When In York, Ask An Expert…


I love knowing stuff, learning stuff, just generally putting more stuff in my brain. It seems to sort itself out in there and I can usually pull it out at will. Usually. So York is the perfect place if you like knowing stuff. And full of experts of all kinds.

First expert: The park and ride bus driver. I’ve never used the park and ride in to York centre before, so when the driver said, “Where to?” I answered, “I don’t know.” He sighed and just said to get off when everyone else gets off. Not a rule I generally stick to in life, but figured it would work quite well here. “1 adult, and are they half fares?” I asked, pointing at the three 12 year olds under my jurisdiction. They had already been primed, as usual, with an urgent whisper, “Whatever age I say you are, that’s what you are, Ok?”. They had duly put on their I’m-younger-than-I-look faces. “Under 16s are free.” “Oh!” said I, regretting not bringing more. I mean, if they’re free… As we got off, I asked the driver where we would catch the bus back. He raised a burly finger and pointed at this bus stop, with a look that said he knew I was clearly bottom set Navigational Skills.

Hungry from our 5 minute bus ride, we went to The York Roast Co. for one of their world famous Yorkypuds.20180410_125419211135671.jpgA stonking sized Yorkshire pudding filled with Sunday roast essentials, then furled up to make it manageable to eat. Like a Cornish pasty or Mexican wrap. But not. Better. Way better.

The owners are friendly and smiley. If you’re smiley at work then in you’re in the right job. We were offered an array of choices that seemed to require a gazillion and 17 buttons on the till. Beef, ham, turkey, pork – and goodly chunks of your choice. Gravy (vigorous nods from the girls); horseradish (look of horror); roast potatoes (Incredulity! Does anyone ever say no??); cranberry sauce, veg…..on and on it went. I added red cabbage slaw. Yes it does go with gravy. I am unclear why you would question it…

The owners said they used to be a sandwich shop but after quietly offering Yorkypuds from a teeny counter, the LADbible on Facebook changed everything. Yorkypuds went viral, queues snaked around the shop, they make 300 on a quiet day (our day) and 1000 on a Saturday. Not surprised. Yorkypud experts indeed. Here are our before and after pictures showing our satisfaction.


Fortified, but really ready for a post Sunday dinner snooze, we made our way to our rendez-vous to meet our next expert. At York art gallery is Richard (of York), no less – our walking tour guide. Now, I am a huge fan of a walking tour. And when there’s no human available I always grab the audio guides and when the children were little ensured they had one clasped to their ear. I love how you can see something innocuous, or even not notice something at all, but with facts and anecdotes streaming in your ear it comes alive. Makes you go ‘huh’ and want to ‘discuss further’ with the person next to you. Take this photo of one of the gates to the city walls. See the little door?20180410_1423361238941271.jpg

Hold on, I’ll give you a teeny clue.



Well, it’s a door where the town crier would come through to make his announcements. See how tiny it is? Only those of limited girth were employed. And that is what a good tour guide will do. Provide lots of mental blue arrows for you to recall whenever you want or need.

I chose the Association of Voluntary Guides To The City of York (avgyork) partly because they’re free (!) but partly because volunteers are keen and know their stuff. (If you go to Captain Cook’s museum in Whitby you’ll find a volunteer sitting quietly on a wooden chair in one of the rooms. Talk to them, volunteers love to impart their knowledge.)

Unusually for a Tuesday early in the year, two guides turned up, so me and the girls got to have our own personal city guide. For free! Walking tour heaven. I won’t recount the whole tour for you but here are a few snippets.

York has been invaded by pretty much everyone whose hobby it was to invade – Danes, Vikings, Saxons, Romans….The reason York has remained intact, compared to other places, is that it kept surrendering. Saying, take us but don’t ruin our city. Kind of like having a scrap but saying ‘Mind the face, not the face!’. So, for instance, it still has much of the castle wall.20180410_1846052032854669.jpg

The Victorians put in the walkway. In Roman times it would have been a single plank on stilts to shoot arrows from. The daffodils on the left were planted by school children in the 50s and 60s; a different scene from how the moat would originally have looked with sewage, food waste and the dead, purposely acting as a disincentive to invaders.

The tour also provided alternative views of beautiful York Minster. 20180410_1415271407936316.jpg

Richard (of York) adapted his tour to link in with the history that the girls are doing in school: The Battle of Hastings. So he talked about the Battle of Stamford Bridge nearby, for instance. I know! It’s as if I had a mild moment of parenting and actually planned a walking tour to support their education…. He also peppered his talk with ghost stories. Through The Shambles, York’s most popular street (7 million tourists a year can’t be wrong) which used to be a street of butchers, where the offal and blood would be tossed out into the street. The windowsills are deep so meat could be put out for display and some of the hooks for hanging meat are still evident.


