trap. By the time we made it back to town, Bear had sufficiently calmed down. We have not since attempted a picnic.

I laid my trap very carefully and packed flawlessly: black grapes, pitted olives, hummus with carrots, clementines, crushed ice for drinks, bottled Coke, Diet Coke, iced tea, blueberry snack bars, and a small wheel of wine-washed cheese (no idea what that means but it was very cleverly packed in a little wooden box…and it was on sale). Top it off with a picnic blanket,, a beautiful cool day and shade trees overlooking the abbey and we are now batting .500 for picnics.

I’m not going to screw this up with too much commentary–it was the most beautiful abbey I’ve ever seen, which is saying something since we were just at Whitby that morning.

Rievaulx Abbey (the presbytery)

Column in the nave

Bear in the photo for scale (he’s very talented at wandering into the shot)

It felt somehow like wandering around Rivendell (minus the elves of course and the river is sort of out of sight)

Bear was making noises about going to Nandos but it was only 3:30 and I had a few more castles on the list so we agreed to try for Castle Richmond at least. We parked in another really nice town center/square and walked over every cobblestone God ever created in order to reach the castle.

The curtain wall of Castle Richmond with the open area that runs down to the cliff edge above the river.

Much like Scarborough, Castle Richmond is on a bluff headland overlooking a river, making use of the natural protection of the high bluff walls.

The right edge of the castle, the town next to it and the river just over the edge

The castle’s exhibition contained some very sobering information about how 16 Quaker conscientious objectors had been kept prisoner in the castle during WWI for refusing any kind of military service. By 1916 they were sent forcibly to a military base in France where to refuse an order would mean a death sentence–they refused, were sentenced to death, but commuted to to 10 years in prison just before they were executed. 10 of them died in prison, others had mental breakdowns and never seemed to recover. The history of the CO has been complicated and I understand there could be the concern that some would claim they were COs when really they wanted to avoid service altogether for reasons of personal comfort or fear. In no way did these 16 fall into that category and it’s very sad what came of them.

Not exactly topiary, but close enough for Bear.

The castle also had some unexpectedly nice gardens that reminded me of The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. Bear however started winking one index finger at me and squeaking “Red Rum, Red Rum!” There’s nothing like invoking The Shining in the middle of a topiary-ish garden to pretty much shatter the mood.

Bear was not particularly happy with me for climbing up on a bit of wall to take that photo of the river with the bridge in the upper quarter. I swear, I was at least two feet from the edge of anything, but suddenly I felt a hand seize a huge swath of my shirt, close into a fist and I was stuck. (I don’t think it occurred to him that this might startle me and make me fall forward.)

We realized we would get home pretty late and Juliet would be furious with us for having her locked up all day, so we agreed it was time to fill up the tank and head back south and find a Nandos for dinner along the way. While the food, as always, hit the spot, it was one of the more unfortunate Nandos stops — the ice machine was limping and my order nearly went badly awry.

Me: I’d like a half chicken, lemon and herb
Cashier: OK, but how much chicken? Quarter, half, whole?
Me: Half chicken, lemon herb
Cashier: What spice?
Me: Lemon herb. And a beanie burger, mango lime.
Cashier: Beanie burger, right. What spice?
Me: Mango lime. And pineapple slice. <I know it sounds odd, but Ray Kroc was right, a pineapple slice is perfect on some grilled sandwiches>

The order arrives perfectly and my pineapple slice is in its own little dish. Every other of the dozens of times, it’s been on the burger, like it says on the menu, like it should be. Every now and then I think that Asberger’s Syndrome is far more undiagnosed in the restaurant industry than anyone realizes.

And as it turned out, Juliet wasn’t as angry as I’d feared; in fact, she curled up on my chest once we were in bed and purred madly. I really think she missed me and was genuinely worried we weren’t coming back.

Bear with our Baby Juliet, out in the garden

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