Holidays and Other Excursions

Category: UK Holidays

Battlefield Line

Saturday 23 July 2016

We are heading south and for home eventually with an overnight stop in the eastern part of Leicestershire, but on the western side of the same county is a preserved railway I have never previously visited – the Battlefield Line.

This relatively small line runs from Shackerstone as its northern terminus in a generally southerly direction through Market Bosworth to Shenton.  On the day we visit they are having a beer festival (and some cider for Jackie) as well as running trains and displaying other traction engines, so there is a somewhat different selection of items to be photographed as can be seen here.

The Shenton station is adjacent to the site of Bosworth field where the last significant battle of the Wars of the Roses and Henry Tudor defeated Richard III – the last English king to die on the battlefield.  We do not have time to visit the battlefield.

Perhaps more regrettably as I am driving there is no ability to sample the huge number of barrels which are present.  Just a couple of halves and a pasty.

And we return home on the Sunday.

Box Tree Ilkley

Friday 22 July 2016

Our destination today is Ilkley and yes I know we were there yesterday – but more seriously today Jackie wants to do some shopping for shoes before lunch.  We end up in a quirky little shoe shop which provides Jackie with some new shoes.

The highlight destination is however the Box Tree, a restaurant which has been established as very good for many years and was one of the places where Marco Pierre White trained before moving to London and stardom.

The reputation continues and from Jackie Whitbread’s photos here are just three of the tasting menu courses 

Yorkshire Duck terrine, cured duck breast and sour cherry sorbet.

Fillet of Yorkshire beef, wild mushrooms and potato foam.

Granny Smith apple soufflé with a calvados sauce.

Plus other courses of course – the ones shown are merely a sample of the goodness we enjoyed.  All excellent.

A gentle drive back to Addingham and time to pack for our return journey.

Keighley & Worth Valley Railway plus Haworth

Thursday 21 July 2016

Not far to go today.  A drive up and down some hills leads us into Keighley and I am amazed to find some free, on street parking almost immediately adjacent to the station.  We are a little early and the station has not been unlocked as yet!

We acquire the tickets four our journey and after a short delay we are heading up the hill on one of the longer established preserved railway lines.  We leave the train at Haworth and learn about walking uphill.  Apparently there is a bus service to and from the station but walking is good for us!  And it gives a chance to look in shop windows.  It is a huge haul up from the station to the town and then it is another stagger up to the Bronte Parsonage.  The photos of the latter are here.  I think it is hard to imagine how the place was used as the rooms seem small – indeed it seems larger on the outside than on the inside.  A completely different time of course – the mid 1840s – when the Bronte books were published.  And short lives.

Going downhill is much easier and we get to The Fleece for lunch before going down the rest of the slope through the town gardens to the station.  (Not the Fleece in Richmond which is closed!).

Once back on the railway we go to Oxenhope at the end of the line and then return to Keighley.  At this time of the year loadings for the single train are reasonable as indeed they were at the Embsay railway earlier in the week.  The K&WVR photos can be found here.

We take a slightly different route home.  We drive into Esholt which until a dedicated set was built was the external shooting location for Emmerdale and had the original pub which was renamed “The Woolpack” to save regular name changes.  Since 1997 the programme has had a dedicated set which looks very similar to Esholt (which was used in 2016 for a particular story).

 

Our journey continues and we stop in Ilkley for a wander around the town and to make use of Betty’s.  A Harrogate institution as a tea room it has now added some further outlets including one in Ilkley.  And useful toilets!

We do not need much more after that!  Photos on the post from Jackie Whitbread.  Linked photos are my own.

Richmond Yorkshire

Wednesday 20 July 2016

A long drive planned for today, we head to Bolton Abbey and then onto Kettlewell where we turn off across country via the Cam Gill Road and then through some countryside I have not traversed before.  We do not meet many other cars going either way!  We emerge from the countryside at Leyburn and pick up the road to Richmond.

Our prime destination is the Castle and the photos can be found here.

We wander around the attractive town of Richmond which was well worth the drive here and then we seek a lunch.  Jackie gives me a pub name which is apparently closed.  Eventually I manage to establish that the name belongs to our planned destination tomorrow!  Very confused.

