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Yorkshire A week in Pickering, June 2021


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“We’ve booked a holiday cottage in Pickering for summer half term - do you want to come too Grandma?”

How could I refuse!! Not only would it give me a week with the grandsons, I also really enjoy the area. Pickering is a delightful thriving town with a lot going for it.

We stopped at Platform 2 and 3/4, a stone built terrace cottage on Park Street and opposite the Railway station - an ideal position for a Grandson 1 who is train mad. The railway theme continued in the cottage with pictures and railway artefacts.


The house is well furnished and sleeps six. It also allows dogs. At the front is a lounge with large comfy settees, TV and wood burner (although we didn’t need that in June). There is a separate dining room with large table which was soon taken over by the boys, The kitchen is modern with dish washer, gas hob and oven. There is plenty of crockery and cooking utensils.

At the back is a small private yard with washing line and a small area of artificial grass with table and chairs for al fresco eating.

Bedrooms are reached up a rather steep stair case and, unlike the ground floor, are minimalistic with restricted hanging and storage space in some of the rooms. The front room can get quite a bit of traffic noise, particularly if the window is open.

The bathroom is compact with an over the bath shower. Although the bottom of the bath does have a non slip surface, it can still be slippy with wet feet and there is no non slip bath mat.

There is restricted parking directly opposite which is useful for unpacking and repacking the car. The cottage provides a free pass for the car park near Lidl.

The cottage is an excellent location with Co-op and Lidl a short walk away. The shops are just round the corner and Pickering is a thriving service centre for the area with a lot of local shops including two butchers, green grocer, fishmonger and excellent baker (Russell’s). This opens at 7.30 so is a good place for stocking up for lunch. Their small meat pies are excellent although the sausage rolls did have a bit too much garlic for my taste. The double choc chip slice is definitely recommended!



There is also a very good chippie too that does take aways as well as eat in.


We had planned I would spend three days doing things together and the other three days, when they were planning on longer walks, I would explore by myself using the very good bus service.

We all had a great week. The rain from the previous week was replaced by wall to wall sunshine and temperatures well into the 20˚s. In fact some days it was too hot to want to do much...
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Saturday - Eden Camp

We planned to spend the day at Eden Camp on the outskirts of Malton, before arriving in Pickering. This was originally a Prisoner of War Camp built to accommodate Italian and German POWs in World War 2. It is now a Modern History Theme Museum, where visitors ‘step back in time and experience WW2’.

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The huts have been restored and now house a series of displays illustrating different aspects of WW2, (complete with smells, light and sound effects) beginning with the rise of the Nazi party to VJ day.

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This was a real highlight of the holiday for Grandson 2 who prefers history to steam locos... He was far from convinced by living conditions, rationing and lack of modern technology.


The cramped conditions of life in a German U-Boat were cool.


He was intrigued by the air raid shelters and impressed by all the army vehicles and guns around the site.



We finished off in the Chapel of Remembrance and gave thanks.


There really is something for everyone, including a children’s play area. There is a one way system through the huts and almost too much information to take in. To read and take in all the information in just one hut could easily take a couple of hours. This visit was very much an ‘over view’. To do the camp justice, you need to revisit and concentrate on just a few huts to prevent overload. It really does make for a good day out. there is lots more information and pictures here.
Sunday - Helmsley Castle and the walk to Rievaulx Abbey

This was a joint day. We drove to Helmsley and first stop was Thomas the Bakers for a second breakfast for the boys,after they saw an 'A' board advertising a special deal of bacon bun and a cup of tea. Dad never says no to a cuppa...

We visited the ruins of the castle (#3) This was built in the C13th with a later chamber block giving much more comfortable accommodation. It only ever saw any military action in the Civil War when it was besieged for three months by the Parliamentary troops and only surrendered when food ran out. It was then slighted to prevent further military use.


The castle had two entrances, either from the north or the south east, both guarded ditch, ramparts and drawbridge. The south east entrance is the more impressive as it has a barbican.


Don’t miss the three bronzed statues of medieval warriors designed to evoke a ‘zen approach’ to martial arts, thus evoking how weapons merged with the warriors using them.

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It is also worth walking round the outside of the castle to admire the outside of the chamber block.

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One of the advantages of visiting in late May/early June are the clumps of purple fairy foxgloves which thrive in the cracks between the masonry.


