Wandergrin – City Sprints

Travelling can be a funny beast. You can spend days wandering the countryside, rarely seeing a built up area and other times, there can be so much concentrated urban jungle, that you need to just do the highlights, to ensure you fit it all in. By the end of this blog, I will have wandered Leeds, Bradford, Lincoln and Nottingham, spending as long as a day in Lincoln and as little as a lunch stop in Bradford.

One clear reason for not spending long in each place is because I was staying with friends instead of hostels or AirBnBs, so I allowed myself more time to relax in more welcoming environments and spend that time catching up and chatting… and chatting… and chatting!

I left York and made my way to my friend Sarah’s house, on the outskirts of Leeds. I hadn’t seen Sarah in over 15 years, since we last worked together at Virgin. I arrived around lunchtime, with a view to head straight into Leeds but ended up not leaving the sofa for the rest of the day. We had a lot of catching up to do! The next morning, we headed to the grounds of Harewood House to do a long hike in the picturesque grounds of this grade 1 listed stately home. Without stopping for breath, our mouths got as much of a workout as our legs and as we barely broke stride, we barely stopped for breath either.

At lunchtime, I took the train into Leeds and if I could sum it up in one word, it would be small. Hundreds of years ago, rumour reached Leeds that neighbouring Sheffield was applying for city status and the Mayor panicked, as he wanted Leeds to be granted status first. Without even ensuring they had all the necessary requirements to reach this accolade, the application was submitted and then granted long before they had the opportunity to be ‘city ready’. Even though it feels like quite a pleasant place to be, it still feels like they’re not.

The cathedral is really just a church with tickets on itself. The museum is closed, the art gallery is sparse to say the least and even the people seemed short. To me, Leeds is the kind of place you go to when you want a long weekend away but only have a day free. As my day dwindled to an end, Sarah joined me in the city early evening to be my Valentine’s date and we had a delicious Columbian meal, before heading back and settling in for a night on the couch, to watch The Moorside. Who said romance is dead!?

The next day was meant to be day 2 in Leeds but feeling like I had taken in everything there was to see the previous afternoon, I headed out of town and drove to the ruins of Kirkstall Abbey, which were amazing. After Henry VIII disbanded the Catholic monasteries and convents in the late 1530s, the state ‘disposed’ of their assets and the monks left Kirkstall Abbey, leaving it to fall into disrepair. Eventually, some of the Abbey was dismantled so the locals could reuse the stone and materials to build their houses and today, we are left with a photographers dream – novice and expert.

Leaving the Abbey, I headed to Bradford for lunch, as it was nearby and was another city to tick off the list. From what I saw, it was a nice place. That is all I have to share on the matter, until I go back and explore properly. After lunch,  I realised I was close to the site where they based The Moorside which we watched the previous night and as it was such a good docu-drama, I thought it was worth a visit. For those who don’t know, it is the story of a fake kidnapping by Karen Matthews of her daughter Shannon in order to profit from the reward money, which happened on a desolate council estate in Dewsbury, Yorkshire.Upon approach, I could see how rough it was and actually didn’t feel comfortable getting out the car, due to all the local chavs (bogans, for the Aussie readers) who seemed to be staring menacingly at me. I did a quick drive by of the Matthews house, before driving on to stay with my friend Caroline, in Lincoln.

I love Lincoln. I’ve been here before and it is such a historic, clean and attractive city, it is easy to come back to again and again, as it seem like a place where there is always something to do or something to see. Caroline (who I hadn’t seen in 4 years) and I spent the evening in, catching up on each others lives and woke up ready to explore the city together, as she had taken the day off to spend with me.

We parked up and meandered around, taking in the imposing Cathedral, which was built at the top of what is now called Steep Hill back in 1092 and still looms down over the city to this day. We explored the city on foot for most of the morning, before heading to the infamous Brown’s Pie Shop for lunch, which didn’t disappoint and we ate heartily, as we had to climb back up Steep Hill to get there. The entire afternoon was spent at Lincoln Castle which was constructed by William the Conqueror in the 11th century. At the castle, they have an extremely informative, audio guided walk around the castle walls, a renovated Victorian prison and of course Britain’s own constitution – the Magna Carta which was first drafted in 1215 and one of only 4 original copies remaining is still held securely in the castle grounds – what an amazing piece of history to still be lucky enough to see!

Everything you get to do at Lincoln Castle is enjoyable, educational and interesting. We actually ran out of time there, as what we were learning and seeing was so absorbing. It is a great asset to an amazing city and I am already looking to the next time I get the opportunity to visit again. It’s a good job Caroline has plenty of spare rooms for me to choose from, when I return!

Click on each image to enlarge

We headed back to Caroline’s for a night of blog writing and relaxing (I did the former), before calling it a night.

As we parted in the morning, I had the opportunity to spend another day in Lincoln but I decided to move on, as I didn’t want to drag out my stay and diminish my thoughts on the place. I made my way to Nottingham for a brief lunch with my old flat mate, before having a quick jaunt around the city.

Amber is jut a delight to anyone who meets her and I am very fortunate to know and to have lived with her. Having worked together at Virgin as well, she moved out from living with Ian and I and moved in with Sarah, who I stayed with in Leeds. Our brief lunch lasted for 3 hours and we spent more time laughing and reminiscing than we did eating. We had such a lovely time, it was a shame it had to end but I had a city to fit into 90 minutes and Amber had to take Basil to the vets.

I walked from the restaurant into the shopping centre. In the shopping centre, is an entrance to a network of over 100 caves, which were built below the city by those below the poverty line and had nowhere else to live. The caves became houses, workshops, schools and community spaces and despite causing some of the above ground buildings to collapse into a pile of rubble, they remained and became a thriving, rent free community for many years. To this day, one of England’s contenders for the oldest pub in the country still exists and although it can be accessed from street level, is still built into the caves below the castle grounds at Castle Rock. I headed there on the topside, so I could take in the feel of the city and give a nod to the statue of Robin Hood, who is the cities most infamous outlaw. I had a local ale in Ye Old Ship to Jerusalem to tick off a visit to quite possibly one of the oldest pubs in the world, before moving further south and to my last AirBnB stay, which was to be in Cambridge. So there we have my whistle-stop tour of a few of England’s most notable cities. It really is amazing what you can fit into a few days, when you really put your mind to it.

For more photos and blogs on my UK road trip, please search Wandergrin on Facebook and like the page.

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