We find a nice looking little café / bistro and whilst the food was entirely reasonable more entertaining was the gossip of the staff and questions which floated around as the nature of an evening table booking was established – new boyfriend maybe?  Discussion on the telephone of some catering booking for an event with speculation on those attending (or not invited).  And the post person was asked if she was bringing her boyfriend!  It was like turning up at the Rovers Return on Coronation Street and getting a rundown on the history of all the locals!

Our return journey included a stop at Hawes for the Wensleydale creamery and shop.  Hawes seems much larger and certainly more visitor friendly than on my last trip here.

Then to Garsdale and a trip along the Coal Road, again something I have not covered for over 20 years.  It is a little short of the highest roads in England – but when up here I always feel as if I am on the top of the country.  The coal pits which gave it its name are about half way along.  We drop down to Dent station and then past Ribblehead Viaduct.  It seems you now have to park here on the main road and walk to the viaduct for photos – and it is some walk!

Onward the road feels a little unusual.  Some parts of it are very familiar and then other parts feel rerouted and completely strange.  Certainly widened – and subsequent checks on maps show no real evidence of rerouting – but some turns just “feel” wrong.  It turns into a longer drive than expected and Jackie is a little bored by the time we reach Addingham.

At the Crown Inn Wednesday night is Jazz night and so after a meal elsewhere in the town (at the local Craven Heifer – but the pub has since closed) we wander down there for some music before wending our way home to bed.  A longish day.

 

Bolton Abbey including the Railway

Tuesday 19 July 2016

This morning we have a very short drive to Bolton Abbey and the current and probably long term western terminus of the Embsay and Bolton Abbey Railway.  On my last visit a very long time ago they were the Yorkshire Dales Railway and it was a very short journey from Embsay towards Holywell Halt – but did not I think even reach that far – so you went and came back!

At Bolton Abbey the development of the railway continues with a new platform being constructed.  This will probably always be a terminus as extension onwards into Ilkley is unlikely as the route has been lost.  In the other direction from Embsay an extension may be more likely – possibly into Skipton, although that is probably a long way away.

A gentle trundle there and back with photos to be found here.

Huge development at the Embsay end of the line with sheds and a lot more rolling stock.  I think just about everything was in the open last time around.

For lunch we head to the Devonshire Arms at Bolton Abbey – we go in the front of the building but the Brasserie is right through at the back – you almost need to lead an expedition to get from one end to the other.  Excellent meal.  The ultimate owners is the Duke of Devonshire who also own Chatsworth House.

It is probably the hottest day of the year – but our afternoon is spent walking to Bolton Abbey.  There are some nice stepping stones across the river – so that has to be done.  So a couple of photographs from Jackie Whitbread.

And this is Bolton Abbey:

Hottest day of the year and I suspect many people were glad to hop into the river instead of trying to pass one another on the stones.  I returned via the bridge as more and more people meeting mid stones were taking a visit into the river to pass each other.

 

Pateley Bridge

Monday 18 July 2016

Today starts a little chilly and we drive through some back roads towards Bolton Abbey and then along the A59 to Blubberhouses.  We then turn north along Greenhow Hill Road which is one of the nicer roads to drive and there is very little traffic so can bumble along.  At Greenhow Hill we turn right towards Pateley Bridge and descend with some wonderful views as the road drops down to a lower level.

At Pateley Bridge we turn north again as we are going to the Sportsmans Arms where we have a great lunch.

The inn will soon become busy as we are close to shooting moors which will open on 12 August.  The lobster is special today so I enjoy eating that!

It is really warm this afternoon – some beautiful sunshine and we roll along quite gently with the top down and enjoy the warmth – summer!

We return by a slightly different route through Dacre and then past RAF Menwith Hill – one of the famous golf ball sites.  Then back onto the A59 and back to Addingham.  Very nice scenery to drift through.

Photos courtesy of Jackie Whitbread.

 

Fence

Sunday 17 July 2016

Today we are booked into a pub for Sunday lunch in Fence which is in Lancashire, so it is a trip over the hills.  The area is known as Craven and everywhere seems to have a Craven Heifer pub!

The story of the original Craven Heifer is told by wikipedia:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Craven_Heifer

She visited London – a journey which took 73 days as she was shown off at numerous places on the way.  Travel by rail really did change things when it came along.

The origination of the name Craven is also available: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Craven

Our destination is the White Swan.

Being Sunday it was nice to have lunch.  The cheeseboard was amazing.

Photo is actually mine!