With Covid restrictions, the upper floors of the Chamber block were closed. Only the exhibition on the ground floor was open. This covers the history of the castle and has a lot of artefacts found around the site , including examples of Civil War canon balls.

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The two towers are ruined and empty. The other buildings are just low stone walls, but it is a great place for kids to explore.


There are also picnic tables and plenty of seats, so this was a good place for lunch.

After lunch we did the walk along the Cleveland Way to Rievaulx.

It is about 3 miles and described as ‘easy walking’. With increasing years, my perceptions of easy have changed... It was a lovely walk but a steady climb out of Helmsley with the sun full on your back. There are some of the best views of Helmsley Castle from here.


It was cooler in the shade of the wonderfully named Blackdale Howl Wood. There were still a few bluebells in flower as well as wild garlic, forget me nots and red campion.


All was going well until we reached a steep dry valley with rough stone steps down into it and back up again. They might look easy in the photograph, but that is deceptive as each step was about 12" high. Even with poles I was struggling and going down was worse than going up as my rucksack threw my weight forward. I had intended to walk both ways, but am afraid I chickened out at this point and asked if I could be picked up at Rievaulx.

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The walk did improve again after that and eventually dropped down to the narrow unclassified road from Helmsley to Rievaulx. some of the best views of Rievaulx Abbey are from this road.


Rievaulx is one of the great ruined Yorkshire Abbeys and is always busy. The parking area isn’t that big and many people do walk from Helmsley.

First stop was the Abbey tea room, although by the time we arrived mid afternoon, there wasn’t a lot of choice of cakes left!

Rievaulx Abbey is a lovely setting beneath the wooded hillside. The abbey church walls still stand to nearly their full height and there is quite a lot left from the rest of the buildings.



Having made many visits in the past I was happy to sit in the sunshine and let the others explore.

By the time we came to leave, Daddy and Grandson 2 decided to join me waiting for a lift. Mum and Grandson 1 walked back to collect the car and made record time!
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Monday - North York Moors Railway and Whitby

We couldn’t visit Pickering and not go on the North York Moors Railway!

First was a visit to the tea room for a bacon bun for the grandchildren and chocolate brownies for the rest of us.

With Covid restrictions we had prebooked tickets which gave us a reserved compartment to ourselves. Having taken pictures on my last trip, I left the window seat for grandson and his camera.

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We only had just over two hours in Whitby, and headed up the 199 steps to the Abbey. I always make it 199 when I come down, but going up the number varies from anywhere between 210 - 240...

Grandson 1 and I went into St Mary’s Church as he wanted to find the hearing trumpets behind the pulpit, which the rector’s wife needed to hear the sermon.


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It is a lovely unspoilt Georgian interior with every possible space filled with pews.

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The rest of the time we spent in the abbey ruins.

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Little is left of the monastic buildings, but the east end and north transept walls of the church stand to nearly their original height.

There was a living history presentation with two costumed actors telling stories of Viking myths, which were really popular with the younger audience

By then it was time to return to the station for the train back to Pickering. we didn't have time for fish and chipos, or a visit to Fortune's kippers...
Tuesday - Thornton le Dale and the walk to Ellerburn

This was one of my ‘free days’ to explore by myself. Thornton le Dale is a small village just east of Pickering which is very popular with coach tours and day trippers. It really can be described as a honey pot village with its beck, ducks and even a thatched cottage. I decided to see what all the fuss was about.

I caught the 9.30 bus and the village was still fairly quiet. I had ‘done’ the attractions in half an hour - the alms house, walked round the pond, found the thatched cottage. The church was locked.




I had found details of a walk (#3) along the beck to the tiny and isolated settlement of Ellerburn. I knew there was an attractive old church here and I’d had good reports of the Tea Cosy Tea Room.

This was a delightful and very easy walk



Ellerburn is tiny - a farm a couple of houses and the church (#4), which dates back to the early days of Christianity, although the present building is Norman.


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The Tea Cosy Tea Room is in the end cottage and has a lovely outside seating area in the garden. It is only is only open Tuesday - Thursday at the moment and serves light snacks and very good homemade cakes.




The tea room is popular with walkers in Dalby Forest and there was a steady stream of people walking along the footpath from Thornton too. In fact I was telling the family about it that evening. The following day they decided to spend the day walking from Thornton to Dalby Forest and managed two visits to the tea room on the way out and again on the way back!

