290: York

OS Explorer map 290, York: Selby & Tadcaster – I do not own this map, but had visited it before starting this blog. Visited again for this post 11th July 2022.

Google Maps location links: York, Ripon


This summer, my parents have been married for 30 years, and in celebration of this, they invited me and Vesper on a short trip to York. The plan was that Vesper and I would join them on the Monday for two nights’ stay in a hotel; we’d spend the day together on Tuesday before a celebratory dinner that evening, and part ways on the Wednesday.

However, Vesper and I didn’t proceed directly from home to York for this trip: to make the most of the three weekdays we were each booking off work, we’d decided to travel northwards on the Saturday, where we’d spend a couple of days away together before joining the Dearest Progenitors. The destination we picked for these couple of nights was Hebden Bridge, where we arrived in the mid-afternoon, having got the train up from Cambridge. [1] Hebden Bridge is a very cute and lively little Pennine town, and with very good transport connections, and we passed a lovely couple of nights there. It’s in the South Pennines map area (OL21), which I’ve written about before, so I won’t narrate our activities – which included a walk up Stoodley Pike and, unusually for me, viewing a delightful amateur production of the silly musical Nunsense – in detail, but here are some photos:

We left Hebden Bridge on the Monday morning, and made one more stop before going to York: we got off in Halifax – now in map 288, which I’ve also posted about before – and visited the very pretty country house Shibden Hall.

We finally arrived in York, and in this map area, at about 2pm, and checked into the hotel. Now, that Monday was a very hot day, reaching 29°C later in the afternoon, and I’m very sensitive to heat. I have portable air conditioners at home, so on such hot days, I usually just stay at home all day – when I was offered my current job a couple of years ago, before accepting I made a condition that I be allowed to work from home on days above 25°C – but that wasn’t really an option here. Fortunately it wasn’t too bad in the morning, so I happily enough looked around Shibden Hall with Vesper, though I did sit under a tree while she explored the gardens. The afternoon was another matter, so I was glad to get to our air-conditioned hotel room! (I’d checked ahead to see that it had air conditioning, and also asked my parents to bring a fan in their car just in case it the air conditioning was broken or something!)

The Dearest Progenitors joined us an hour or so later, and we had some tea and scones together, before lazing away the remainder of the afternoon, and going out for dinner at a nearby vegan Chinese restaurant. It was rather nice, though not quite as good in my opinion as Tofu Vegan in Islington, which I tried with friend Cabbage last year. There was an amusing incident when half of the East Asian party at the next table us got up after trying their main course and left, going into the restaurant across the street: they’d apparently not realised it was a vegan restaurant until trying their meals, and were clearly aghast by this!

The next day was blessedly cooler (and even a little drizzly), and after breakfast we drove over in my parents’ car to Ripon, in map area 299, which again I’ve posted about before. We explored the cathedral, which Vesper and I naturally loved, given its amazingly cool 7th-century Anglo-Saxon crypt, the twin to the one at Hexham – both being surviving parts of the original foundations by Wilfrid – that we tried and failed to see earlier this year. The crypts weren’t for burials, but to house relics (which admittedly were often body parts). The town was also pleasant, and we got ourselves a very nice lunch of chaat from an Indian tea shop, which was a new type of establishment for me. (Not a new foodstuff, though: chaat is an old favourite!)

Returning to York, and after a brief period of lazing around in the hotel room, Vesper and I went out for a wander around the city. We started by walking a section of York’s city walls, which are very cool: Britain is rather impoverished when it comes to city walls compared to the Continent, with only a few towns having more than a few fragments, but York is certainly a pretty great example. The walls – mostly medieval, with some sections having Roman foundations and some bits of Roman stonework here and there – are mostly intact, and very impressive!

A York street

Getting off the walls, we wandered for a while longer, admiring the city’s winding streets, fun little shops, and taking a look at York Minster from the outside (we didn’t go in, having both been inside it on previous visits to the city).

A pre-dinner photo!

We returned to the hotel in the late afternoon, and after a little more lazing around, got slightly dressed up for dinner in the hotel restaurant, in celebration of my parents’ wedding anniversary. Vesper and I got on the train back to Cambridge the next morning – it was a much shorter journey back from York than out to Hebden Bridge – concluding our trip!

