The day will come when I will die. So the only matter of consequence before me is what I will do with my allotted time. I can remain on shore, paralyzed with fear, or I can raise my sails and dip and soar in the breeze.--Richard Bode

Saturday, July 11, 2015

I like the North of England

In my last blog I told you that I was in the city of York. There is a lot going on in that place. One of the first things I found as I went out exploring was a rowing club. I sat for the longest time watching the beginners out practicing on the river.

I talked to one of the instructors and found out that it takes about six months to get to the place where they feel comfortable turning you loose with one of those narrow boats and letting you go off by yourself. I had been hoping to rent one for the day, but I guess that won't work.

I accidentally let it slip a couple of times that I do heavy duty whitewater kayaking. They were less than impressed. I could tell there was no way I was going to escape the six months of instructions.

I guess I will have to just go drink a beer instead. Hmmm -- I wonder where I should go. There are a lot of pubs to choose from.

 How does this place sound for a noontime snack?

I could tell that the name of the pub was "The Perky Peacock" but it took me a while to work out the picture. I kept seeing it as a Viking drinking horn full of sudsy beer. Signs in England can sometimes be confusing. I had no trouble with this one though.

Hey, I'm an old guy, and there is no one that will let me rule anything. I guess this next sign tells the rest of the story.

Speaking of Vikings (I was doing that earlier -- are you paying attention?) York was raided by and settled by Vikings a long time ago. There are a lot of Viking relics here. They have a marvelous museum dedicate to the archaeological work done on Viking history in York. In order to tour the museum, you first have to take a ride through a Viking village and let the characters come alive and talk to you, I thought that was a little hokey, but --- Oh well.

I could have wandered around York for days, but after a few hours I got a little tired. It was time to sit in front of York Minster church and listen to street musicians. Some of them were really good.

York is proud of being haunted. There are many stories of ghosts in buildings there. Some of the stories are quite famous. At 7:30 I went on a walking tour led by a guy who insisted he knew all about the ghosts in the city. He was an old charlatan, but he was entertaining.

The next day was Friday. York is such a popular place among travelers that every single room in the city was packed. That was okay with me because I was ready to move on. The first item on my morning agenda was to get Odysseus out of his little bedroom place. That turned out to be hard to do. I had locked his steering, and I could not get it unlocked. It took me maybe 15 minutes of jiggling the key and rocking the steering column before I could get things unlocked. I must remember to find out what is causing that.

Just north of York the trees are gone and the sheep keep new ones from growing. This is the Yorkshire Moors.

It is open range up there and sheep are everywhere.

Gotta be careful. No hitting baby sheep allowed.

These moors are the biggest in the world. They cover many square miles, and the entire thing is a National Park. I am not too sure how that works because the land is still privately owned for the most part. I guess the only think that is important is if it works for them.

They tell me there are tons of wildlife in the Moors. I didn't see much other than sheep, but I will take their word for it. You probably read stories about the Yorkshire Moors earlier in your life. In the stories they always seem to talk about heather. There is a lot of that stuff up there. Here is a picture of some of it.

There are hiking trails all over the place in the Moors. I think that is a very good thing, but I could not for the life of me figure out why anyone would like to hike across those endless hills. There is just so much heather and ferns and sheep before a guy starts to say -- Hey, sheep, how did you get here? I just saw you about a mile back on this trail."

While there are very few people living up on the Moors, down in the valleys there are some beautiful villages.

I stopped in one of them and had a shepherd's pie and a pot of tea. I ate in the garden and watched people walking across a rustic bridge. It is these sorts of scenes that stick in my mind and that make traveling such a good thing to do.

There are fences all over the Moors. What backbreaking labor it must have been to build them out of the stones that a lying all over the place. I met a guy from Wales while mountain climbing in the Italian Dolomites once, and building these "dry walls" was what he did for a living.

Just west of the Yorkshire Moors National Park is the Yorkshire Dales National Park. I could not tell a whole lot of difference between the two parks, but maybe the Dales have more trees. And where those trees encroach on the road you had better drive carefully because there are a lot of times you can't see around the curve. Who knows what animal or farm equipment or stalled vehicle might be lurking there.

There is almost no traffic (maybe because there are almost no people) in the Yorkshire Dales. That makes it pretty safe to just stop and take a picture.

This area is a far north as the Romans got when they conquered Britain not long after Jesus died. The Roman Emperor named Hadrian toured the area and ordered that a wall be build to keep the warlike hill tribes of the north (The Picts) from invading. Hadrian's wall is famous. Here is part of it.

It runs along for miles. It is a little hard to see how a wall like that could keep out invaders, but maybe back in Roman times the wall was taller. Once the Romans left, a lot of the wall has been torn up and used for other things, like churches.

The Romans also built a lot of forts to house rapid response warriors, just in case the people of the North attacked through the wall.

I can't blame the Romans for being nervous; after all, the Scottisht people have a reputation for being very good fighters.

Here is one of the Roman forts. It held a lot of men back in its day. I wonder if, all of them were bored half out of their skulls from serving on this wind-swept, barren place out on the edge of the Empire. I think I would have been.

This fort and the wall were right on the border between what was to become the two countries of England and Scotland. For me, it was a short ride north and there I was in Scotland.

Tomorrow I will be in Edinburgh. I am excited. I remember that city from a previous trip years ago. I am ready to explore it again and renew old memories.