Friday, September 17
North Yorkshire delights
Not only does Whitby in north Yorkshire benefit from a glorious location, superb views and access to swathes of beautiful countryside, it also boasts at least two dozen pubs and a refreshing lack of supermarkets. There is a reasonably-sized Coop next to the harbour, but independent food shops continue to thrive in the town centre - largely, I believe, due to the lack of out-of-town supermarkets. Sadly this all looks set to change - Tesco and Sainsbury's are currently slogging it out with the planning committee for the right to build stores on the edge of the town. Current planning law and the power of these companies mean that local councils have scant defence against them - it's not legal to turn down planning applications because of the negative effect they may have on local, independent shops, while the supermarkets have the legal and financial might to fight decisions that go against them.
It's possible some of Whitby's varied shops may survive because of its busy tourist trade, but there are bound to be casualties, especially among the food stores that are off the tourist track and rely on year-round business.
Botham's, for example, has two shops - the main one being up on the top of the hill and not easy to happen upon. Curiously for a bakers it also sells sausages, bacon and cheese, as well as pork pies of course, and its own brand of teas and coffees, available loose as well as boxed.
It also sells a wide range of local speciality baked goods - including this fabulous Yorkshire curd tart. It's spicey, it's fruity and it's a bit like cheesecake in texture. Mmmm! Also on sale were plum loaf, tea bread, stottie cakes and parkin.
We managed several good walks and were very lucky with the weather. The only rain we suffered was on Friday night - apart from showers overnight and in the early morning. Here the Curse demonstrates the art of traversing stepping stones over the River Esk. I have no problems with wobbly bridges or high ladders, but for some reason find stepping stones a bit weird and scary.
No trip to the seaside is complete without crab sandwiches, here served the traditional northern way in Scarborough with crisps, a bit of salad and a pot of tea. They were heavenly.
Whitby and Scarborough are connected by a cycle trail/footpath which follows the old railway line, and I took the opportunity one day to hire a bike from Trailways and spend a few hours exploring the route on my own. The quality of the trail was very variable - in places gravelly and uncomfortable on the little shopper I was riding - and had long stretches with shallow gradients, but the views were incomparable and the blackberries along the route the best I'd seen!
Another culinary highlight of the week was meat products - from the superb black pudding that came with the set breakfast in our local caff to the fact that you could buy hunks of roasted belly pork, still slightly warm, from the butchers.
This slab ended up with chutney in between thick slices of bread from Bothams, and served as a magnificent lunch on one of our walks. We had to resist the temptation to buy another chunk to take home with us.
In Whitby, kippers are smoked by Fortune's in a small shed with an even smaller shop next door, on a street that clings to the side of the hill below the abbey. Not wanting to have to bother with all the bones that kippers entail, we settled for some kipper pate which we made into sandwiches for the drive home. Our lunch in the soulless service station on the A1(M) was much improved by the presence of these butties.