Tag Archives: yorkshire

2008 Travel round up part 3: My Year in Photos

The final bit of my ’08 round-up is a quick photographic journey through the most memorable travel moments of the year. (In case you’re interested, you can see all my 2008 photos over at Flickr)

Wat Phou

January: Wat Phou

Wat Phou is an Angkor-era temple in southern Laos. It’s much less well-known than Laos’s other World Heritage Site, Luang Prabang, and hence gets much fewer tourists. It can’t compete in terms of size with Angkor Wat, but its beautiful hillside setting overlooking the Mekong and lack of crowds make it worth a detour.
Coffee beans drying

February: Coffee beans drying

Another Lao highlight was a visit to the Bolaven Plateau, home to most of the country’s coffee production. Everywhere we went we saw piles of coffee beans drying in the sun.
Crispy Frog

January: Crispy Frog

Moments later, I ate this crispy, deep-fried Mekong Frog, which is not something I ever expected to do. Surprisingly lovely. And no, it didn’t taste of chicken.
Stowe House

February: Stowe House

A beautiful, crisp, cold winter day walking through the grounds of Stowe House, some of the finest landscaped grounds in England.
Alpine view

March: Alpine view

I’d resisted skiing for years. Why did no-one tell me one of the best bits of the experience would be the breathtaking beauty of the mountains?

March: Bobsleigh!

1500 metres downhill on the 1994 Olympic track. Over 100kph, inches from the ice. The best 72 seconds of my life.

April: Bounce

You don’t need to spend a fortune on a bobsleigh run to have fun though: an afternoon bouncing on the trampoline at my sister’s house in Essex was nearly as fun.
Wet & windy Snowdon

June: Wet & windy Snowdon

Freezing rain and winds so strong you could barely stand up – but making it to the top of Wales’s highest mountain was worth it.
Completing the Yorkshire 3 Peaks

June: Completing the Yorkshire 3 Peaks

Before I did it, I thought 26 miles of hiking up and down three hills would be a bit tough. I ended up running the last few miles. And I even got a certificate to prove I’d done it too (I’m like a child when it comes to external validation).
My new favourite building

June: My new favourite building

The restored De La Warr pavilion is absolutely stunning, and utterly incongruous to find in town like Bexhill.
View over Glastonbury (madness not pictured)

June: View over Glastonbury (madness not pictured)

Even more fun than usual, thanks to the absence of mud and flooding. I’ll miss the madness in 2009.
the Blue Mosque & Hagia Sofia

July: the Blue Mosque & Hagia Sofia

Recovering from festivals by going on holiday straight after is totally the way ahead.
24 hours in Ibiza

August: 24 hours in Ibiza

…except it wasn’t even that. We spent nearly as long in Madrid airport as we did on the island.
Boat envy in Formentera

September: Boat envy in Formentera

Still, I made up for it by having a fantastic four days there the following month, seeing how the other half live. Although it did give me boat envy.
Cool abandoned hotel in Lagos

October: Cool abandoned hotel in Lagos

Cool abandoned hotel in Lagos, one of my favourite photos of the year. The town is pretty great too.
Faro - ghost town

October: Faro - ghost town

Unlike Faro, which was just plain weird. Also: I assumed Pigeon-racing was one of those weird eccentric English things. Turns out the Portuguese do it too.
Krakow market square

November: Krakow market square

We kept being told it was the largest square of its kind in Europe. We never did find out what that meant exactly. Lovely place to spend my birthday (although I think Uluru in 2009 may just top it). Just don’t mention the borscht.
View over Windermere

December: View over Windermere

If there’s been one thing that’s really stood out from my travels this year, it’s been falling in love with the mountains, and it’s certainly something I’ll be doing a lot more of in 2009.

Thanks to everyone who has read and commented in 2008. It’s been a bit of a dry run while I get the hang of writing (the only writing I’ve done for the last decade has been on Powerpoint slides, which is really quite different) and posting pictures. Hopefully 2009 and the start of my long-term travels will make this an even better read going forward!

Bond in Beverley

Now that I’ve visited East Yorkshire I can quite see why they were so keen to take advantage of the last local government reorganisation to break free from Hull, ditch the name Humberside and reclaim their Yorkshire roots – I’ve never been to Hull, but the word that springs to mind as soon as I hear it is ‘grim’. And Beverley is anything but grim.

I popped up there for the weekend to get a break from London to visit a friend who’s just moved there, and it was just what I needed. Surrounded by open countryside, Beverley is a lovely old market town with one of the UK’s largest non-cathedral churches at its heart.

Beverley Minster (not taken by me - the weather was too rubbish)

Beverley Minster (not taken by me - the weather was too rubbish)

It’s a particularly impressive church, dating back to the 13th-14th centuries, and apparently its twin towers were the inspiration for those of Westminster Abbey. What I certainly didn’t expect to see (or rather hear) in such a place was an organist playing Bond Themes. First off we had the main theme, followed by Goldfinger, and then best (and most inappropriately of all)… Live & Let Die. Yes, Live & Let Die. In a church. You haven’t lived until you’ve heard Live & Let Die echoing round the nave of a vast church played on an organ. It was truly awesome, and made the whole trip worthwhile on its own. (Apparently the organist was doing a recital of Bond Themes that evening…I suppose churches in a country as non-religious as England have to find some way of paying for their upkeep these days).

