Robin Hood’s Bay to Liverpool – A Twearly returns home

The Final Hill - Robin Hood's Bay

The Final Hill – Robin Hood’s Bay

Having taken 16 days to get across country, from the Irish to the North Sea, the aim was to try to get back in one and, as part of the game, to try to see if it was possible to get from Robin Hood’s Bat to Liverpool, without too much pain, by using the Twearlys’ All England Bus Pass.

First I had to get out of Robin Hood’s Bay. As things worked out I had decided to leave at the first opportunity. The weather wasn’t looking too promising (and during the course of the day became considerably worse) and I suppose I was also getting fed up of the instability that comes with being away from home. There were no real problems it was just that I didn’t feel like chasing around to fill my time with something useful. It’s one of the consequences when you set yourself a task, a target, that on completion there’s a sense of anti-climax, the adrenalin that has kept you going returns to normal levels and consequently you feel tired. So I thought a day sitting on a bus, gradually heading west, was the best option.

Robin Hood’s Bay would be a pleasant place to spend some time in the right conditions (as is the YHA at Boggle Hole) and I’ll make an effort to return in the not too distant future – as well as getting to Whitby to experience the famous fish and chips. It’s different from what I expected. I didn’t realise that the old part of the village is at the bottom of a very steep hill and that caused me to wander around aimlessly looking for the bus stop the day before.

There’s a strange ‘monument’ at the bottom of the hill, next to the Coast to Coast finish/start sign. This is a statue, if that is the right word, of a fish, donated by a couple of locals (I assume), a Captain Isaac Mills and his wife. Didn’t notice a date and have no idea what it’s supposed to represent. So that the fish won’t escape it’s fenced in.

What makes Robin Hood's Bay Famous!

What makes Robin Hood’s Bay Famous!

Before relaxing on the English local bus network there was one last challenge – and that was getting up the hill. There had been some steep ascents during the last couple of weeks and this was one of the steepest, but thankfully short, if not so sweet.

With the timetables of the buses I reckoned I could get back across country in about 10 hours. This would be on 5 different buses and some of the changeovers were tight so a delay of only 10 minutes or so at a couple of places would have meant a delay of another hour or two, so there was a lot resting on the buses keeping to their timetable.

In planning the exact buses to catch I had forgotten one crucial fact – and that’s the time limitations on the bus pass, i.e., it’s not valid before 09.30. Trying to use the pass before that time brands someone a ‘twearly/twirly’ (don’t know if there’s an official way of spelling it). For those who may not have come across it this is the term applied to any old fart who tries to get on a public bus before 09.30. It almost certainly has it derivation in Liverpool, that city and Sheffield being the only two metropolitan areas that offered free travel to over 60s long before it became a national affair.

A ‘twearly/twirly’ would stand at the bus stop anything from 10 or 15 minutes before the pass was valid and would ask the driver ‘Is it too early to use my pass?’. Perhaps the first ones to try it succeeded but after a while drivers began to realise that the same people would be trying it on and so started to stick to the time limit. As drivers would change the persistent old arses would keep on trying and hence the term came into everyday use in Liverpool.

I think it’s probably spreading around the country now, especially in the major cities but, fortunately for me, has not yet become an issue in North Yorkshire. I was at the bus stop for the 09.24 bus and it wasn’t till it came to me en route to Scarborough that I realised I had, inadvertently (honest) joined the ranks of the ‘twearlies/twirlies’.

Travelling long distance on local buses is an interesting experience/pastime. For one thing, being used, as we have become, to racing along at 70 plus mph on motorways when travelling by road we have lost the pleasure of passing through small towns and villages. The pace is obviously slower so when you are passing places of interest there’s actually time to see what’s there. The routes will change from fastish dual carriageways to then follow a quiet country road on the off-chance that someone in an out-of-the-way village is waiting for the bus. For those with no transport of their own these bus services become a bit of a lifeline to the outside world. I cursed these diversions (unfairly) when my bus was running late, especially when no one would subsequently either get off or on the bus, but that’s just being selfish.

The outside world is seen in a different light but so is the internal, the one inside the bus itself.

Travelling throughout the day you get to understand the different groups of bus travellers who occupy the different time slots and you get an insight of people’s lives as they interact with public transport. And it’s not always that edifying.

On the first bus, from Robin Hood’s Bay to Scarborough, leaving as it did at 09.24 it was too late for the early start workers, or even schoolchildren, but even on that bus there appeared to me to be a handful of people who might be starting work a little later, or even travelling to work via Scarborough railway station, the terminus for this particular route. Together with them you find those who might be making relatively local visits, going early morning shopping or having a day out in the larger seaside town.

