Monday the 18th June, 2012 – Thirsk – York – Chesterfield
Today we were faced with a bazillion options on how to get two hours south and see awesome things along the way. The problem – we are driving through some of the prettiest parts of northern England – there are national parks and waterfalls, odd shaped rock parks, cliffs and cute little towns and animals and sooooo many things! Too many things! Look up the York area and you’ll get what I mean!
We started the morning with a visit to the York Bird of Prey Centre. It is home to a lot of hand reared eagles, hawks and owls. I was curious to go to a falcon centre as it seems really big in the UK, there are a few of them advertised. It is part volunteer run and only 5 pounds for entry. You can also buy “hawk walk” and spend a full or half day flying the birds with a guide.
It was really good! A heap of different birds to look at, they all have nice airy enclosures. The trainers know heaps about the birds themselves and are really nice. If I could re-plan the day I would get there after lunch so we could catch one of the flying shows. They train the birds from a young age to come to whistles and fly to perch. They also let you hold the birds and it was very cool! There was a very large eagle and quite a large range of hawks and owls. They have a pair of European Eagle Owls (we met one called Rolo) – which were once native to England, but hunted off. They are slowly being re-introduced now though. The females can bring down small deer!
There was also a very large eagle – I’ve forgotten his name, although a lot of the birds are named after candy and chocolate. When the trainers realised we couldn’t stay for the show, they got out Bounty – a Boobook Owl native to Australia. They were nice to do that actually. We then had a mini flying session with him. He would launch off your arm, then be called pack to pick up his food. It was really, really, REALLY cool! Bounty was so cute 🙂 I’d be interested to spot some of the English birds of prey in the wild, but the centre gives you a real close up introduction to the birds and the way they hunt.
Did I mention it was really cool? ….It was really cool!
Ok, we headed on into York for lunch. Within seconds of parking, we have spotted a small castle. (Dang it, they are everywhere!).Â It was technically a tower – named Clifford’s Tower – named for the man Roger de Clifford who was executed and hung over the walls for treason against Edward II. It has good views York city as it sits on a small, but very steep hill. It costs 4 Pounds to visit, which isn’t too bad.
We had lunch at a very nearby pub – the menus are crazy – the meals are huge and I think I am going to have to start eating only one a day! We had a planning session as the clerk at Clifford’s Tower had informed us there were a bazillion things to see and do in York. I had wanted to check out the Bempton Cliffs – which is a nature reserve teeming with seabirds galore (puffins!), but it added a bit of driving to the day. We decided to stay in York for the afternoon.
We walked up the road a bit to check out Jorvik Viking Centre – it is the site of an archaeological dig in the 1970’s that turned up a ton of Viking artifacts and evidence of the houses and so on. It was all sitting in a peaty/boggy type layer of soil, which preserved a lot of the artefacts. They have since preserved them all further with wax and stuff like that. It gave huge insight to the living style of the Jorvik Vikings of a thousand years ago. They have also on display some human faecal remains (spotted by Greg). So, in the mix of weird things we have seen on holiday, I can now add “800 to 900 year old turd”…. fabulous.
The centre also features a “ride” you slowly circle through a re-created animatronic Viking Village…. it’s bizzaro, definitely in the realm of the uncanny valley. I think they are trying to get you interested in the Viking style of life, but it has a lot of detail. I have to say, even though there were some cheese factor elements to the place, it was worthwhile. (like for instance, the staff are dressed as Vikings, but they also know their history). There are tactile examples of flint, stone, drinking horns and that sort of thing to have a play with. I like any museum where you get to touch things…
Anyhoo, we moved on and strolled about York for awhile. We took in the very famous street “The Shambles” which is a very old cobblestoned street, which is full of dark timber framed buildings that used to be part of a chain of butchers shops.Â There is now an array of cafes and little boutique shops to check out, but you can still admire the buildings and there are still hooks hanging from the outside of some of them . We had a hot chocolate while walking along there – delish!
Moving along we we had a wander up and down the old York city walls. Apparently York has more miles of wall intact then anywhere else in England.Â In any case, it’s a nice little walk and there is a tower museum at one end, although we didn’t go in.Â We also walked past the York Cathedral, which is one of the prettier Gothic cathedrals we’ve seen.
We then drove on to stay the night a hotel in Chesterfield, it was a hug the room and sleep kind of situation though. We booked there cos I had found an online bargain to stay there. We did spend some time trying to figure out what to do on our way to Plumstead (where my Aunt lives) – the problem is there are way too many awesome national parks and walks to do in the central area of England. If we come back I would like to check out more of Wales and the Lake District as well.