By the time I got back to Thornton le Dale it was early afternoon and the place was very busy. I decided to catch the bus to Scarborough for the ride. It is great fun as the bus does detours through all the villages. The bus station is at the top of the town next to the railway station. It was very hot and I decided against walking to the church or getting the Central Tramway down to the beach. I caught the next bus back to Pickering.

Much as I enjoyed my day and especially the walk to Ellerburn, I have to admit the jury is still out on Thornton le Dale. It is an attractive village, but then so many others in the area are too. It does market itself heavily through its website to day visitors. As far as the coach trips are concerned, it has a large park and there are toilets too. I’m still not quite sure just what the attraction is for the day tripper and why so many go there. There did seem to be a lot of people rather aimlessly wandering around in the afternoon either eating an ice cream or debating the pros and cons of all the different cafes..
Wednesday - Pickering, Middleton and Helmsley Walled Garden

This was another day spent exploring by myself.

I started off in Pickering and had booked a ticket for the Castle for 10am. Walking up Castlegate to the castle, I noticed a sign welcoming visitors to the Friends Meeting House, tucked away behind the other buildings. It is a lovely stone building dating from 1793 and typical of the early meeting houses with a large and small meeting room. This was simply furnished with a ring of chairs. There is no priest or altar, and everyone is equal, speaking only when felt moved to. Windows are high and there are few things to distract the worship. It was a very different and unique experience.


The building is surrounded by attractive gardens with a small turf cut maze. These are open dawn til dusk for visitors to sit and enjoy the peace and quiet , only disturbed by an occasional whistle from the railway below.


As I still had a few minutes before the castle opened, I followed the well marked path round the outer ditch of the castle. It is the first time I’ve had chance to do this and it does give a good impression of just how impressive the outer walls and towers were.


The vegetation was really lush with red campion and buttercups.


Pickering Castle (#2) stands high above the town and was built as a motte and bailey castle. The motte is still there but very little is left of the shell keep on top of it. The views from the top are worth the climb.

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After visiting the castle, I headed to the Church of St Peter and St Paul (# 3), just off the Market Place . At the moment, it is only open Wednesday mornings or Saturday afternoons.


This has one of the best collections of medieval wall paintings in Britain and they really do give an idea of just how wonderful medieval churches would have been. There were the illiterate congregation’s Bible and guide to the saints. The paintings were covered during the Reformation and were discovered when the church was restored by the Victorians. The Rector took exception to them, feeling they were ridiculous and would distract the congregation. He ordered then to be covered up again. Twenty years later, they were uncovered again and have been carefully restored. They truly are remarkable.


After Pickering, I caught the bus to Middleton, a small village just to the west, as I wanted to visit St Andrew’s Church which has some of the best preserved Viking Crosses in England.


These are displayed in the north aisle and the carving is still impressive.


I then caught the bus to Helmsley, which is low as it does a detour through all the villages by passed by the main road. I had got a ticket to visit Helmsley Walled Garden (#6).

This was the walled garden for Duncombe Park and was built well away from the house, so it wouldn’t intrude upon their carefully landscaped parkland. After having been left abandoned for many years, it has been carefully restored. It is run as an independent charity aimed to encourage people to take up gardening to improve their physical and mental health.

There are good views of the castle from the gardens.


The gardens are divided into smaller area. Some are flower gardens, there is an orchard area as well as the vegetable garden supplying the garden cafe and the community plots.



It probably takes about an hour to see the garden. There are plenty of seats and it also has a cafe.

By then it had got very hot, and time to head back for the bus.
Thursday - North York Moors Railway to Goathland and the Rail Trail

This was another joint day, beginning with a ride on the North York Moors Railway to Goathland.

This is another honey pot village, very much trading on its connections to the 1990s TV drama ‘Heartbeat’ and also appearing in the Harry Potter movies as Hogsmeade station. Again, I’m not quite sure why the visitors arrive in such numbers as, although it is an attractive village, there is very little to do once there.


The main reason for our visit was to walk the Rail Trail (#2) from Goathland to Grosmont. This follows the line of the original horse drawn tramway which predated the railway line.

It is a very easy walk along a well made footpath and from Goathland it is downhill nearly all the way to Grosmont! There are information board along the way.

It follows the West Beck down the valley through attractive deciduous woodland.



The tiny settlement of Beck Hole is just off the trail, although the pub was closed as it couldn’t comply with covid regulations for social distancing.

There is a short stretch along the top of an embankment which was covered with wild flowers.