The bus from Scarborough was completely different. Going all the way to Leeds (a scheduled journey of 2 hours 45 minutes which takes in York) this was packed by the time it left the centre of the city and was almost full of people using a bus pass. Some going only a short distance but quite a few getting out at York. They would have been on a day trip, returning after an afternoon wandering the narrow streets of the old town. But that bus also picked up people doing their shopping and those travelling relatively short distances to carry out the everyday affairs that make up people’s existence – visiting family and friends, doctors, dentists, signing on at the dole, getting away from annoying family members, trying to escape for a short time, basically just doing something different to break up the monotony of their mundane lives.

From Leeds the make-up of the passengers changed again. Some seemed to be going home after sorting out their affairs in the big city, perhaps after dealing with officialdom or shopping. Then there were the first people who may have started work really early, on a morning shift perhaps, and going home in the middle of the afternoon as they had started in the middle of the night. As we got closer to Skipton (this bus’ terminus) it got darker and soon we were travelling through driving rain. These were the weather conditions I thought I might have had to face, but fortunately for me didn’t, as the winds from the east kept me dry. Once I didn’t need them the winds reverted to normal and hence the torrential rain, which kept falling until I was almost within sight of Liverpool. Towards the end of this journey schoolchildren started to appear as by 15.30 we were coming towards the end of the school day.

The changeover in Skipton was tight, only 5 minutes between one bus scheduled arrival time and the next one, to Preston, leaving. By now the rain was persistent and heavy and Skipton bus station is not somewhere you want to spend a lot of time in such weather conditions. One of the problems with the deregulation of buses, and the slashing of staffing levels, is that there’s no one present to hold buses back for a few minutes if a connecting bus is delayed. There must have been 7 or 8 people doing the same as myself and transferring to the Preston bus but if the Leeds bus had arrived only 5 minutes later it would have meant another hour’s wait for the next one. There’s just no planning for these situations when technology provides an easy way to create an integrated transport network, possible even with many bus companies if there was the will. But timetable punctuality means more than passenger ‘satisfaction’, something which also happens on the railways. If notice boards contained passenger comments rather than meaningless statistics we would all have a better understanding of transport infrastructure efficiency in Britain.

But ‘a close to Skipton bus station pub’s’ loss was my gain as the next bus pulled into its bay less than a minute after I got there. Now the passenger mix changed yet again. There were a few of us long haul passengers, making it all the way from Leeds to Preston – and beyond. Again people returning home along the almost 2 hours of this route. But dominated by schoolchildren. Passing through a number of small Yorkshire and then Lancashire towns the route passes many schools so not a surprise that they would be providing the passengers. What did surprise me was the distance some of these young people had to travel. They weren’t in any way going to a local high school. This was the case at the beginning of the route but became even more pronounced on the second half of the journey where some of these kids were on the bus for 45 minutes or more, to then arrive in the centre of Preston – how much further they had to go I wouldn’t know. And we’re not talking about a local bus that gets caught up in traffic lights and roundabouts. This was a bus that raced along dual carriageways and the miles soon mount up. These children must have been spending at least a couple of hours a day just getting to and from school and that can’t be right. I walked to all my schools and if it took longer than 10 minutes you were dawdling, surely that’s a more civilised approach to education?

The final stage from Preston to Liverpool was the 17.30 commuter bus. They are always quiet as people tend to travel alone and with mobile devices there’s even less incentive to communicate with fellow travellers. But even on this bus there was an indication of the pressures that are placed on working people in ‘austerity forever Britain’. A young teacher, or trainee, was looking through her class’s workbooks for the first part of the journey (which for her was over an hour). This is as bad as the circumstances of the schoolchildren earlier. She wouldn’t have got home much before 19.00 and I can’t imagine what time she left in the morning. I would like to think she had spent an hour or so in the pub after finishing teaching but I think that is, unfortunately, unlikely. People are working too long! When I was involved in the trade union we were fighting for a shorter working week/life but that is all a thing of the past now. The advantage of her working such a long day is that she won’t have to wait until her early 70s before retiring, she’ll be dead before then.

One of the last of my travelling ‘companions’ was a young women who had obviously been spending some time mucking out stables. This information was gleaned not from her dress or what she might have said but by the smell of horse piss and shit emanating from her foot wear. Judging (is this being prejudiced and imposing stereotypical points of view?) by where she got off the bus she was unlikely to have been the owner of a horse, more a stable girl. But why bring her work home with her, and in the process leaving her mark on a public bus? So many questions, so few answers.

By now the rain had stopped. The streets were wet but I had, yet again since leaving home just over a couple of weeks ago, missed getting seriously wet. Liverpool awaited. It had taken me 13 days walking to get from west to east and just 10 hours (more or less) to get from east to west.

