York is OPEN!

On 5th February 2016, I turned 33. To celebrate, I decided to take myself to York for the day. Travelling from London after work the previous evening, I had a full day planned in the City before heading back South.

Taking time out from London was much needed and other than the fact that I have a friend who lives in York, I have become very fond of the place and the people of this beautiful City.

Flood gates on Wellington Row by the Ouse
Water reached the top of these gates on Wellington Row by the Ouse

With that in mind, following on from the devastating floods a few weeks ago, I had to go and lend them my support.

Many of the businesses within the City walls were hit when the banks of the Foss and the Ouse broke. The former was an unusual occurrence (in fact one person told me it never happens) and, as such, many locals didn’t believe it would happen. Even though warnings were given.

 

Still drying out
Still drying out

Now this isn’t the first time I’ve been to York after they have been flooded, but it is the first time I have been struck by the extent of the damage. Of course I was aware that this was much more severe than the last trip I made, but I was still surprised.

As I write this, I am sitting in the Fossgate Social (@fossgatesocial) who were one of the many companies who suffered in the floods.

The Fossgate Social
The Fossgate Social
BBC Local TV interview the owner of the Fossgate Social
BBC TV arrive
Chance to relax and watch the world pass by as I write
Watching the world pass by as I write

 

 

 

 

 

The owner is currently being interviewed by BBC Local TV about the impact to her business and her concerns about the long term impact on York.

The Fossgate Social itself, is rebuilding. Replacing damaged equipment which had prevented them from serving beer and welcoming visitors and locals in to the warm, cosy and very relaxed environment that they offer. You’d probably walk on past this little place and pass it off as just another ‘tea room’, but it’s so much more than that and it’s quirky interior offers you so much more than the Costa’s of this World.

Quiet on Coney Street as you walk down to Spurriergate
Quiet on Coney Street as you walk down to Spurriergate

So what about York? What would keep people away or is it actually just paranoia from the locals that they think people wouldn’t want to visit?

I don’t think they’re paranoid. In all the years I have visited York, this was probably the quietest I have known it. Yes, it’s February, but even by those standards, it was quiet.

 

With that in mind, I decided to write down my thoughts and share some images from this trip to the North.


 

Warm welcome to all
Warm welcome to all

The most obvious thing you encounter in York, is the friendliness. It’s not just because I spend a lot of time in London, that I find this so obvious, but everyone is friendly. You walk in to a shop/bar/cafe/restaurant and there is such a willingness to help, with a warm genuine smile that you can’t help but enjoy yourself.

The offerings from the City itself are vast. You have the obvious attractions of the Railway Museum and the Jorvik Centre, but you can easily fill your days by just walking around inside the City walls (or on them!) and taking in the atmosphere.

York Minster
York Minster

The architecture alone is beautiful. The Minster stands proud and is always surrounded by cameras, phones and those just marvelling at it’s beauty.

If you’re wishing to do a trip on a budget, there are plenty of B&B’s in York which you can enjoy without breaking the bank and if you’re wanting to stay centrally, then I would personally recommend the Roman Baths. Cosy rooms, as ever a warm welcome and a fantastic breakfast all at a bargin price for the City Centre. They often have live music on in the bar too (as do most places in York) so you can be entertained without needing to leave the premises!

Y Street Band get people dancing
Y Street Band get people dancing

Buskers in York are on most corners and in most pubs. One of my favourite bands to watch and listen to is the Y Street Band (@TheYStreetBand). I was fortunate enough to time my visit with a performance they gave in the Post Office Social Club.

Playing a lot of their own material, they filled the Club and the dance floor as their supporters (old and new alike) took to enjoy their wonderful music. Finishing off with a crowd pleasing rendition of David Bowie’s ‘Lets Dance’, they were superb.

Rachel Croft
Rachel Croft

A new found musical delight was Rachel Croft (@rachelcroft27). It was the first time I’d heard her and she has the most beautifully silky voice. Positioned on a stool in Kings Square, near the Last Drop Inn, passersby stopped, entranced by her guitar skills and voice.