Previous visits

Summer 2009: Chemistry camp

I’ve been to York several times before, the first of which was for a “chemistry camp” in summer 2009, when I would have been between school years 10 and 11. I don’t remember exactly how we were selected, but I and my friend Joystick were chosen as the people from my school that would go to this event, which gathered sixty or so students from various schools for a program of chemistry-related fun and learning over a few days, and which was held in York University facilities and accommodation. It was run by the Salters’ Institute, a charitable arm of the Salters’ Company, one of the ancient London livery companies, who apparently now focus mostly on supporting chemistry education.

14-year-old me didn’t see fit to take any photos of the chemical activities, of my accommodation, or of my fellow students, so here is… a couple of little people made of bottles and apples?

Summer 2012: Europe trip practice

I returned to York in June 2012, this time in the company of friend Cabbage. I’m not sure whether I’ve mentioned this on this blog before, but in that summer between leaving school and starting at university, Cabbage and I did a driving trip around Europe for two months, leaving in mid-July and getting home in September. We travelled in a Citroën Berlingo car borrowed from Father Dearest’s nursing home business, and stayed at campsites, where we’d set up a tent from Caranex that attached onto the back of the car, such that with the boot open it formed a single continuous space.

The car that Cabbage and I did our Europe trip in, sitting in my parents’ garden, the morning after we spent the night in it as a pre-trip test

In early June, our preparations for the trip having earnestly begun after we’d finished our exams, Cabbage and I acquired the tent, and spent a night in my parents’ garden sleeping in it as a test. The test didn’t go that well, as so much condensation pooled in the tent overnight that Cabbage’s phone, sitting on the groundsheet next to our inflatable mattress, irreparably broke – because of this, for the actual trip we settled on the solution that when we set up the tent, we’d move all of our belongings from the back of the car into the tent, and set up the mattress in the back of the car. (We did the trip without the back seats in, so the back was just an empty space, like in a van.)

Having a game of the Middle-Earth Strategy Battle Game at Cabbage’s grandfather’s house in York

Following that night, we then departed on a test road trip, which was what brought us to York: we drove up, then stayed a night at Cabbage’s grandfather’s house there. Cabbage’s grandfather was a solid Yorkshireman, and my memories of him include the spam-and-ketchup sandwiches he’d make us for lunch, which I was a big fan of, and of the time that he brought up some political matter and then immediately checked himself with “oh no, we’d better not talk about politics, ’cause I know what you’ll be like being from down south, and I’m always for the working man, me”. Also notable is the occasion when he, visiting Cabbage’s family home, answered the phone and misheard my name, such that I then heard him shout “[Cabbage], there’s a ‘Hemric’ on the phone for you”! [2]

Me looking pleased at my sweets purchase in a service station on the way home!

2012-15: Visits during university days

After that summer, Cabbage went to university in York, so over the next few years, I went to York a handful of times to visit him there.

Two particularly notable occasions involved dressing up to go to see films: in December 2013, Cabbage, Climbing Programmer and I went to see the first of the new Hobbit films in York, dressed as dwarves and a hobbit. Two years later, Cabbage and I went to see Joystick in Sheffield, where he was studying, to see Star Wars: The Force Awakens on the opening night, this time dressed as a Jedi, Han Solo, and a stormtrooper. Sheffield, as you may have noted, is not York, but following the film, Cabbage and I travelled back to York, spent the night there, and went to the National Railway Museum the next morning, which is an amazing place!

In the National Railway Museum’s main train shed

[1] It was a bit of a faff getting over to Hebden Bridge: from Cambridge North we had to change in Ely, Peterborough, Grantham and Leeds, making four changes over the four-and-a-half hour journey. However, everything ran to time, and we had a nice 25-minute stop in Grantham to get lunch, which was convenient. Vesper commented that she felt the many changes and short individual train legs made the journey pass quickly. I agree, but I think overall I still prefer fewer changes, and would be willing to take a little longer to get that: slower is less convenient, of course, but I like being able to settle in to a long period on a single train, able to start doing things like reading, watching something, or tapping away at a blog post knowing I have plenty of time ahead of me!

[2] Since around the time I went off to university, I’ve barely used landline phones anymore – we don’t even have one at either `my house or my work – but I fondly remember making calls to school friends’ houses for occasional long chats in my childhood, and being told to get off the phone because someone at one end or the other wanted to use the phone (or, particularly early, the internet).

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