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Coast to Coast Walk – Ennerdale YHA to Honister Hause YHA

Ennerdale YHA - in the rain

Ennerdale YHA – in the rain

Chapter 2 – Ennerdale YHA to Honister Hause

It won’t come as a surprise to the people I know that I was the optimist on the night of the 18th, predicting good, sunny weather. I was shown the value of such baseless optimism when I looked out the window on the 19th. Grey skies, low cloud, drizzle sweeping along the valley in the way that it does, a curtain of water waving its way along. I don’t know how it works but it seems as if there are places where there’s no water and places where there is. Little wind, which is always bad news as you have no idea if what you are seeing is there for the rest of the day or for a short time. Still in my optimist mode at one time when I looked out there was a bit (a very tiny bit admittedly) of blue sky. That was at 07.30 and no blue sky was seen for the rest of the day.

So even though I had a plan I put off departure. That wasn’t a problem. The route for the Thursday was not that long and I wasn’t in any real hurry.

Also I could spend time typing up my diary. I had made an attempt to do so the night before but I was too tired to concentrate (something I’ll have to bear in mind for the future). So that’s what I did, sitting at the computer, putting off the decision to leave for as long as possible. Fortunately there was no problem of being chased out of the place – which used to be one of the worst aspects of the Youth Hostels Association (and still is in some of the hostels).

The warden of Ennerdale YHA has a different approach. The whole of the place is left open all of the day, even when there’s no-one in attendance. There’s a notice on the path at the entrance to the hostel advertising that walkers are welcomed to come in for a tea/coffee plus a bun of some sort. All self-service and with an honesty box. She says it works. And one of her reasons for doing this is in order to make the YHA and its hostels more welcoming to people who wouldn’t normally visit the places.

One day, no doubt, they will discard the word ‘youth’ from the name of the organisation. Apart from school groups or other educational structured trips you don’t come across many ‘youth’ in Youth Hostels. That’s not least as there’s a segregation between the ages. If a school (or some such organisation) books a number of beds in a hostel they basically take it over. Completely. I’m sure there’s some sort of formulae but after a certain percentage of the available beds are booked by an organisation that deals with young people (even those in their late teens that might be on something like the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Scheme) the rest of the hostel is closed to outsiders. Perhaps there’s no limit. Perhaps if 20 beds are taken in an 80 bed hostel the rest of the place is out of bounds to anything other than another, similar institution. All this in the name of ‘child protection’.

This is merely a reflection of the anal retentive, knee jerk reaction society that Britain has become. The overwhelming cases of child abuse are perpetrated by immediate family members or someone well-known by the child. High profile cases of paedophilia, of grooming (which is particularly in the public realm at the moment following a number of cases that have been given a lot of publicity) seem to brand anyone a paedophile unless they can prove otherwise. Even parents aren’t allowed to take pictures of their own children in a public place and video cameras are banned at school nativity plays in case some unknown and unspecified ‘pervert’ makes use of them. School playgrounds are resembling small fortresses in order that no-one ‘unauthorised’ can peer through the fence.

This is crazy! Where is Britain going? That’s a rhetorical question as it is obviously going down the pan. We possess less and less idea of a community as time goes on, despite the crassness of the Tory Prime Minister (who leaves his daughter in a pub) and his meaningless idea of a ‘Big Society’. It was the people from his class that used, promoted, enjoyed and benefited from the huge explosion of child prostitution in the 19th century, especially in London. Yet all they do in all their policies makes such abuse of the young and the vulnerable more likely, not less.

The policy of the YHA of getting people from all ages into the ‘movement’ hits a barrier as soon as there is a likelihood of the different generations actually sharing the same space. This assumption that someone is guilty until proved innocent leads to the obscene and illogical situation where adults won’t help a child in a vulnerable situation because of the fear that they will be considered the abuser and not the Good Samaritan and there are a number of documented cases where this has led to the death of a young child. The argument, often used in these cases, that all is valid if it ‘saves one child from harm’ is spurious if by fragmenting society in such a way adults don’t feel that it is their social obligation to help children if they find themselves in a potentially dangerous situation.

Their policy of opening out won’t gain full success until they make the hostels they manage available to all who want to use them in an atmosphere of trust and cooperation – an atmosphere that exists in most other European countries.

The YHA won’t survive unless it becomes a more open organisation. Denying people access to a bed in an isolated location in the countryside under the guise of child protection will mean many places will become financially unviable. That can be seen by the move of the institution to create hostels in major cities and urban areas where there is a demand for cheap, basic and secure accommodation. It is only if these places earn enough money and there is a structure of cross-subsidisation that the more traditional and rural hostels will have any chance whatsoever of lasting into the future.

That’s the end of that opinion.