As for food, there are many places to eat and enjoy in the City. As a nut allergy sufferer, I find it hard to eat out sometimes. It surprises me that as a Vegetarian or Vegan, you can be promised food that is strictly adhering to these diets, yet something that can kill you, is never promised. Whether that be in order to protect themselves from being sued or not, my issue lies with the stress that gets attached to enjoying a meal, when they say ‘it should be ok’, or ‘you can give it a try’.

Ambiente - Tapas Bar
Ambiente – Tapas Bar

One place that I have to commend for being brilliant for allergy sufferers, is Ambiente Tapas Bar. Located just down from the Fossgate Social, they were incredibly helpful when I was selecting a bite to eat and their allergy menu was superb. Thank you to them!

Another wonderful place to eat was the Happy Valley Chinese restuarant on Goodramgate. Although their menu warned that all dishes may have traces of nuts, when I asked the staff about a dish and the risk of nuts, they were brilliant. They clarified that the dish I had chosen would be fine and I was made to feel very relaxed about it. Not easy when you’re paranoid!

Most importantly, both of these restaurants served wonderful food in a brilliant atmosphere by polite, helpful staff.

At the end of the day, the City has so much to offer. If you enjoy live music, good food and like to meet people, you should give it a try. Served by mainline trains from the South (London Kings Cross and trains via Birmingham New Street) and the North, it’s perfect for a relaxing get away.

You don’t need a lot of money to spend while you’re there. You don’t have to do all of the obvious trips and tourist traps. But I urge you to give it a try and get out and experience as much of the day and night life of York as you can.

So to echo the words of the locals… “York is OPEN”!

Gallery of pics – http://www.jemmaphillipsphotography.co.uk/p707824083


If you have a suggestion of somewhere that I should visit, please get in touch.

I’m always after new places to explore!

Walking and walking… and more walking

It has been a beautiful day here in South Yorkshire. The perfect day for a walk. Luckily! I had planned the day for doing a site survey ahead of the software launch next weekend and was hopeful the rain would stay away.

The software is to be used for the Angling Trust’s Winter League final and as such I had 3 miles of the Stainforth and Keadby Canal and Lindholme Lakes complex to check and ensure it had adequate mobile signal. I opted to head for the Canal first as it was the biggest bit of walking. I was pleased I did as it was lovely. I parked near Staniland Marina in Thorpe and walked down from the pegs in the 280’s. A barge going through the lock gave me time to watch a couple of local anglers, one of which was catching a few small Roach.

Barge in a Lock

The walk down from the lock saw me get a bit lost in the long grass. Now, I’m not the tallest of people (a struggling 5 foot 5), but the grass was taller than me. There were a couple of guys fishing but I daren’t have a chat with them as I wasn’t too sure I wouldn’t stand on something. There was a moment when I wondered if that was going to be my entire 3 miles, but soon the grass cleared and I was faced with a brief walk along the road.

When I got to around peg 180, I encountered another group of anglers. It  transpired that several teams had made their way up to Thorne to get in some practice on the Canal ahead of next weekend, some of whom were staying to fish the Open tomorrow. A team from Oxford/Reading were very friendly and they were doing ok. I informed them of my mission and they wished me well.

By far the chattiest, was a gentleman at about peg 120 who was with Maver Image. He was sat behind one of his team mates and we had a long chat about the matches, travel, London and technology. By this point I had been walking for 2 hours and was starting to feel it. I had plenty of water with me luckily and I made my excuses and carried on walking. Other than a couple of other gentleman, there was then no one until I reached peg 20, where Ossett (forgive the spelling!) were fishing ahead of their League match tomorrow.

Canal

On my walk back, I filled in the guys with as much info as I could and again had a nice chat with the Maver Image guys. I saw quite a few fish caught, the highlight of which was a nice Tench of about 4 pound. Beautiful fish.

4 hours after I had started out, I arrived back at my oven of a car and headed over to the Lindholme complex to check the signal there. After several missed turns and spending 20 minutes messing about with EE (I really do not enjoy dealing with them!), I managed to get out and have a walk around.