The weather has cheered up immensely by the time we head back and the sun is shining so we can have the top down on the TT.  Return by a slightly different route for a little variety but either way we miss Skipton thanks to the newish bypass – which we continue to do for the rest of the week.

Birmingham

Thursday 14 to Saturday 16 July 2016

We head towards Birmingham as the first part of our 2016 UK holiday which will continue in Yorkshire.  Instead of sticking to the motorways we drive in through Southeast Birmingham which is probably not the most attractive approach to the City.  To get to the car park we sort of drive round an inner one way system.  We are staying in an apartment in the circular Bull Ring building itself immediately above the lines into Birmingham New Street station.  Disappointingly we are not in the booked apartment with the Bull outside.  We are unsure what happened.

We have travelled up on a Thursday afternoon as we have a reservation for dinner in the Marco Pierre White Steakhouse.  This then turns into a surreal evening.  On arrival they deny we have a booking and in total confusion I phone the restaurant we have booked for Friday evening to see if the bookings are the wrong way round.  I cannot get a phone signal!  Jackie digs out the email – it was originally booked for the Thursday but at some point it has been transmogrified to Friday on their system.  Luckily they have a table available.

The menu makes a point of saying that there is an extensive selection of Malbec wines available.  Except our waiter says there are no Malbec wines in the restaurant (which I find hard to believe).  Eventually a last bottle is found.  When we get to the main courses our steaks are seriously overcooked, probably an excessive period sitting under hot lights at the pass.  Not a good evening.

Jackie has complained so much about the wrong apartment being booked that they agree they will not charge us for our stay.

After breakfast we go down to beside the station to find the end of the tram line (it has only recently been extended to New Street) and we take the tram out to Wolverhampton and at the far end we wait and return on the following tram.  Apart from the recent on street extension  most of the route is a converted former railway line.  And it is cold for the time of year.  The photos of this excursion are here.

Once we are back in the City Centre we find Jessops and I buy my new camera, an Eos 80.  No need for new lenses and it has wifi if I can ever find out how to use it.  The last camera has been around for nearly 10 years, which in the digital era is a long time.

We also do some wandering around – we go along to the Mailbox and to the back where last year we found a nice place to eat.  This year it is closed!

In the evening we dine at Adam’s and whilst it is better than our last experience of Birmingham it does not seem to stand out in memory.  Nothing wrong, just nothing outstanding.

Saturday morning and we head north.  The original plan had be to visit Peak Rail at Matlock for a return journey; an inability to pay the local parking charges (no cash in our pockets and payment by card has not been implemented as yet) led to this being cancelled.  No change machine either.

So we head onwards and we instead visit Chatsworth House which is not far off of our planned route.  I had intended to go over Snake Pass but followed the signs and did not pick up the right road.  From Glossop we went to Woodhead and then past the Holme Moss transmitter before dropping down into Holmfirth.  A long time since I have been this way.  Some wonderful scenery, but regrettably not enough sunshine to do it justice.  Huddersfield and Halifax, then Keighley to our destination of Addingham.

Nice small house – built as an extension to next door and now used as a holiday letting.  But some nice scenery along the way.

 

Birmingham and Music Matters

A weekend away in the West Midlands was planned with a variety of aims:

  • UB40 in concert – Ali, Mickey and Astro together again
  • A decent restaurant to review
  • Visit to the Bull Ring
  • A Midlands Indian

How did we do?  Well the Indian came first with a restaurant called Pushkar on Broad Street (in the hotel area of the city).  Well looked after, great food and for once my wife paying me the courtesy of saying that if we ever go back she would actually order what I had (it was spicier than her choice which is unusual).  Overall we had a great meal but I cannot write it up as I cannot now recall all the details.  Probably a little more expensive than the average Indian restaurant in Birmingham but it was convenient!  Highly recommended.

UB40 – the Barclaycard Arena as it is now known and of course home territory for these musicians.  Whilst I preferred the output of the late Ian Campbell I cannot deny that his sons have earned an awful lot more from their music (and been through more bankruptcies I believe).  In recent years the family has been split and we last saw UB40 at Cropredy a few years ago.  Soundwise I thought the kit at the Arena did the band no favours and the vocals were indistinct.  However just on two hours of music was not bad and certainly the (predominantly?) females in the audience enjoyed everything and we ended up as you might expect with the Neil Diamond song “Red Red Wine”.