So I spent a couple of hours at the computer typing but there came a time when I had to move. Though only a short 7 mile walk it had to be done, whatever the weather conditions. I took my first, and only, photo of the day – which was of the hostel in the rain, packed everything in as water-proof a manner as possible, said my farewells, and left the building dressed ready to face the worse rain storms that the Lake District could throw at me.

Then the rain stopped!

As soon as I got to the forest track – no more than 50m from the hostel – the rain stopped.

I couldn’t believe it!

I spent the next hour walking along a more or less drivable track virtually poaching in my own heat. This was England, this was the Lake District, if it stopped raining and if the skies didn’t turn blue the chances were odds on that it would start to rain again, but it didn’t! So without a drop of water getting through my clothing I was soaked – or so I realised once I had reached the hostel at the end of the days walk.

The rain this day, that I thought was a curse, was actually beneficial in more ways than one. Firstly it had allowed me to catch up on the diary and secondly the late start had precluded any attempt at the high level walk – for reasons of time and also because even though it became clearer at the lower levels the tops were still in the mist.

But as I was walking, now sweating like a pig as the attempt to keep water out was keeping most of the moisture in, at a damascean moment I realised that going up to the high levels with what I was carrying and with the timetable I had decided was bordering on the imbecile.

On the route there are enough hills you MUST climb without looking for others. The distance itself is a challenge without trying to achieve as many as possible summits along the way. Perhaps such idiocy is reserved for the very young and the very old. Perhaps the rain of the morning of Thursday the 19th of September saved me from making a foolish decision – but I’m sure I’ll be making a few more mistakes before reaching the North Sea. I have to remember that I still have 191 miles to go!

Met up with another walker at the Black Sail YHA (undergoing a major renovation at the moment) and although he said during our conversations that he would have carried on if I had not turned up he was (self-admittedly) totally unprepared for the route. His daughter had turned back very early in the day due to a knee problem and had taken with her all the information they had about the walk. That might not have been much (again as he admitted) but without it he would have put himself in a potentially dangerous situation.

I’m not going to be over critical here as I’ve done such foolish things in the past – and lived to tell the tale – but this is not terrain you can treat with contempt, especially with the weather conditions prevailing on this September day. Yes, the rain had stopped but there was still low cloud and it could have come lower at any moment. Added to that once arriving at the plateau of Grey Knotts there was a viciously cold, bitter westerly wind. If you knew where you were going and could get out of it as soon as possible it wasn’t a real problem. But if you found yourself floundering in a wilderness it could easily have become a killer. We did pass a group of walkers on our way down but if he had been on his own and had taken a path away from them he might still be up there now, and in these conditions forever.

I’m carrying a GPS and have vowed not to depend upon it for route finding (if at all possible) but it is invaluable as a tool to confirm that you are where you think you are. That confidence boost is probably one of the most positive aspects of this recent satellite technology.

So today worked out OK, and very much better than I expected at 11.45. It was always going to be a relatively short day, with an interesting, though quite steep climb along a very well constructed ancient mule track. The weather was ‘kind’ in that I didn’t get rained on – although my shorts were soaking wet when I arrived at the hostel, even though not a drop of rain water had got close, it was all condensation. I’m thinking of inventing a water-proof skirt that can be worn over shorts to keep them dry whilst at the same time allowing a free flow of air.

And I only fell down once, less than a minute after meeting up with the other walker. It’s almost a rite of passage that when I meet up with someone I fall over.

Due to the policy of YHA to keep adults out of hostels when they had school groups (as is part of my diatribe above) I couldn’t stay at my preferred place overnight, which was the Borrowdale YHA (just over an hour further downhill from where I writing this now). The time I ‘wasted’ waiting for the Honister Hause YHA to open could have been usefully spent walking down into the valley, allowing for a shorter walk tomorrow. But that was not to be.

The forecast for tomorrow is supposed to be good and this time it’s not me who’s the optimist. After recent experience I’ll go against my nature and just take it as it comes.

The weather was so uncertain that the only picture I took during the whole day was the one at the top of the Ennerdale YHA – taken to record where I stayed. That was a pity as if the weather had been decent there are good views over Wast Water and Scafell which looms above it.

So at 15.25 on the afternoon of Thursday 19th September it was 26 miles down, 174 to go.

Practical Information:

Accommodation

Honister Hause YHA

Closed from 11.00 in the morning until 17.00. This is a bit of a bind as although the porch is open it’s merely shelter from the elements and not particularly warm or comfortable. One of the problems since the Youth Hostels started to provide alcohol and a small shop is that not all of them can secure these areas when no one is in attendance – this is the case at Honister Hause. The ‘honesty box’ might work in Ennerdale but I don’t know if the alcohol supplies would survive the visit of a group of Cockneys.

Does evening meals – see prices from previous posts. Bottles of Cumberland Ale a bit cheaper than the night before at £3.05.

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