Thursday, 15 January 2015

The move - Part 2

"We could try further out." said Mrs L, after we'd realised that every house we could afford in York was miniature. Or suffered from some other massive disadvantage (toilet in a shed, one bedroom three foot wide but fifteen foot long - that kind of thing).

I booted up a map on Rightmove. "The problem" I opined "is that York is surrounded by this flat, featureless, twenty mile wide Donut of Crapness in every direction. All of these places would rot my soul. What about properly further out? What about Malton?"

"Tories." said Mrs L. "And too horsey."

"You like horses."

"But I don't want to look like one. I'm worried there might be something in the water."


Some time passed.

"You know, the train from the 'borough's not bad. 45 minutes."

We'd talked about moving to Scarborough before. In fact, we'd talked about it at all levels of seriousness, from actually doing maths to see whether we could afford it, to drunken new-years'-eve wishful thinking, for years. Mrs L grew up there. We both love the legendary North Yorkshire seaside town. If you're unfamilar with it, you might be wondering, "Why?" I'll do my best to explain.

An idiot once rhetorically asked on on internet forum why you would visit Scarborough if you didn't want to visit Cash Convertors or Wetherspoons. Well, you might like surfing, or mountain biking, or sailing. Or Regency architecture. Or Alan Ayckbourn. Or knights and castles. Or fiercely independent businesses. Or the most amazing countryside. Or literally having the muck and tiredness sand blasted off your face by the wind coming off the North Sea.

Scarborough is, in short, amazing. It is not one of those seaside towns which is born out of a resigned reaction to geography ("Oh look, the land stops here and a muddy, freezing sea starts. We'd better build a pier and stuff."). Scarborough is the creation of glaciers and crashing seas, of chilly Romans and Vikings, of castellans and hard as nails fishermen, of Regency dandies and Victorian architects who breathed in the fresh, somehow more filling seaside air and just went slightly crackers.

Travelling over to Scarborough by rail or road is a steadily building assault on your senses. Leaving York behind, you'll drive through that Donut of Crapness I was going on about to Mrs L earlier. There are dealerships selling slightly faded ex-RAC vans. And the Original Factory Shop, with its sign advertising "Coach Parties Welcome!" to a car park so empty as to be sinster. And a curry restaurant, named after notoriously grumpy founding father of Pakistan Muhammad Ali Jinnah.

Then - quite suddenly - the slope of the Howardian Hills rises up in front of you. The  hills are named after the Howard family, who wisely chose them as the location of their slightly over the top country pile. If your're lucky enough to be on the train, you'll be winding your way through Kirkham Gorge, past the ruins of Kirkham Priory. The River Derwent runs beside the railway, having blasted out a twisting path through the hills in the last ice age. Beyond is the Vale of Pickering, a wide, shallow valley with the Yorkshire Wolds rising up on your right and the southern slopes of the North Yorkshire Moors two or three miles away to the left. Suddenly, all the buildings have red pantile roofs and are beautiful. The valley runs all the way to the coast, although it is blocked at its seaward end by a jumble of low hills - essentially rubble dropped by passing glaciers. In the last ice age, the Vale was a huge lake, and the scarps of the Moors and Wolds were its shores.

If you're driving, then you might at this point turn left, and cross the valley floor to Snainton, one of a string of lovely villages sited where the lands starts to rise towards the North Yorkshire Moors. You might not realise it, but you're getting really close to Scarborough now. After Ayton, the road starts to climb the hills, giving you a view rights across the Vale of Pickering to the Wolds.

You really need to be doing this particular bit at sunset. And if possible, in a vehicle with seats set higher than normal.

As you climb the hill towards Jacobs Mount, you might look over to your right. And if the setting sun if just at the right angle, it will be lighting up the hundred metre tall face of Bempton Cliffs, ten or more miles away to the south, turning the mucky white chalk to a glowing rose colour.

Bempton is where the chalk hills of the Wolds dramatically terminate, showing a towering, vertical face to the North Sea. The cliffs march south all the way to Flamborough Head, a huge step in the horizon, bulging past the vertical.

Then, in four or five seconds or less, you'll be over the top of the hill, and Scarborough will be before you - two bays, divided by the castle on its diamond shaped hill. There might be a few street lights shining, and a gathering blue darkness in the hills and woods to you left. And all along the horizon, the sea.

We've been coming to Scarborough regularly for years. But as soon as we started to think seriously about moving here, the tone of the visits changed. Mrs L started to eye up towering Victorian houses in a slightly possessive way. We experienced the magic of driving into Scarborough on a Sunday evening, listening to the rhythmic "Wush...wush...wush..." noise of us passing stationary traffic, queuing the other way, bearing its occupants away from the coast and back to a working week with no prospect of sticking your toes in the sea at all.

"Of course, there's not a hope in hell that I'll be able to get a job over there." I said gloomily, before setting out on my swiftest and most productive job hunt ever.

I started writing this blog so I didn't have to tell Mrs L in quite the exhaustive level of detail I naturally favour about how awesome each of my bike rides has been.

So of course you might guess that I was excited about trying the bike out around Scarborough.

Which is why I bundled the Viscount in the back of the car when I came over for my job interviews, along with my suit and shiny shoes, and jumped straight on it when I got to Scarborough. And I've been doing a bit of exploring, and coming up with a few ideas...

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