It’s a wonderful place and is very well managed. Most of the guys were weighing in and as I rounded one corner, a group of chaps in fine voice, were handing over the brown envelopes of cash to the winner. As I walked past, a very cheery gentleman of advancing years, who I believe was called Lesley was holding the envelopes with a beaming smile. He asked me for a kiss to celebrate his win and, encouraged by several others and despite my first attempt at saying no, I gave in and gave him a kiss on the cheek. His smile broad and his friends cheering away, I carried on my walk around the lakes.

Lindholme Lakes

So now I am faced with a need to input some data into my system and look at one minor issue ahead of Friday. I’ve had an amazing day, but 18000 steps and over 7 miles later, I think for now I will enjoy my dinner and well earned beer… or two!

Best of luck to the guys fishing in the Open tomorrow on the Canal! Here’s hoping the rain isn’t as bad as they are predicting.

Hectic

It’s been a bit of a week. In fact, if I’m honest it’s been a bit of a year! I’m currently sat in my hotel room near Sheffield wondering where the last 6 months have gone.

For those who aren’t aware, I work full time in London, but also operate two small ‘businesses’ (actually it’s one, but there are two sides to it). The first is my Photography and the second is software development. The software side has been my baby for years and it’s the reason I’m ‘oop North’ this weekend.

I find myself, complete with iPad, phones, laptop, camera kit (you never know) and a rather pathetic array of clothes, in a recently refurbished hotel room attempting to work out how I approach tomorrow. In my previous work, I was always working away here, there or wherever and I always had a brief. I knew what to expect (ish) and I delivered the goods (if my ex-boss if reading this and has other ideas… I’m sorry). But this time is a bit of an unknown. The software relates to data collection in Sport and as such I need to ensure that next weekend, the iPads have good enough internet signal to do the business. I have armed myself with an array of goodies downloaded from the App Store which are hopefully going to tell me good news and snacks.

I managed to entertain myself briefly in the rather packed (and noisy) hotel bar this evening, enjoying my beer and burger. The diet is nowhere to be seen and that’s working fine for me right now. I’m at the end of the first week of my marathon training but so exhausted from everything that it’s had to be turned into a 15 week plan. Keep your fingers crossed for me!

Anyway, I’m quite excited about exploring this new part of the North. I normally skip straight past here and head for York! In fact, I think the last time I was in Sheffield, it was a day trip about 10 years ago!

Ten years have passed, but it’s still in my heart

It’s nearly ten years since I first stepped off the train and visited York. This beautiful City captured my heart straight away. My job, a Digital Audio Trainer for the BBC, took me to several cities around England, some of which I’ve never been back to, but this is one I have had the pleasure of revisiting many times.

I remember that first experience. From getting into the taxi at the train station and heading for BBC Radio York, to the late night walks back to the hotel, the restaurants and most of all the people. Not just those working at the Radio Station, but the locals I met while out shopping or eating in the evenings, were some of the friendliest I have met.

On 8th February I took myself back up to York to meet a good friend of mine (V) who has settled there after spending a few years at University. Even the train journey makes me feel content. Particularly going through Sheffield. I have no idea why, but I always catch my breath when I see the brick work just before you get to the station, which signifies (to me anyway) that I am in the North.

My trip this time was due to be a couple of nights of chatting, drinking and eating while celebrating my Birthday with V, which had fallen in the week before.

I stayed in that same hotel which I was booked into for work in 2003. With views over the River and just a few minutes into the heart of the City, I felt the hotel (Park Inn) was a good choice. I wasn’t disappointed. The staff, friendly and welcoming as always and the room, with a view over the river and toward the Minster, was just what I needed to help me to relax.

York Minster at nightI met V in the shadow of the beautifully lit York Minster and we headed to the Three Legged Mare for a drink and catch up. As we walked in, I immediately fell in love with it. Filled with people relaxing, chatting, drinking ale courtesy of the York Brewery and soaking up the piano music being supplied by a well-known local Busker. Approaching the bar, V was hugged and welcomed by several people and not once was I made to feel like an outsider. The two gentlemen she knew at the bar, chatted away and included me in their conversations as if I had known them for months.

