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A Glimpse Of Yorkshire

By Susan Claremont-Smith
8th November, 2012


A charming surprise met us as our coach rolled into the car park.  Squeezed between two modern buildings were the remains of an old windmill joining them and forming the hotel. The Britannia Leeds Hotel’s name didn’t give credit to the past history of the building and, I think, a mistake.  When first built in the early 1960’s it was called the Windmill Hotel. Perhaps the new owners have other plans for its name since it was only purchased from the Ramada Jarvis chain of hotels at the beginning of the year. Refurbishments were in progress, this wasn’t a problem but definitely necessary. Only on one morning of our four there could construction sounds be heard from a function room at the back of the restaurant.

Mealtimes were buffet style. Three choices for three courses were on offer for evening dinner. Not terribly exciting, but tasty, plentiful and hot, and good value when considering the price of the holiday. We enjoyed a full English breakfast every morning, although this was not perfect, the quality could perhaps be improved upon by cutting down on the wide selection provided.  The worst part was warm, slippery fried eggs, but the black pudding was scrumptious. Well, it wasn’t a bad start to each day anyway and further enhanced by the smiley, efficient staff.

Day one. York. I had visited the town years ago and always vowed I would go back. I still feel the same, as the city was magnificent and one day isn’t long enough to take everything in.  Walking from the bus, waves of relaxing street music greeted us and with the sun on our backs York Minster, the largest Gothic cathedral in Northern Europe came into view. It was an impressive architectural photo opportunity. We looked briefly inside, but decided not to do the tour, as we didn’t want to miss out on the rest of the city. Into the town, which way should we go? All of the lanes and shops looked inviting. The Shambles.  Yes, a place talked about frequently and so unlike its name. Numerous, timber crossed shops with crooked walls, windows and doors, more befitting to a period theatrical show  set at Christmas time. A small market too, in a quadrangle at the back of more shops, including Marks and Spencers. We shouldn’t have gone in, it was quite large and our time would have been spent better exploring York. Although it was lovely to have time to browse, a luxury usually denied us with the hustle and bustle of our life at home.

York Minster

With map clasped in front of us, we headed through the crowds in search of the Jorvik Viking Centre, which we had planned on visiting, but on arrival decided it would take too long for the time left in York. Our coach was collecting us in a couple of hours’ time, but we should have thought about  finding our own way back to the hotel later, as it was a missed opportunity and disappointing. Well, at least we had the chance to find the National Railway Museum. There is something intriguing about trains and after a brisk walk we were delighted by the display of old and new locomotives we found there. Admission was surprisingly by donation, as there were a hundred vehicles and even more items of rolling stock depicting railway history from the early 19th century up to today.  Rockets, royal saloons, wagons, trolleys, carriages, steam and electric engines and The Wizard Express was most impressive, now in retirement after its journeying to and fro Hogwarts School.  There was so much for all to see from enchanting old trains to revolutionary modern ones.

Our second day was the most fascinating. I love literature and Haworth village was so inspiring in many ways. Even the cold damp weather seemed to add to the drama of the place. The coach dropped us off at the bottom of the hill, drizzle glazed the cobbles defining the shops on either side, which we tried to ignore; we were on a mission to find the parsonage Museum, home of the Bronte’s. Straight to the top and through the church yard where a chill seeped in under dark trees, thank goodness it was midday. Tombstones were ancient, each one telling a tragic story, the cemetery itself had been closed in queen Victoria’s time due to pollution caused by excessive burials poisoning the water supply. The thought was grim.

A sliver of sunlight chinked through the clouds as we walked along the lane towards the Bronte Parsonage Museum. So pretty and welcoming, it was easy to imagine it in 1820 when Patrick and Maria Bronte moved their family of six to the house. Many rooms were full of displays and relics collected over the years belonging to them all. Mrs Bronte, along with her two elder children, Maria and Elizabeth died within a few years, but Charlotte, Emily, Anne and Branwell did most of their writing in the dining room.  Some of their stories were entwined from the time of their childhood. I joined the other visitors there, but wished I was alone. I breathed in, closed my eyes and felt the atmosphere of stories created, imagining the siblings as they walked around the table reading their novels, Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, maybe asking one another’s opinion and whether certain scenes worked. I imagined Charlotte’s sadness reading aloud later after Emily and Anne had died too.  A portrait of Charlotte hangs above the mantelpiece, whilst a plaster medallion portrait of Branwell, gazes down on the visitors, but he, also a talented artist met a premature end after a disreputable life in 1848.

We made a few purchases in the gift shop and then ambled back down the hill reminiscent of the Hovis advert that the driver thought was filmed in Haworth, although that was questionable. Wedged between bric -a-brac, craft, book and healing oils retailers was a little store called the smallest shop, jammed with tiny paraphernalia and inexpensive products aimed at younger customers. Another shop in need of further investigation was The Old Apothecary, home of Rose & Co, selling bath and beauty products. They have an online shop which looks fascinating and will give me the chance to buy romantic and vintage inspired goods I didn’t have time to see whilst there.  There was also a guest house there with views across the moors and I think a place to head for in the future.

It was a packed day and Skipton was next on the list of places to see.  We weren’t disappointed and enjoyed the roadside market, which really did have some irresistible quality bargains. It would have been a good chance to do some early Christmas shopping, but our minds weren’t fast forwarded to the festive season at the time and there was another stop of the day to fit in too.

 It was cosy back on the coach, but we were very thirsty so the public house featuring in Emmerdale seemed a good idea even though we aren’t great soap opera lovers. By now the rain was spiralling down and the gentle Autumnal scented breeze had been dashed away. Huddled under our umbrella we ran down the hill into Esholt on the outskirts of Bradford. The village is no longer used for exterior location filming, but true fans of the series like to see where the series originated from. Just like many of the others we took photographs outside the Woolpack Inn (previously called the Navigation, but renamed to fit in with the television series). That was after we had been inside of course, and my husband had sampled the local beer.

The day had a very rushed feel to it and one of the latter drop offs could have been missed out to give longer in one of the earlier locations with more time to relax.

Holmfirth was a longer drive away from the hotel on the third day and the scenery was beautiful through to West Yorkshire and the Peak District. Roads spidered out from the town centre, there was plenty to see. The BBC television programme Last of the summer Wine was filmed there and unlike Emmerdale Farm we were interested. The tourist information centre was nearby, they provided a map and we were soon outside Nora Batty’s cottage. Next door was a tearoom called The Wrinkled Stocking named after the character’s unglamorous attire. The toasted teacakes were the biggest and best we have ever tasted and all served up on unique china portraying the tearoom’s namesake.  It’s not usual to mention the toilet, but it fascinated me here, a reminder of my 1960’s childhood and still left in original retro style.

The Last of the Summer Wine exhibition next door was small but worth a visit, we laughed a lot recalling some of the episodes from thirty-nine years displayed with props and memorabilia, including the inventions devised by the characters with photographs from the series. Most were collated by Bill Owen, who played Compo, my favourite character.  His love of the town and the series was so great that he requested his burial to be there, he died in 1999, some people visited the grave, but we gave that a miss. Instead we enjoyed a walk around town,   interspersed with low bridges spanning narrow rivers where independent shops dominated and the indoor market was welcome on a chilly day.

What a great way to finish our short break.  The next day we would be heading home,   a long journey, but time to read, chat and plan our next mini British adventure away.


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