Category Archives: Places

Newark Castle

Newark, a market town in Nottinghamshire, grew up during the early 10th century as a strategic gateway to Northern England, sitting as it did on the intersection of the Great North Road and the Fosse Way, a Roman road built in the 1st century AD. Its castle has featured in some of the most tumultous times in English history and was besieged five times during the Baronial Wars and English Civil War. It is mostly ruined, but its prominent position as you enter the town means that it’s still very much a tourist attraction and despite the drizzle definitely worth a look around!

Entering the Castle gardens

Entering the Castle gardens

Alexander, Bishop of Lincoln, had a stone castle constructed on the site of an earlier motte and bailey castle next to the river Trent in the early 12th century. King John died in the castle in October 1216 and after his death it was kept by one of his men against the orders of the new king, Henry III. That defiance resulted in the first siege of the castle – for eight days – until the castle was surrendered to the king.

Newark Castle 2

The castle was rebuilt towards the end of the 13th century with a new curtain wall. In the 15th and 16th centuries fireplaces were added and windows enlarged and glazed as it became more of a place of residence than a defensive stronghold. It had been owned by the Church but in 1547 it passed into private ownership under Henry VIII’s Reformation.

Newark Castle 3

Newark was a Royalist stronghold during the English Civil War, and the castle was besieged three times, finally surrendering in 1646 on the orders of Charles I. Parliamentarian forces had been ordered to destroy the castle, but the plague had broken out in Newark and the order was not fully carried out.

Newark Castle 4

The public gardens within the walls were laid out for Queen Victoria’s Jubilee, opening in 1889.

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Bailey Hill in spring

Bailey Hill can look a bit on the bleak side in winter but at this time of year (after plenty of rain!) everything’s looking much more verdant.

The motte at Bailey Hill

The motte at Bailey Hill

Something I never get over coming here is how quiet and peaceful it is. Being set high on the hill, and slightly off the beaten track, there’s something curiously timeless about it.

Path behind the bailey embankment

Path behind the bailey embankment

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The Monsal Trail from Millers Dale

The Monsal Trail in the Peak District is a 8.5 mile-long trail from Bakewell to Wyedale running along the former Midland Railway line, which closed in 1968. To create the current Trail, four tunnels along the route were renovated and reopened in 2011, with access ramps and lighting to create a safe and relatively level trail for walkers, cyclists, and horseriders. The Trail follows the course of the river Wye, taking in some spectacular scenery alongside reminders of the history of the Peaks.

The disused station at Millers Dale

The disused station at Millers Dale

Millers Dale is a valley (and tiny hamlet) on the B6049 between Tideswell and the A6. Much of the area is designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest and it’s a popular spot for visitors, with the car park at the now-disused station filling up rapidly on busy days!

At one time there were five platforms at Millers Dale, and the station seems very large for such a small hamlet. The reason for this is quite simple however – anyone wishing to travel to the spa town of Buxton had to change here. At one time this was an extremely busy line with both passenger and freight traffic, but the Beeching Report of 1962 sounded the death knell for the Midland Railway line. There’s some great information about the glory days of Millers Dale and the Midland Railway here.

Disused railway building next to the Trail

Disused railway building next to the Trail

The station building itself is now a visitor centre, providing toilet facilities and refreshments. Pay and display parking is available – there isn’t really anywhere else to park in Millers Dale as the hamlet is built into the sides of the valley. I’d suggest arriving early at weekends and during holiday periods, but generally it’s reasonably quiet. From the station the visitor has a choice of heading east or west along the Trail. Taking the eastern route leads down to the Chee Tor tunnels (1 & 2).

Chee Tor tunnel 1

Chee Tor tunnel 1

The tunnels are lit dawn to dusk but the Park Authority do recommend taking a torch if you’re there early or late in the day, as the lights are sensor-activated. The level of lighting inside the tunnel is good and the tunnel is wide enough not to be too claustrophobic.

The Trail gives some excellent views

The Trail gives some excellent views, even in miserable weather!

Not far from Millers Dale stand the East Buxton Lime Kilns. Cut into solid rock, the Lime Works was opened in 1880, with the concrete buttresses added in the 1920s. Limestone was brought in from nearby quarries and hauled up an incline to the kilns to produce quicklime, which was then shipped out by rail. At one time the kilns produced over 50 tonnes of quicklime a day.

East Buxton Lime Kilns

East Buxton Lime Kilns

The last kiln closed in 1944, and today the site is a nature reserve. The kilns can be viewed from the Trail, and a short walk up an incline takes you to the top of the Works where the limestone was brought in.

The Monsal Trail is a great route for a day out walking or cycling – bikes can be hired at either end of the Trail at Hassop or Blackwell Mill. It’s not a particularly challenging route, the path is wide and well-cleared, there are accessible facilities, and there’s plenty to explore in the surrounding area too.