The evening progressed and we moved on to The Golden Fleece to take in the sounds of another local Busker and his band. Again, it was filled with people laughing and enjoying themselves. The band started up at 9pm and the music was brilliant. A great mixture of songs from the 60’s to the present day, which got everyone singing along, clapping and cheering for more when it was over. The skeleton at the bar was a surprise, but I’m reliably informed he Skeletonwas wearing a Santa hat at Christmas, so at least he likes to get involved.

The evening finished as it started, in the Three Legged Mare, where we planned our Saturday. Rather than my usual walk around the City, involving too much coffee, the Hog Roast and walking the walls, V suggested a road trip with another of her friends.

Saturday’s road trip was brilliant. After picking up K, we spent an hour heading East to Bridlington. The journey was worth it. Parking in the Harbour, we decided to go to South Beach. We walked toward the sea, with the harbour to our left, blue sky overhead and the warmth of the sun on our faces.

538080_10151243113800946_1868307437_nHaving decided to go down the gangway toward the seawall where the fishermen were, we noticed there was a lack of dry land between us and the beach. The three of us and another couple who had the same idea were stood staring at the water, approximately 4 feet across, which was covering the sand by about an inch. V made a dash for it and made it across, as did the man who had appeared. Minutes later the water was gathering momentum, so, sensing a break in the tide, K made a run across the water, only getting her trainers and bottom of her jeans wet. The man was trying to encourage both myself and his partner across, but she gave up and said she would walk up and along South Cliff Road (a good 10 minute walk). I waited a minute or two to see if the water (now 3-4 inches deep) would go out. It did, but as I stepped onto a slightly raised bit of sand, it came gushing back in. Shrieking, I got out the other side to laughter, soaked trainers, socks and jeans (halfway to my knees). I squelched my way down the beach for the rest of the afternoon.

We walked for an hour or so, the warmth of the sun was welcomed and somewhat surprising. Soon, realising just how far we had walked (and how hungry we were), we headed back to find somewhere to eat. Walking around the town, we found a little cafe for Fish and Chips. Red seating and numerous old style heaters propped up on the windowsill gave it a very old fashioned feel and smell. I opted for sausage rather than fish which turned out to be two jumbo sausages and a plate of chips! The food was fantastic, but I couldn’t finish it all.

IcecreamNo trip to the seaside would have been complete without an ice cream, even in a rather chilly 4 degrees, and so we set off in search of one. Eventually (5 or 6 places later) we found what we were after and headed for a short walk toward North Beach. This turned into a very short walk as the temperature plummeted. A brisk walk back to the car and we had decided that enough was enough. We were all frozen stiff.

Saturday night was spent with V and a couple of her friends from University. I could direct you to the places we visited by I’ve no idea on the names. Mainly because we spent a good 20 minutes trying to find somewhere ‘quiet’ so we could have a chat! However the quiet locations were soon traded in for louder, busier bars and we eventually finished the night off in a club.

Sunday was a relaxed affair. I headed for breakfast, which was packed. The staff quickly found me a table and soon I was happily tucking in to a large Full English Breakfast and coffee. Over the 10 years I’ve travelled for work (and pleasure) I’ve had some awful experiences of breakfast, but this was very well done. No congealed beans or rubber scrambled eggs, instead it was hot, fresh and very tasty. After breakfast, I had planned to take a walk out in York and soak up the atmosphere, but the weather had turned and the wind and rain put me off. Instead, I returned to my room to stared out of the window at the City.

What strikes me most of all is that my thoughts while there, are always my most creative. There’s something about that City, like Liverpool, which inspires me. I don’t know why and being able to tap into that inspiration when I return home, is something I’ve never managed.

Inspiration and creativity seems to be so muted in my everyday life. It’s there, I know it is. It’s just a case of finding it.