The other highlight (well, for a geek like me anyway), was finally getting to see East Yorkshire’s famous cream-coloured phone boxes – for some reason when British Telecom was created Hull & the surrounding area kept their own phone company, which is still separate today, and as a result it’s the only part of the UK not to have the famous red phone boxes, but has cream ones instead (they also lack the crown).

On the sunday we ended up in Hornsea, a little seaside resort overshadowed by its more famous (and prettier) rivals just up the coast, Scarborough, Bridlington & Whitby. I can quite see why – the beach isn’t all that great, and the town a little shabby. On the plus side though, we got a chance to see families exhibiting classic English summer seaside behaviour – After coming all this way to get to the bloody beach, I’ll be damned if you kids don’t get in the bloody sea, rain or no rain. You could have powered a small town off their shivers.

Yorkshire 3 Peaks

I don’t think I’ve ever walked more than 15 miles in one go before, so I was a tad worried about how I’d cope with 26, even without the three peaks thrown in.

The day didn’t start well. It’s hard enough sleeping in a tent with only a self-inflating mat to lie on. It’s even harder when it starts getting light just after 4am, swiftly followed by sheep bleating and dogs barking continuously for the rest of the night. I eventually admitted defeat at 6, and blearily rolled out of my tent to cook beans on my underpowered camping stove for breakfast.

With only one shower on the campsite (as the only campsite in the village which is the official start of the course they have a captive audience and clearly have decided there is no need to spend more on upgrading the site!) it took us a while to get ready, so we didn’t set off til quarter to eight.

The ascent of the first peak, Pen-y-ghent, started almost immediately, and I very quickly began to worry that I was going to struggle, as I found the pace a lot tougher than I’d expected. Things got worse for the final hundred metres, which were significantly steeper and quite a scramble until, just over an hour after we started, we reached the top.

Luckily after that things improved significantly – the next step was a gentle downhill stroll with a stunning view over the Ribble Valley and the famous Ribblehead Viaduct in the distance.

Ribble Valley

By the time we reached the bottom of the valley I’d finally woken up, in no small part thanks to the coffee from a van by the side of the road (note to self: never try physical activity without caffeine in future). While we paused to refuel, we were able to take in the view of the viaduct. I’d wanted to see it since I was a kid, when I’d seen it on the news a lot as the line faced closure (which, thanks to a concerted campaign, never happened) and it certainly didn’t disappoint.

Ribblehead Viaduct

After crossing the railway line to begin the ascent of Whernside, the second and highest peak, the clouds began to roll in, and by the time we reached the top the heavens opened. Thankfully we were able to shelter behind a dry-stone wall at the top, taking the opportunity to fill up with jelly babies and lucozade to keep me going over the final stretch. Going down Whernside was the most fun part of the walk – it’s one long, steady drop the whole way to the valley, just steep enough to make running down most of the way an option.

The third and final peak was the toughest. After we crossed the valley we were faced with Ingleborough, and a near vertical climb up the side of the ridge. The track is more like a ladder here, and was a real scramble to get up, and narrow enough that you can’t really stop because of all the people behind you. It’s all worth it when you get to the top though – it’s not quite as high as Whernside, but as the clouds lifted when we reached the top, it soon became clear that it has the best of the views, across the Morecambe Bay & the Irish Sea in one direction, the peaks of the Lake District in another, and the view across to the other two peaks and the valley behind you.

As you can see, I was quite chuffed to have made it:

Me at the top of Ingleborough

After that it was literally downhill all the way back to the village, in glorious sunshine. My target was ten hours (you need to do it 12 to become an official member of the 3 peaks club) and I made it in nine and a half in the end. Clearly after that there was only one thing to do: head to the pub to celebrate in proper English style, over a few pints. The pub itself was hilarious – pretty much every customer had done the walk, so the entire place was full of people hobbling around in bare feet, all very glad the day was over.

It’s grim up north

Bingley. Keighley. Shipley. Skipton.

Nothing tells you you’re in the North more than the names of the towns. I can’t even say them in my head without slipping into a Yorkshire accent, and from there it’s a slippery slope to the rest of the southern stereotypes – mills, flat caps and general grimness.

As the train pulled out of Leeds on Friday night and the thickly-accented announcer called out the names of the stations all of the above came to mind. And then I remember I had “It’s Grim up North” on my iPod.

Probably one of the hardest techno songs ever to make the top 10, it was always one of my favourite dance tunes of the 90s – the deadpan delivery of the list of northern towns (including four of the stations my train would be stopping at) over a pounding beat and samples of industrial noises – it brought all the cliches neatly together.

The thing I’d forgotten about the record is the way an instrumental version of ‘Jerusalem’ gradually fights its way free of the beats and noise to end the song as a triumphal celebration of the North, and of course the train journey ended the same way – gradually the industrial landscapes fell away to be replaced by the rolling hills of the Yorkshire Dales. Less than an hour out of Leeds (and probably less than half an hour by car) to glorious landscape of a kind you’d have to travel hours from London to reach, which of course I just had.

Ultimately the joke was on me: I think Northerners want us to think it’s grim up there just to keep the place to themselves.

Am I mad?

I’ve just signed up to do the Yorkshire 3 Peaks Challenge on the weekend after next, which involves a 26 mile walk climbing the three highest peaks in Yorkshire in 12 hours.

I know I said in a previous post I was looking top push myself physically, however I’m concerned I’m being a little bit overconfident about my fitness! There’s still time for me to back out…