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Mam Tor and the A625

Once upon a time (1819, to be exact), a road was built. What became the A625 headed westwards out of Sheffield, through Hathersage and Castleton in the Hope Valley, and wound its way across the Mam Tor landslip to finally arrive in Chapel-en-le-Frith. The Mam Tor routing replaced an ancient (and much steeper) cart route through Winnats Pass.

There was, however, a minor problem – the landslip. Mam Tor has been on the move for thousands of years, and it wasn’t long before the road had to be repaired. And then repaired again. And again.

Looking back over the Hope Valley from what remains of the A625

Looking back over the Hope Valley from what remains of the A625

In the 1970s a huge landslip meant that major repairs were needed but finally, in 1979, Derbyshire County Council admitted defeat and the road was abandoned. Today, Winnats Pass is the only (and very unsuitable) direct route out of the western end of the Hope Valley, but the remains of the old A625 have become a tourist attraction in their own right.

Usually, when we walk at Mam Tor, we park at Mam Nick and take the usual routes to the summit, but this weekend we decided to explore the old road instead, and it was definitely an experience!

Collapsed road at Mam Tor

Collapsed road at Mam Tor

As with any walk in the Peak District, particularly around Castleton at the weekend, my advice is to get there early, before the crowds appear. There’s plenty of parking along the old road up to and around the bus turning circle by Odin’s Mine, a disused lead mine at the foot of Mam Tor (please note that the mine is dangerous and shouldn’t be entered). Just head up the road and very soon you will start to see the signs of movement – the fissures in the road surface, the crumbling edges – before you round a corner and suddenly realise exactly why the road had to be closed!

Collapsed section of the old A625

Collapsed section of the old A625

The walk up the road isn’t bad going – just watch your step in places. The road brings you out by Blue John Cavern (or you can, if you’re feeling adventurous, strike out for the Mam Tor summit on your right). Otherwise there’s a very pleasant descent via a footpath heading east from Blue John Cavern that brings you out by Treak Cliff Cavern.

View of Back Tor and Lose Hill from Blue John Cavern

View of Back Tor and Lose Hill from Blue John Cavern

Whether you do the walk as a stand-alone or incorporate it into a longer walk/day trip, the old A625 is definitely worth a look as a reminder of just how unforgiving nature can be!

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Scarborough

 

Luna Park, Scarborough

Luna Park, Scarborough

Scarborough is one of my favourite places in Yorkshire and not just because of childhood nostalgia (my grandparents used to take me on day trips there when I was a child). On a sunny day the beaches are glorious and there’s plenty to see and do in the town itself and surrounding countryside, particularly if you have an interest in history.

South Beach, Scarborough

South Beach, Scarborough

Scarborough has been inhabited for a long time – the rocky headland housed a Bronze Age settlement and the Romans built a signalling station on the same site in 370AD to warn of Saxon raiding parties. The town itself was founded by the Danes in 966AD but in 1066 the army of the Norwegian king Harald Hardrada razed Scarborough and killed many of its inhabitants.

Plaque in the grounds of Scarborough Castle

Plaque in the grounds of Scarborough Castle

Despite the destruction, Scarborough’s position on the coast and the attraction of its easily-defended headland, meant that it was too valuable to be left in ruins. The town was rebuilt, receiving its first charter from Henry I in 1100, and construction of a castle began around 1136. The keep – which still stands – was built in 1158 by Henry II, and the town began to flourish. By the 14th century Scarborough housed around 2,500 people.

The English Civil War saw the castle under siege twice, in 1645 and 1648. After the parliamentary army captured the castle for the second time they partially demolished it to prevent the royalists using it again.

The legacy of the English Civil War

The legacy of the English Civil War

In the 18th and 19th centuries Scarborough became a spa town and a popular seaside resort, especially when it was connected to the then very-new railway network in 1845. Sea air and bathing in sea water were considered healthy by the Victorians and particularly recommended for convalescence. Anne Bronte, like many of those afflicted with TB at that time, came to Scarborough in the hope of curing the disease  but sadly died soon after. She is buried in the churchyard.

Anne Bronte's grave in Scarborough

Anne Bronte’s grave in Scarborough

Scarborough castle is now owned by English Heritage and is well worth a visit. The town is fairly easy to get around but, be warned, it is a steep climb up to the castle and parts of the town!

Scarborough 04

Parking in Scarborough is not particularly easy and the A64 can be one long traffic jam of caravans in holiday weeks and Bank Holidays. The Park and Ride is highly recommended! Alternatively there are trains via York, including – in summer months – the Scarborough Spa Express heritage steam train via Leeds, Wakefield, and York.

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Robin Hood and Jane Eyre

Hathersage 1 A first-time visitor to the Peak District could do much worse than starting out in the historic village of Hathersage, with its wealth of history and easy access to glorious countryside, but every now and then I get reminded that it’s worth repeat visiting too – not just a waypoint on a journey to somewhere else!

The Robin Hood connection comes from Little John of Hathersage, buried in the churchyard. The Peak District is littered with sites linked to Robin Hood (Sherwood Forest in those days would have stretched far further north than it does now) and Loxley, to the west of Sheffield and just eight miles from Hathersage, is often cited as his birthplace.