We ended up at Whip-Ma-Whop-Ma-Gate. 3/4 of all the streets in York centre end in gate as it means street, and this is the smallest street in York.20180410_145413917474366.jpg

Richard (of York) horrified the girls with the meaning behind the name, but I’ll leave you to go on the tour to find out. They needed a good browse round the Harry Potter shops in The Shambles to recover. I bought fudge. I’ve been to York before. I’m not an expert but I know what works best.

I leave you with my favourite viewpoint of York. This is the way I would walk back to the car park as a teenager; this glimpse of York Minster showed me I was almost there. It reminds me now of the nice feeling of having had a good day’s shopping in York.



A Telephone Box Graveyard and Mining For Alans

Two photos. One of the luscious subtropical landscape in the Azores. I fell in love with these islands two years ago and it’s perhaps the only place outside the UK that I have ever felt a desire to live. A month later I visited North Yorkshire again. Looked up at the moors and said, ‘Oh!’. Did I need to fly over four hours out into the middle of the Atlantic Ocean to find a landscape that I could fall in love with? The other photo is taken just outside the quintessential North Yorkshire village of Ingleby Arncliffe, where I lived until I was 12. Which is which? It’s the verdant, rolling greens, that fall so easy on the eye, that make North Yorkshire so singular to the UK. A landscape that suspends the tension within you. That puts aside your weekly stresses and allows you to exhale. Exhale a breath you didn’t even know that you were holding.

And this is where I am today. With a tumble of 12 year olds in the back of my car we arrived in the North East from the South West today, making a beeline for Ingleby Arncliffe. But were tempted by a wonderful curiosity en route. In Carlton Moniott, near Thirsk, you will find what is dubbed The Red Phone Box Graveyard. Now this the kind of curiosity that we love. I’d give you specific directions but trust me you can’t miss it. It’s run by the lovely Mike, who seemed more than happy that I had randomly rang his doorbell and introduced myself, accompanied by Youngest Offspring and her two friends – Friend J and Friend P, all grinning broadly as he opened his front door. He refurbishes red telephone boxes, pillar boxes and lamp posts. (And I so want a lamp post now for my garden. One that will give the appearance that I perhaps live in Narnia.) He talked us through the K2 and K12 phone box, showed us how stamps used to be dispensed from the larger post boxes, and how he was evacuated during the war (I’m always a sucker for a war story). It was like a mini theme park. I asked if he was ok if I posted pictures about his wonderful place, he delightfully said yes. I did warn him that he might now have a lot more visitors…

Obviously this novel excitement brought on a hunger, so off we were to The Joiners Shop in Ingleby Cross (next to Ingleby Arncliffe). This quiet village was a veritable hive of activity with people coming and going from the new-ish-ly opened coffee shop-plus. The owner was lovely and humoured me generously as I wittered on about having grown up in the village. I think the photo of the gooey, gloopy interior of my praline brownie speaks for itself. Enlarge, lean in close and enjoy.

Then a full tum stomp up Roseberry Topping. It blows out the cobwebs after a long journey. This inviting hill is managed by the National Trust (and who doesn’t love the National Trust), stands at 320 metres high. And today took us 58 minutes to climb up and down. This included photo opportunities as well as a chat with a woman who was foraging for wild garlic. You immediately know where it is, as a rich, pungent scent hangs in the air.

Roseberry Topping used to have a sugarloaf shape, being formed from a geological fault, but in 1912 got its half cone shape due to a collapse because of mining nearby. I explained to the girls that alum and ironstone used to be mined. Alan?!! came the cry. They mined Alans?!! They have now left me with a Pythonesque image of the likes of Alan Partridge, Alan Davies and Alan Sugar being slowly unearthed just outside Great Ayton. Curls shaken to remove dust, shouts of Ah ha! ringing out. A scene that you could perhaps view from the summit, because on a clear day you can see for 40-50 miles.

So an interesting and diverse day today. As is the norm in North Yorkshire.

Blogging about North Yorkshire…the beginning…

A couple of years ago I was concerned for my youngest daughter’s well-being. I knew then that it was time. It was time to take her…Up North


A couple of streets away there is a man who says hello to everyone. He smiles, he chats, he props himself at the end of his front garden in the sunshine and engages passers-by in conversation. For years we would pass him, then one day, this aforementioned couple of years ago, my youngest daughter said,

Why does that man talk to us? He doesn’t even know us.’ (We live in the South West. I hear you saying ‘Ah’ now, with a tone of understanding.)

