Peter, my husband, and I have just returned from a break in York with dear friends who live there. Julia and Chris owned the first house we lived in during a Spanish Idyll but we became and remain firm friends so it has been a wonderful time making new memories to share.
We left our home in the South last Sunday to drive to the North East passing through several counties including Gloucestershire, Warwickshire (Shakespeare Country) driving a good distance on the Fosse Way originally built by the Romans and on through parts of the country we’ve not visited before. This will seem odd to many of you in the US which is vast but many of us in Britain think driving more than 150 miles in one day is a long way! The journey itself was a trip through history as we passed industrial towns which were formerly the base of our manufacturing wealth, stretches of farm land with sleepy villages then bustling towns, many of which have altered the landscape. The countryside is in full June glory helped by the unseasonable amount of rain we’ve had but once we arrived in York the sun shone. Apart from Monday morning, by the sea in Scarborough where it poured down, the sun shone until we got home last night.
York is famous for many things but the Minster dominates the skyline and continues to be the hub of the area. The Romans were there, so lots of information including an excellent museum. The chocolate trade was a huge source on wealth with names like Rowntree and Terry employing many people now diminished but still in business. I will not write much of the historical background but just give some useful links at the end.
Monday we drove to Scarborough, originally developed by the Victorians as a seaside resort, but also with a castle that defended the North from invading hoards. Today the castle is a ruin but the town continues to attract daytime visitors and offers a great base for walking the Yorkshire Dales. Once the rain had stopped and we dried out we had a fish and chip lunch in a restaurant that was built in 1883 retaining many of the original features including stained glass windows and huge mirrors. The food was definitely up to date with a wide range of fish indicative of the influences of various cuisines such as Thai. We stuck to good old fish and chips with mushy peas! Suitably revived we walked along the beach to walk off lunch and enjoy the bracing sea air. We drove back over the Yorkshire Dales which are breathtaking especially in autumn when the heather becomes a carpet of purple. We were exhausted by the time we got back home so wandered to the local pub to revive!.
Julia and Chris live 10 minutes walk from the centre of the city so we spent Tuesday doing the tourist bit, walking the Walls, visiting the Minster, wandering the Shambles (small streets surrounding the Minster) that originally formed the medieval heart of the city but today still has a thriving market. The Minster is the venue for a huge Mystery Play so access was restricted but we managed to get some photos although the colours of the great Rose Window are faded in the photo. In the Crypt many of the old Roman columns are preserved as well as carvings and statues. I realised again the impact of the Dissolution in Henry VII’s time and the Civil War had on our religious iconography. The weight of history and peace seemed to emphasise the turbulent times we are experiencing in the World today. The Rowntree Family were philanthropists who supported their workforce and the town including a peaceful park which runs along the River Ouze in the centre of town. A haven of beautiful flowers and trees but well used by the community and families. We had a river cruise through the centre which once was a bustling port but now has converted warehouse that are hotels and apartments with the original names on the side. It felt very cosmopolitan with bars and cafes full of tourists but people carry on their daily lives. Julia and I walked round to their allotment in the heart of the city, a which was a delight to see such a community busy growing fruit and veg together. I meant to show a photo for you gardening enthusiasts but not possible. In the evening we had a meal with Julia’s sister and friends. They are all musicians and were preparing for an Open Mike rock gig so we were the audience in their house.e Fantastic! So talented, wonderful end to our York visit.
We were up early Wednesday to drive to Lichfield, to our National Memorial Arboretum. The site is still under development but was so moving and emotional. We met various old soldiers and their families who were paying tribute to their relatives who died serving our country. One of the most moving places for me was the memorial to those who were shot for cowardice Shot At Dawn. 360 wooden stakes are placed in the ground near the spot where dawn rises, each one inscribed with the name and regiment of each person on the stake, many have age unknown which denoted they were under 16 when they joined up. Many were from the commonwealth too, 17 year olds ranging up to men in their 40s. History has proved many of them were suffering from shock not cowardice but now they too are remembered. I was emotionally and physically exhausted by this visit which ended for us in the Millennium Chapel which is for all faiths to pray and remember. A carving named The Storyteller expressed hope for the future.
We started off home yesterday but stopped in Lichfield to visit the Minster. Again an amazing space, I am continually awed by the skill of generations of craftsmen to built these great edifices. They remain a testament to the resilience and strength of mankind despite the trials we face. All faiths and creeds are welcome and gain from the experience. A thoughtful few days which today ended in a major shift for us in Britain, a step into the unknown but as we have seen this week life does move on and change is often good eventually. I was unsure I would get this post done, it feels a bit unprepared sorry. Thank you all for contributing a level in my life which is so special.