Back in the UK 6-11 Aug 2012
The flight back from Sydney to London was pretty good, made better by the upgrade to First Class in the new A380 - very swish, and importantly enabling a good several hours' sleep for both of us.
As usual, we collected the hire car from the airport and headed straight up to Leeds. After a day or two of running around getting the van sorted and packed, the provisions bought and stored, we headed to the north east and the coast.
The North Yorkshire Moors National Park is a large tract of land west of Whitby. We expected natural wilderness but only some of it is. So much seems to still be farmland and logged forests - not an Australian definition of a National Park at all. But the drive over the higher parts (over 300m) - the real moors - showed us wild and desolate country. Purple heather covered the ground and no vegetation was more than knee height. Black-faced sheep roamed at will all over the road and there were many, many signs to watch out for them. The road through the Esk Valley took us on by-lanes and tracks through the tiniest of villages. Finding a place to stop for lunch was difficult given the narrowness of the roads but we found a little pull-in next to a fancy stile on a public footpath and ate overlooking quintessential Yorkshire countryside.
Whitby gets a good rap in all the write-ups so we headed there for a look at Captain Cook's birthplace. We had been assured there were plenty of car parks in town. So there were but half the cars in England must also have been there. The town was wall-to-all people, bumper-to-bumper traffic and not a place in town to stop. It seemed pretty enough and interesting enough, but it would have to wait for another time - off-season preferably! A drive up the hill to the ruined Abbey was also a fruitless exercise - not a spot to be had to park.
We detoured to a point called Flamborough Head jutting out from the coast and sporting an impressive lighthouse. Here the chalk cliffs are eroded into wonderful bays and arches. The white cliffs sparkle in the sun (when it comes out…) and sea birds roost in the vertical faces. A group of earnest people all together on a cliff edge, but never passing a word between them, sat with tripods and spotting scopes pointed out to sea. We never did figure out what they were watching for - whales or sea birds or… - but it was a pretty lonely occupation despite the company around.
Because of the school holidays we had trouble finding a campsite not booked out. The first night we managed to find one eventually and it turned out to be a lucky find, it being a very pleasant spot with free wi-fi and exceptionally good hot showers! (These things are very important when travelling the way we do.)
The second night we played safe and booked on the web. We managed to get further south (the way we wanted to go) but had to head a bit west (the way we didn't want to go). This took us to the southern side of the Peak District National Park. We stayed there last year on our return from Ireland, but the rain was bucketing down so hard that we abandoned our plans for a few days there and moved on!). This site was at the edge of a pine forest just outside the park. To get there we drove through the little town of Matlock. As if we could forget it was the summer holidays, here was another little town that looked absolutely delightful and worth an explore - but just like Whitby, the crowds and the cars meant we just had to tuck this one away as another off-season visit in the future.
And so down to Harwich on the Essex coast. The entry to the port and the boarding onto the ferry was the easiest we have yet experienced. The ferry left on calm seas with blue skies shining above us. Denmark here we come.