Charlotte’s holiday homework is to keep a diary, so she’s been helping me out on the blog this week. We tried to find out some facts I never knew about Whitby, including snakes and monkey puzzle trees…
- A monastery was built in AD657 by King Oswy of Northumbria. It became one of the most important religious centres in the Anglo-Saxon world under the Abbess Hild. She ruled over both men and women in a double monastery called Streaneshalch.
- It is said that sea birds flying over the ruins of the abbey tip their wings in honour of Hilda while the presence of ammonite fossils on the shore at Whitby is explained as the remains of a plaque of snakes which Hilda turned to stone.
- Whitby Abbey was the inspiration for a famous scary book called Dracula by Bram Stoker that was written 1897. Lots of people come to Whitby at Halloween.
- Some people say there are 199 steps, some say 198 and others 200. so they say you have to try and count them for yourself!
Things we want to try next time we go back:
- Mummy would like a necklace made of Jet
Jet Shop W. Hamond says: Unlike most gemstones, Whitby Jet is actually fossilised wood, similar to our present day Monkey Puzzle or Araucaria Tree, which has been compressed over millions of years.
The colour of Whitby Jet is unique; its blackness is so intense that the expression ‘as black as jet’ has been a commonly used phrase for hundreds of years.
Queen Victoria had a necklace made of Whitby Jet
Read more about it here: Whitby Jet
- Katherine and I want to bring our buckets and spades and go down to the beach and ride on a donkey in the summer.
Other facts we found out about Whitby:
- By 1795 Whitby had become a major whaling port. The most successful year was 1814 when eight ships caught 172 whales.
- The famous explorer Captain Cook learned how to be a sailor in Whitby and his ship the HMS Endeavor that he sailed to Australia and New Zealand was built in Whitby.
Discovered I harboured an inner trainspotter today when we made our first trip on the Tanfield Railway – the oldest in the world no less! The children were amazed to find a train that actually went chugga chugga choo choo and it really was like stepping back in time.
We parked in the main car park at Andrews House and took the train from the station all the way along the route, which is quite short (about three miles each way.) Sitting in the “buffet” car we were even able to munch our picnic in between the obligatory waving at passers by and hanging our heads out of the window. There are lots of short stops along the way and we got out at Causey Arch, where we only had chance for a short walk over the bridge (again a record breaker as it is the world’s oldest railway bridge), but where you can stop for longer and enjoy lots of woodland walks before getting the train back again.
We then walked down to Europe’s oldest working engine shed at Marley Hill, where volunteers are busy on restoration projects and where the geek in me really did emerge and I was fascinated by the old engines, some by Robert Stephenson and the children loved climbing in and out of the old Victorian carriages. It really brings home what feats of engineering have taken place in the region.
There is a cafe at Andrews House for refreshments as well as toilet facilities and picnic benches.
The passenger service runs every Sunday. A family ticket (2 adults and 2 children) is £23 and under 5s are free. It may seem pricey, but when you remember all this is only possible because of dedicated volunteers, it is well worth it. For more information visit
So apparently the first mistake I made was thinking our camping trip was a “holiday”. As I later discovered in my Art of Camping book, it should not be looked on as leisure, but a sport. I also learned that I was one of those categories of people you should not choose to take with you on a trip, a “fair weather camper.” I was hopeful this was going to be more successful than last year’s one night stay as the forecast at least promised dry weather in contrast to the deluge that washed us out last August. As we drove across a decidedly murky North Yorkshire Moors on route to our destination at Rosedale Abbey and lightning flashed across the gloomy sky it soon became clear this was not going to be the case. Driving into the campsite, barely visible through our window wipers going into overdrive, all I could think of was my nice warm dry house two hours drive away. As we discussed/argued over where to pitch our tent I could see the smirking expressions on our new neighbours’ faces, smugly already under canvas, thinking, “ha ha this should be fun”. Anyway we launched ourselves into the downpour, kids and all, and by some miracle managed to put our new home up without any major disasters. Maybe I had just been emotionally broken down, but as the rain eased off and the sun came out, I hate to admit it but I started to almost enjoy myself and the girls couldn’t have been happier diving in and out of the tent and running around with the other children on the site. My biggest fear before hand had been my two-year-old waking screaming in the night. There were a couple of whelps, but thankfully nothing too bad and whereas at home where the windows are plastered in blackout material they wake at 5.15am, out in the wild they somehow didn’t wake until almost 6.30am. Don’t get me wrong, I slept badly, woke with back ache and the shower under little more than a dribble didn’t seem to do the trick, but somehow those few blissful moments of sipping wine under the stars, the sound of the stream at night next to the tent and the kids diving around on the grass without even whining for TV once seemed to make it all worthwhile. Nevertheless perhaps in the pursuit of balance and fairness, my next holiday review should, as a colleague advised, consist of hotels, indoor pools, posh suppers and in house-childminding. I think maybe that could be good for the soul too. As a campsite Rosedale Abbey must be about as perfect as you can get: stream, tarzies, village, pub, woods, walks, a playground and beautiful. We arrived the Wednesday before August bank holiday and while it was reasonably busy, there was plenty of spots to choose from. We were told however that the bank holiday weekend was fully booked. It is a large site, stretching back along the river. There are several tea rooms, a village shop and a pub yards from the site and a shop at the reception too. It was very family friendly, most people were there with children, but a really good atmosphere and nice and quiet at night. As mentioned on some review sites, the showers were a bit poor – hot but very weak pressure. The whole area was kept quite clean however. There is so much to do nearby -from steam train rides to moorland walks. My favourite childhood spot is the stepping stones at Lealholm, just about 20 minutes away.