Thursday, April 16, 2015

North Yorkshire Day 1 - Smugglers and vampires

Arriving in Whitby, located on the North Yorkshire coast, I was looking forward to a few days of photography along this scenic stretch of coastline. I had visited Yorkshire several times before, but due to its massive size, it’s by far the biggest county in Britain, I hadn’t reached the North York Moors and accompanying shoreline before.

After offloading my chattels in the apartment I had taken on West Cliff, overlooking the robust waves of the North Sea, I took a drive down the coast to Robin Hoods Bay. Mentioned by Leland, the father of English local history and bibliography, in 1536, he described it as "A fischer tounlet of 20 bootes with Dok or Bosom of a mile yn length." And I could not have described it better myself if I was also using made up words.

In the 18th century, Robin Hood’s Bay was reportedly the busiest smuggling community on the Yorkshire coast. Its natural isolation, protected by marshy moorland on three sides, offered an excellent aid to this well-organised business, and walking through the narrow, twisting streets it’s easy to imagine those turbulent times. Although I doubt there were as many tea rooms about then.

Image of Robin Hoods Bay in the 1890's courtesy of Old UK Photos 

Driving back to Whitby, I was hoping to get a few sunset shots in the bag, but the weather was just not playing ball. The early evening was muted and grey, it was a real ball bag. So I walked through town, into the old quarter and onto one of the solid stone ramparts that protects the bay from the worst the North Sea has to offer.

Some shots of the harbour walls on what was a very dreary evening.

From there I took a path up onto the headland just below the grand remains of Whitby Abbey, and finally into the atmospheric graveyard of the Church of Saint Mary. Founded around 1110, this recognisably Norman church is best known for being featured in Bram Stoker’s novel Dracula. And stood among the crowded mass of weathered gravestones, their crooked, black, leaden flanks mottled and eaten to near destruction by the salty air, it wasn’t difficult to feel a sense of foreboding under the sinking gloom of the rapidly fading light.

“For a moment or two I could see nothing, as the shadow of a cloud obscured St. Mary's Church. Then as the cloud passed I could see the ruins of the Abbey coming into view; and as the edge of a narrow band of light as sharp as a sword-cut moved along, the church and churchyard became gradually visible... It seemed to me as though something dark stood behind the seat where the white figure shone, and bent over it. What it was, whether man or beast, I could not tell.” - Bram Stoker's Dracula.

When it was clear that sunset was going to be postponed until better weather appeared, I headed into town for some grub and a few bulbs of garlic, before heading back to the apartment, ready for an early start the following day and the hope of more forgiving skies.

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