The North Yorkshire dawn chorus begins. Birds of all kinds ease me into consciousness as the sun begins to rise above the horizon, bringing light to the valley below. I wake to the sound of … wait a minute. That’s not birds I hear now, it’s the pack of dogs at the farmhouse down the hill that begin to bark incessantly as soon as they are let out in the morning. Ah yes, it has its charm, but I definitely prefer birds singing to dogs barking!
North Yorkshire seems to me to exist in a bygone era, where people shop every day in their local shop and say nice things to their neighbours. Up North we have noticed a scarcity of what the Brits call Superstores – the huge supermarkets in purpose-built buildings on the outskirts of towns that toll the death knell for independent shopkeepers – and it’s very refreshing.
In the parts of North Yorkshire that we have visited, anyway, people seem to be in less of a hurry. There are fewer cars racing up behind you on the windy and hilly moors roads until they can overtake you; there are more people ready to say hello and pass the time of day with a stranger. There are more little, local pubs that still function as they did in the 19th century, even though they are now welcoming 21st century tourists on whirlwind tours.
One of the finest examples of this bygone status is the daily presence of the North Yorkshire Moors Railway and its steam locomotives chugging across the Esk Valley on the Whitby to Pickering line. Lovingly restored to their original glory by passionate volunteers, these heritage steam engines and wooden passenger carriages travel through the North Yorkshire Moors National Park as they seemingly travel through time.
Goathland station brings travellers back in time or into a world of fantasy since this station features as Aidensfield in the cult TV show Heartbeat as well as representing Hogsmeade in two of the Harry Potter films, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, and Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.
While J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books take one to a different world, so the Heartbeat TV series takes one back to that bygone, friendly, innocent era. I quivered with delight as I heard the theme song from the TV series being played live as I stepped off the train at Goathland aka Aidensfield station. It was the Swinging Sixties special event on the railway that day and some passengers and rail staff dressed the part, much to our amusement.
We seem to have taken the North Yorkshire Moors Railway quite a few times this week, including a trip to the delightful market town of Pickering. We weren’t expecting to find much outside the station, but we were very pleasantly surprised to find yet another place where time seems to stand still. Independent shops line the high street, including a proper florist’s, a jeweller’s and a bakery. Not a superstore in sight.
Our intrepid canine rail enthusiasts accompanied us as usual, so we needed a dog-friendly lunch stop. The White Swan Inn proved the perfect halt for us as it has for many a tired and hungry coach and rail traveller since its origins in the 16th century. The lunch menu read like many a Michelin star restaurant’s dinner offerings and we would happily have ordered three or four courses each. That same evening we would be splurging on our Seventh Day of Christmas meal so we decided to be reasonable and opted for the Swan Ploughman’s lunch. This was billed quite simply as “Yorkshire cheeses, meats, homemade chutneys & relishes” and it was the best ploughman’s either of us had ever eaten. Slices of fine York ham and beef accompanied a rich and tasty ham hock terrine. The intricate tastes of an apple and mustard seed chutney were offset by a tomato, sultana and cinnamon relish and a zingy piccalilli. Four cheeses satisfied our palates with their varied and complementary tastes. Many thanks to Chefs Darren Clemmit and Carl Muscroft for such a delicious lunch. This is certainly an address we will return to so we can try their other offerings.
Next door to The White Swan Inn is Feast Pickering, their recently-opened offshoot café, gourmet delicatessen and cook shop where “A little bit of what you fancy does you good.” It certainly did! I was thrilled to find there the same black pudding I had seen Mike Robinson cooking the night before when ITV’s Countrywise was in North Yorkshire. I was even happier to find some real Yorkshire Chorizo!
But what about my trusty Thermomix? It served us well yet again, whipping up some Bolognese sauce for our spaghetti dinner one night, and some really fab Yorkshire puddings (what else? We’re in Yorkshire!) on another. It’s so helpful to be able to relax and take a load off our weary travellers’ feet while Thermomix makes dinner for us.
Bon appétit !