Rough-Stuff Fellowship Easter Weekend by Jean Stevens
It was the dreaded stairs at Kings Cross Thameslink station again, so I asked Bill, my neighbour if he'd like to earn £10 and carry my panniers up these stairs while I carried my bike. So that was agreed. The train was crowded and we had to stand but all was well at Kings Cross especially the sit down and a coffee. Bill even helped me put the bike in the guards van to Darlington. A well-earned £10 (though I didn't actually pay him!).
All I had to do then was eat my sandwich on the train and at Darlington meet Heather, who had travelled from Newcastle, and Peter, our driver. The bikes were soon installed at the back of the car and we went straight to the nearest cafe for tea (and something to eat for the others, it being lunchtime). I was full of admiration at the driving and map-reading skills of my companions, negotiating all sorts of main roads via Middlesbrough to Whitby where the Rough-Stuff Fellowship were for the Annual Meet. I had booked a B&B that night in the town (followed by an excellent meal) while the others went on to the HQ at Castle Sneaton.
Next morning my hosts drew me a map following the higher route to Castle Sneaton - "you don't want to go down to the town" they said, "it's uphill back." I always take advice from the locals and enjoyed the ride/walk along the cliffs, good views of the sea, and good weather! I soon got lost and had to ask the way but eventually arrived at the HQ and booked in.
What a lovely place! It's used as a conference centre, owned by nuns but run by a separate company. My single room turned out to be a double room, with bath, plus two bunk beds, so there was plenty of room. I went back to the reception to ask about meals each evening, and confirmed what I gathered talking to Peter our secretary that there was only one dish each night, and none were to my taste! So I decided to take a taxi each evening (Whitby was very near) and found lovely restaurants and meals each night, except Sunday when the Annual Dinner was held at the HQ and that was excellent.
I asked the lady in reception if there were any nice country pubs nearby for lunch. She said Yes, there were two at Sleights. I managed to find my way there, alright, until approaching the village - up a very steep hill which I walked! On the way up I passed a man tending his garden amd I asked him if there really was a pub in the village? He said "oh yes, just keep going up."
After a very satisfying sandwich I made my way back down the hill. I'd noticed on the way up a tea shop so stopped there for tea as I hadn't had a drink at the pub, and found a lovely traditional tea shop and settled for tea and a toasted teacake. The two ladies owning the cafe chatted to me and I asked where was the other pub? Oh, they said you passed it at the bottom of the hill! (But when I saw it I think mine was better ... ) They also advised me a bettter route back to the HQ, not quite so hilly, but I still walked the last bit - to be overtaken by four RSF members, so more chat, but we were very soon at the HQ and I met some more members there, and even more for the evening slide show.
Saturday was a different day altogether. Our President was taking his lady and two other ladies on a car trip to Goathland with the object of going on the North Yorkshire Moors Steam Railway, so I asked to join in. We started from Goathland station and went down the line to Grosmont where we had coffee in the olde worlde buffet. We then came back to Goathland and continued back on the whole route to the end at Pickering. It was really interesting seeing the authentic train plus all the station reproductions of days gone by, all the old advertisements were there, bringing back memories of those days. We learned that the train and station had featured in a recent film.
Abandoning the train for the time being we went into Pickering where we had a very pleasant sociable pub lunch, then after a walk round it was back to the train and the car to the HQ. While we were enjoying our lunch in the pub, we wondered what the rest of the clientele made of one man with four ladies - was the attraction his charm or his money?
Saturday was the Annual General Meeting where among other things the next year's venue was voted for. Ludlow was chosen which pleased me - I thought it might be fairly easy to get to - but subsequently the RSF Journal informed us that Ludlow wasn't possible and it was now Rhayader, so I have to think again.
During the evening I heard what some members planned for tomorrow and what some members had done already. The route most mentioned was the old railway track to Robin Hood's Bay, and as a few were arranging this for tomorrow, I asked if I could join them. So a leisurely start next morning including quite a search to find the start of the track! Eventually we were on our way along a good surface, fairly flat, lovely views of the sea.
At Robin Hood's Bay we went down, and down (and down) to the bottom, and stopped for a welcome coffee and cake, and then it was all the way back up! There were five of us and one or two helped me push my bike, it really was steep. At the top Brian, our leader, had found another rough-stuff route back to Whitby. I should mention that the weather was unbelievably sunny, blue sky and warm, and the ride back was very pleasant.
Brian said there was cafe on the way and we would have lunch there. But we found there wasn't much to eat there - as it was Easter Sunday and a lovely sunny day, perhaps they had sold out! I settled for tea and toast, I believe there were hamburgers, but not much else, so we thought we'd have a snack back in Whitby - it wasn't very far.
After excellent map-reading from Brian we arrived at Whitby Abbey way above the town - and if the walk up from Robin Hood's Bay was hard enough it was nothing compared with the cobbled stone path down to the town! I managed a little bit of it but a fellow visitor (not a cyclist) very kindly pushed my bike most the of the way. Almost at the bottom we found a traditional teashop for our late snack. I ordered a toasted cheese and tomato sandwich - when it came there was rather a lot of it, all the trimmings - very welcome.
After that all we had to do was to climb out of the town to the HQ and get ready for the Annual Dinner which was very sociable and enjoyable - a very good meal.
In the morning, on my own, no more rough-stuff, I set off for a very short ride along the coast to Sandsend where I had coffee and a scone. It was very pleasant in the warm sunshine watching the children playing on the sandy beach, lots of space for them to run around. Then a very small loop round to the Beehive pub at Newholm for lunch. A traditional pub, only two other diners, so the landlord chatted to me and played his guitar for me (no extra charge). He advised me the best way to avoid the main road to Whitby.
I now had time to look round there. This historic fishing port has steep cobbled streets, nooks and crannies, very picturesque. It was here that teenaged Captain Cook worked as a shipmaster's apprentice before starting his life on the ocean waves. I found a nice cafe for tea and the restaurant I saw earlier, but hadn't seen again.
Back at the hotel Peter said three of them were going for a meal, did I want to come, so we walked back to town, it was downhill. I showed them my choice of restaurant but they wanted to look round for others, and we eventually went to a pub, which was really a restaurant, recommended by our hostess, which was really really good! After that two of us (guess who?) had a taxi and two walked back.
Next day Heather from Newcastle and I again had a lift from Peter to Darlington, again fantastic driving and map-reading. My train was earlier than Heather's, so the others went for a snack. I bought a sandwich to eat on the train, drank a coffee and was incredibly well looked after by the station staff - "your booked seat is at the back of the train, and the bike will go in the front - just leave your bike there and we'll put it on for you!" So the only hazard left was the dreaded Kings Cross Thameslink stairs. Unusually there were officials in the booking hall and I tentatively asked if someone could carry my bike down to the platform - and it was done!
A most enjoyable weekend, everything went well, the weather was superb. I expected travelling to the north-east coast in April would be wet cold and windy, but there was no rain, and it was sunny and warm most of the time, the accommodation and food was excellent and added to all this was the reunion with lots of old friends.
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