The unstable weather of the last few months means I have seen few opportunities to go away and stay overnight as always rain has been threatening in the next 48 hours, and I would much rather be at home watching the rain through the window than stuck in a hotel bedroom.
This has had a consequence. However much I might love the wonderful countryside right on our doorstep, the glorious Dales and the beautiful Lake District, I retain a strong sentimental attachment to the North York Moors, which developed in my 20s when Wifey and I were starting on our careers in Teesside.
We had five very happy years, me working in banking, shuffling paper, while Wifey was packed off to the almost exclusively masculine world of coke-ovens, blast furnaces and cooling towers of the steel works and a dress code of hard hats and overalls.
The beauty of our working life was that neither of us had to work shifts or weekends. Every weekend we were free to explore the land of rugged coast, wild moorlands that only end when they meet the sea and quaint villages characterised by red pan tiled roofs, sheltering from the elements in steep-sided valleys. Tracks stretched across the heather towards the distant horizon just demanding to be explored.
But circumstances changed both at the bank and steel works and so those times drew to a close and we returned to Burnley to start a new phase running Valley Nurseries near the crematorium, and raising a family. Nevertheless, in our minds we still look forward to returning to the moors.
But it is a three-hour drive and too far really for a day trip. Consequently, visits there this winter have been conspicuous by their absence. With just days before we have to return to work, the opportunity presented itself recently. We found ourselves stopping over in a fantastic B&B in Goathland, better known to many as Aidensfield in the TV series “Heartbeat” and we almost had the place to ourselves.
After grabbing a bite to eat at the pub, we left the barman watching the curling and set off down the clear path to Mallyan Spout waterfall, to follow the stream down to the tiny, but utterly charming Beck Hole. Is there a nicer place?
From there the disused track bed of the old railway provides a dry and mud-free path alongside the babbling Murk Esk to first the hamlet of Esk Valley, and eventually to the railway village of Grosmont where the North York Moors Railway meets the main Middlesbrough to Whitby line.
This is a Mecca for rail enthusiasts and the main season draws near, but apart from the occasional dog-walker, last Friday we had it to ourselves.
Sadly, daylight was fading and we had to about turn to make our way back to Goathland, retracing our steps along the old railway line. On a cold, windy day with rain threatening, this afforded us safe, sheltered passage back to Beck Hole and the pull up the incline into Goathland, where the lonely street lights (three in total I think spread over half a mile) showed us the way back to our overnight accommodation.
We had enjoyed a fantastic afternoon, dined well at the pub, ate a vast breakfast before sadly we had to leave on the Saturday for Newcastle to see our daughter. After all, that was why we were supposed to be in that neck of the woods. I miss those moors, but be assured we will be popping back once the main gardening season is over in July.