‘He’s a Geordie. Or a Mackem. No, I’m sure he’s not a Mackem. Definitely a Geordie.’

‘What’s a Geordie? Is it like a Mackam, cos that’s a good thing isn’t it? Cos you said George Clarke off the tv is a Mackem and you like him.’ (Blimey! You take one teeny, weeny, tiny look through every single picture on a man’s Instagram account and it’s never forgotten….)

I explain what a Geordie is. And one of the Laws of the North: do not ask a Geordie if they’re from Sunderland. And add a quick explanation that Mum isn’t a stalker, while I’m at it.

‘If you’re from the North baby, you talk to people, even if you don’t know them.’ She listens attentively to this new information. ‘You make eye contact as they approach and say hello to people you walk past or sit next to.’ She’s taken aback.

‘Should we do this whenever we go to London too then Mum?’

Now I’m taken aback! ‘No! Never in London babe. We would be arrested.’ She nods, recognising that this is a likely thing to happen in London.

But it’s made me realise that for the sake of my daughter’s well-being she needs to go Up North.

Her Northern ethnicity has, I’m ashamed to say, been overlooked. I mean, obviously, I’ve brought up both my children to be bilingual where I can. There have been some moments over the years of adequate parenting. They understand phrases such as, ‘Shut do-er lass! It’s bloomin’ cod!’ and ‘Let’s gan yam.’ But typically of children whose mother’s first language is not their own, they understand more than they can speak (in their accent-less voices). Yet her Northern ethnicity really is the one that runs deepest. It is created in utero, clearly. Perhaps lying dormant, until awoken by perfect moments such as this. The need to go Up North, the need to know where you’re ‘from’, to be among your own. To be among people who will not have you arrested if you maintain eye contact for more than 1 nanosecond.

And more than this, was a desire to quench her continual thirst for all things ocean. From the age of 7, she’s known she wanted to be a marine biologist, so where better to take her than North Yorkshire Heritage coast, where you find the country’s greatest beaches.

So, with this need to nurture her mental well-being, about a year ago I took Youngest Offspring (now age 12) Up North. Oldest Offspring (age 16) declined the invitation, barely looking up from her laptop. I tried to entice her on our second visit, showing her photos of our first. ‘This is Roseberry Topping babe. It’s great fun.’ You can hear the enthusiasm for the Yorkshire hill in my voice, can’t you?

Roseberry Topping

‘It’s pretty,’ she reluctantly admitted. ‘What does it ‘do’?’ Tap, tap, tap of her keyboard, as she continued to hack in to the US Pentagon, or whatever it is that she does in her room.

‘It doesn’t do anything baby. You climb it. It’s an iconic hill. Iconic! As a child I’d be always going up it with Gramps and Oma.’ She simply raised an eyebrow at the word ‘climb’, paused momentarily from her tapping to enlarge the photo and peer at all the mud. Silence as she simply looked at the mud, then me, and back to the sloppy, wet mud. ‘That’s one of the best bits…,’ I said feebly. I knew I needed to come back next time with pictures of urban conurbations. I did, and she is now even considering a Northern University as one of her choices for degree. Success. In utero…it was always there.

Now I go up regularly from the South West to the North East, to North Yorkshire where I grew up, rediscovering its beauty and helping my daughter have marine biology experiences, that she wouldn’t otherwiserwise have in our landlocked town. I’ve been posting on Facebook, providing mild entertainment to maybe two and a half readers, some have now even travelled up and loved the North as a result. I thought perhaps if I write a blog there might be another half reader out there who would feel equally drawn to visit North Yorkshire and fall in love with it. My blog posts will be mostly about North Yorkshire, but there will be obvious spillage into the North East as a whole. How could there not be? There is so much to see – vast stretches of beach; rainbow streaked waterfalls; rich, deep history; stunning architecture; the cool, the quirky and the curious. So many things that can only be found in the North East. And all those people you’ll want to make eye contact with.


  1. Mackem: Person from Sunderland. Usually thought to originate from the phrase ‘we make ’em an’ they take ’em’. Referring to ships built and taken down the river to sea.
  2. Geordie – the term is usually thought to have derived from the name George. A common name among pitmen.
  3. Shut do-er lass! It’s bloomin’ cod! = Please could you shut the door darling. It’s really rather cold.
  4. Let’s gan yam = Let us be away home….