The Bull Ring – another temple to consumerism.  Once we got to grips with the layout we found the shop we wanted – but did not attempt to wear ourselves out visiting the rest of it.  I am not keen on shopping anyway.  Am I alone in thinking that such retail locations are going to slowly vanish?  The rentals must be horrendous and I wonder how many retailers are acutally making profits?  We did then wander down to the markets below but decided it was lunchtime.

We found that the back of the “Mailbox” backs onto the huge canal system and in this rebuilt and regenerated area there are some good looking restaurants.  One of these “Bar Epernay” was selected and for a light lunch we chose a Fruits de Mer deli board – £21.95 – to share.  Excellent selection of seafood plus a huge bowl of mussels.  I am told the prawns were very good and I can vouch for the octopus, smoked salmon, mussels, fishcake!  Great surroundings and our ears were tickled by the music track – but we could not work out the singer.

On Saturday evening we had booked into a restaurant not too far from our hotel.  It appears in the Good Food Guide and I had been expecting to add a review in the Culinary Delights section of this site; I have decided not to do so in favour of some musings on eating and enjoyment.  I admit to being old and perhaps my hearing is no longer perfect, usually because someone somewhere is playing some music to hide their voice.  Also I have long (if ever) been unable to pick voices out in a “noisy” environment.  Other people seem to be able to focus and hear – I cannot – it is just a mushy mess.  This is not a problem at a concert – you are there to hear the music (or to witness murder of “Midnight at the Oasis” by the support band!).  But in, say a restaurant, it is there to aid the tone, the presentation and the enjoyment.  So getting it right adds to the enjoyment – in my view.  It has to welcome and warm the customers as well as reflecting the nature of the establishment in some way.

So back to “Bar Epernay”.  They were playing American popular songs; we later considered it might have been Bryan Ferry or possibly Robbie Williams but no; eventually it was tracked down to Rod Stewart and his “Great American Songbook” series.  Nicely swinging in the background and added just the right environment.

Turning to our GFG establishment what happened – well not long after we were seated there was clearly a  heavy rock guitar solo going on which I would argue does not accurately reflect either the clientele or the intention of the restaurant where a calmer and welcoming air is needed.  Also whilst reading the menus the front of house was asked by other customers for a negroni – she refused as she did not know how to make one and could only offer what was on the drinks menu.  Which is a bold but not ultimately the best approach to making a customer feel welcome – it even made us feel unwelcome at the next table.  Wikipedia tells me “The Negroni cocktail is made of one part gin, one part vermouth rosso, and one part Campari, garnished with orange peel” and I very much believe that had a check been made these all existed behind the bar.

Meanwhile the soundtrack continued to disconcert with little I recognised, although Sadé did turn up much later in the evening.  But this was where the evening had taken a second wrong turn.  The restaurant – with the aim of consistently good quality no doubt – only offers two menus of either five or eight courses.  We had selected the five courses and initially there were ourselves and one other couple, although numbers steadily grew throughout the evening it was not full when we left over two and a half hours later.  I do not like a rushed meal but I do feel timing between courses is important.  Unlike London restaurants they have determined that they do not need to turn over a table twice or more of evening and I applaud that – but there is a right pace to consuming food with a sensible period between courses.  The pace here was not right – it was just too slow for when couples are dining.  It might suit larger groups where discussions bounce back and forth but this evening in the restaurant was mainly couples (as I suspect is often the case).

Which sort of takes me back to the music; it not only sets the tone but to a certain extent the pace.  If you hearing a fast guitar solo then like a military march being used at Waterloo to get the commuters moving it gets the gastric juices flowing faster than the kitchen is delivering.  And if the gap between courses is longer than the body is expecting then it all gets out of kilter and on the whole undermines how good you feel about the meal.

In terms of the actual food content I felt it was a little unbalanced with too much meat and not a single fish course without meat.  Being spring time lamb was the main course but overcooked.

The questions I cannot answer are semi-related – would a different music track have put us in a better or different frame of mind and raised our enjoyment levels?  Would a more flexible offer over drinks to the next door table have changed our “instant” feelings?  Would a music track have worked better for the actual pace achieved – or was the kitchen simply not up to meeting a more sensible pace?

As I am uncertain as to cause and effect I feel unable to provide a proper review and, although there clues in my comments I have also chosen not to provide a name.

However if you are in Birmingham and fancy a curry then Pushkar is in Broad Street and if you want a champagne bar (which is actually more than just that) I do recommend Bar Epernay.