The track rejoins the line of the North York Moors Railway and climbs up over the tunnel (the only uphill bit of the walk), with views down onto Grosmont.


We did a slight detour to visit the engine sheds at Grosmont, before catching the train back to Pickering.

Friday - Malton

This was my final day exploring by myself. I decided to catch the bus to Malton. This does a short detour to the gates of Flamingo Land and, by 10 am, there was already a long queue of cars waiting to enter.

Malton is made up of two separate settlements, each with its own unique character Old Malton grew up round a Gilbertine Priory. New Malton about a mile away was a walled settlement protected by a now long gone castle.

Old Malton is the smaller and possibly more attractive, but the only amenities are the two pubs and St Mary's Priory Church (#2).


This began as a Gilbertine Priory. This was dissolved by Henry VIII and many of the monastic buildings were used as building stone. The Priory Church survived as the parish church. The central tower was pulled down in the C17 as it was unsafe. By the early C18th the church was in a ruinous condition and permission was given to remove the north aisle and chancel. By the late C19th there was a major restoration project was undertaken by the prominent Victorian architect temple Moore. The south aisle was removed and the south west tower which was in danger of collapse as reinforced.

Now all that is left of the once great church is the nave and south west tower.



The inside still feels like a Norman church with the round pillars and arches. The tall tester behind the altar is pure Temple Moore as is the organ case.


This is well worth visiting and also alking round the outside to find the remains of the monastery buildings.


I After visiting the Priory Church I walked down the road, past the site of the castle to Malton (#5)

This had become run down several years ago and was beginning to feel very 'sad'. The town has reinvented itself as ‘Yorkshire’s Food Capital’ with a lot of small family run food shops. It is now thriving and feels completely different.



The old town hall stands at one end of the Market Place.


At the other end is St Martin's Church (#4).


The church is Norman and was built as a chapel of ease for the Priory, and only got its own parish in the C19th. Inside it is a rather unexceptional building. It is worth visiting if passing, but not making a special visit.


Malton is on the banks of the River Derwent and there is a walk along the river to Old Malton .


I decided it was too hot, so caught the bus back to Pickering. The bus station is across the river and is actually in Norton, near the railway station and Asda.
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Saturday - Hutton le Hole and Ryedale Folk Museum

Having packed the car, we decided to head to Hutton le Hole and visit the Ryedale Folk Museum as we didn’t need to prebook tickets and could just turn up.

I always think Hutton le Hole is one of the prettiest villages in the North York Moors. It doesn’t market itself as much as Thornton le Dale. The beck flows down through the centre of the village and is crossed by small bridges. Most of the stone houses date from the late C17th and belonged to small holders who could graze their animals on the green.

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There is a pub, cafe, ice cream parlour and a few small craft workshops.

It is popular with locals and day visitors ‘in the know’. On warm summer days the beck is always popular with children.


The Barn Tea Room is very good with some super homemade cakes. Staff are lovely and nothing is too much trouble.

The Ryedale Folk Museum (#2) is in an old farmhouse with an attached barn on the edge of the green.


This is one of the smaller folk museums and can easily be done in a day without having to rush. There is plenty of variety and it is a lovely site, surrounded by tall hedges giving it an intimate feel. Buildings are well set out and there is plenty of space to wander along with seats to sit and enjoy the place. Visit on a dry day as it is a large site without any shelter apart from inside the buildings. Allow plenty of time too.

Buildings from the local area have been saved from demolition and brought here. There is everything from a full-scale replica of an Iron Age round house, Tudor Manor House and a crofters cottage. Throw in shops and workshops along with vehicles and machinery as well as other artefacts , this makes a fascinating visit. It gives you chance to step into life in the past and discover the lives of the ordinary people living in the area.







This has been described as one of the best kept secrets in Yorkshire and we all enjoyed the visit. Tickets give free admission for the next 12 months. The family have already been back for a second visit!

Final comments...
So, all in all a good visit. The North York Moors are very attractive but don’t get the same number of visitors as the Yorkshire Dales. Scenery is as good and there is plenty to do for all ages. In a week I hardly scratched the surface.

There were good bus connections between Helmsley, Pickering and Scarborough and also Pickering to Malton. The bus service between Helmsley and Whitby isn’t brilliant. Also services from the villages are designed to bring locals into Pickering for their morning shopping and then take them back in time for lunch. They are useless for visitors wanting to explore. To get off the beaten track, a car is essential and there are plenty of places to discover.
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