The Jane Eyre connection is slightly better-documented: in 1845 Charlotte Bronte came to stay at the vicarage and Hathersage would provide rich pickings for inspiration. The surname Eyre was that of a prominent local family, and other local landmarks became incorporated into Jane Eyre.

With plenty of facilities (including an outdoor swimming pool), Hathersage makes a good base for a day out or a longer stay in the Peaks, with easy access to the Hope Valley and the Upper Derwent Valley.

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Balloch Castle, Scotland

Balloch Castle 2

Balloch Castle was constructed in 1808 by John Buchanan of Ardoch to replace a ruined castle originally built by the Earl of Lennox in 1238. Standing on the shores of Loch Lomond, Balloch Park has been a Country Park since 1981, and became part of the Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park in 2002.

Balloch Castle 1

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Tantallon Castle

Tantallon 1

The first time I ever visited Tantallon Castle in East Lothian, Scotland, I was the first and only visitor of the day at 3pm, although this may have had something to do with the gale-force winds and torrential rain that made climbing the towers a distinctly exciting experience!

Luckily, the second time I visited the weather was a lot more conducive to looking around and taking in more than sea spray, and I’m glad I went back because Tantallon is truly stunning. Built by the Douglas family in the 14th century, the huge 50 foot curtain wall and towering cliffs provided a formidable fortress.

Tantallon 2

Tantallon was eventually destroyed in 1651 by Oliver Cromwell’s army but a surprising amount of the castle still remains, including some of the living quarters. The climb to the top of the curtain wall is hard-going (and can be treacherous in wet or icy weather) but it’s worth it for the incredible views.

Tantallon 3

Tantallon is signposted from the A19 and there is a car park, although the castle itself is reached via a footpath that can be very muddy in wet weather. Good footwear and a warm coat are essential!  The visitor centre sells souvenirs and a guidebook.

Tantallon 4

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Conwy Castle

Conwy 1

I never seem to have enough time to spend at Conwy Castle but it’s one of my favourite castles in the UK. Built by Edward I in the 13th century as part of an “iron ring of castles” to subdue the rebellious Welsh, Conwy still dominates the surrounding landscape.

While the interior of the castle is not as complete as Caernarfon, Conwy is well worth a visit.

Conwy 2

Conwy 3

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Seawards

Lifeboat 2

Another Whitby-related post (if you couldn’t tell, it’s one of my favourite places!), this time about a local man, Henry Freeman, and a famous rescue.

Henry Freeman was born in Bridlington in 1835, the son of a brickmaker. In his teens he worked as a farm labourer in Flamborough before moving to Whitby when he was 20. By 1861, Henry was working as a fisherman. During a huge storm on 9th February 1861, Henry joined the Whitby lifeboat crew as they carried out 5 launches to save the crews from stricken ships, despite having no previous experience. On the final launch, in heavy seas, the lifeboat overturned and Henry was the sole survivor.

Freeman

[Attribution: Frank Meadow Sutcliffe and The Sutcliffe Gallery]

Undeterred by his brush with death, Henry continued to work as a fisherman throughout the 1860s as well as participating in the occasional lifeboat rescue. In 1877 he was appointed Coxswain of the Whitby lifeboat, the Robert Whitworth.

On 28th October October 1880 the Robert Whitworth launched 4 times to rescue the crews of ships caught in another severe storm off the North Yorkshire coast. Henry Freeman was awarded a silver clasp to add to the RNLI medal he had received for the 1861 rescues.

But Henry’s most famous rescue came in January 1881, when the brig Visitor was wrecked off Robin Hood’s Bay during a severe storm. Jermyn Cooper, vicar of Fylingdales, sent an urgent telegram to the Whitby Harbourmaster asking for assistance, but the lifeboat could not leave Whitby harbour because of the appalling weather conditions. Onlookers at Robin Hood’s Bay could only watch helplessly as Visitor slowly broke up and her crew took to its single, small boat.

With a launch from Whitby impossible, the decision was made to take the Robert Whitworth to Robin Hood’s Bay overland instead – dragged by horses six miles across country while hundreds of men, women, and children dug through snowdrifts with shovels and cleared walls and hedgerows to create a path for the lifeboat.

Appeal for memorabilia of historic Whitby lifeboat rescue

Their heroic efforts paid off: the Robert Whitworth was carried from Whitby to Robin Hood’s Bay in 3 hours, and successfully launched to save the crew of the Visitor.

Henry Freeman retired as coxswain in 1899, after 22 years service, and died in 1904. His memorial can be seen on the seaward wall of Whitby Lifeboat Station, where you can also see the current Whitby lifeboat, George and Mary Webb – very different from the open rowing boats used in Henry’s day!

Lifeboat 3

The RNLI do an amazing job – the volunteers who risk their own lives to save others are the sort of people who really restore my faith in human nature.

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