North Yorkshire Moors Britain's Best Drives


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North Yorkshire Moors

Richard Wilson follows routes raved about in motoring guides of the mid-20th century. Here, he drives from Scarborough to Whitby via the Yorkshire moors.


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For many, the 1950s were the Golden Age of British motoring.

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Back then driving was leisurely, liberating and fun.

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BRAKES SQUEAL AND HORN BEEPS

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Yes, things have changed a bit since then.

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But, perhaps it's still possible to recapture some of that old magic.

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Oh, yes!

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I'm setting off on six of the best drives from the 1950s,

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as recommended by the guidebooks of the era.

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And I'll be driving them in some of the decade's most iconic vehicles.

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GEARS CRUNCH

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Oh, I've gone into reverse!

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I want to find out if these routes still thrill and inspire.

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This is a spectacular road.

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And how, in 50 years, Britain itself has changed.

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Oh, for God's sake!

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They wouldn't have thought to come here without a sat nav.

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I'm sure they wouldn't.

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People don't value each other as much as they did then.

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It was a different type of life, wasn't it?

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HORNS BEEPING

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There is no country in the world so completely satisfying to tour

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as the British Isles.

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The roads are excellent and the scenery is enchanting,

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varying from an exquisite softness of beauty found in no other county in the world,

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to a wild and rugged grandeur unsurpassed elsewhere.

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England, Scotland and Wales between them are the finest countries in the world for motoring holidays.

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It sounds like driving in '50s Britain was an utter delight,

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but the sad fact is, I completely missed out on it all.

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My family couldn't afford a car and I didn't pass my test until the late seventies.

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Nowadays, well, it's hardly "the joy of the open road," is it?

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Yes, this is a traffic jam.

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So, finally I've got a chance to experience what I missed out on.

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I've been tooled up with the best motoring guides of the decade and, with a little trepidation,

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I'm putting all my years of driving modern automatics behind me,

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and embracing 1950s technology.

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Oh!

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LAUGHS

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Oh my goodness, it's splendid.

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Gosh, it's a Morris Minor 1000, a Traveller.

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Gosh. All I'm worried about is the state of the gears.

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My first trip is to Yorkshire and a region that my 1959 guide

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reckons is perfect for a motoring holiday.

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GEARS CRUNCH

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It's a very easy car to drive,

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the Morris Traveller, nice steering

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and the gears are relatively simple.

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Haven't quite got control of them, but we're getting there.

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# ..Come on everybody...! #

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The Morris Traveller first appeared on Britain's roads in 1952

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and, with its "mock Tudor" half-timbered effect,

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it's one our most fondly remembered vehicles.

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It was conceived by the famous Mini designer,

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Alec Issigonis, as a quality but affordable car for the working man.

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And, with a fuel consumption of 38 miles per gallon,

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it was about the most economical car on the nation's roads.

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It's a classic piece of 1950s British engineering

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and in it, I'll be doing a classic 1950s British drive.

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Our recommended route will take in some of Yorkshire's finest scenery -

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from the bucket and spade resort of Scarborough, through the lush

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Dalby forest, and on to the A169 - described in 1953 as

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"probably the finest moorland road in the world".

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It leads to our final destination - the historic port of Whitby.

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SEAGULLS CRY

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So first stop,

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a town that's as British as sausage and mash or Winston Churchill.

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Group of girls there with T-shirts on saying "slappers on tour".

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# Whaddya want to make those eyes at me for

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# If they don't mean what they say... #

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Scarborough claims to be our country's first resort,

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and it's got everything you'd expect to see in a British seaside town.

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# You're fooling around with me now... #

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Lots of amusement arcades, fish and chips, gift shops.

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And, really, when you look at all this, you think,

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well, this must have been exactly what it was like in the 50s.

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Absolutely classic British seaside resort.

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Catering for holidaymakers is Scarborough's principal industry.

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Streams of motor coaches pour into it

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from the towns of industrial Yorkshire,

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disgorging some thousands of trippers near the beach.

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The Harbour Ice Cream Bar has been a fixture on the Scarborough seafront since 1945.

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And I've arranged to meet tourism expert, Victor Middleton,

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to find out why the '50s were such a boom time for the British seaside.

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Is it safe to say that the '50s

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was the heyday of resort tourism in Britain?

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British resort tourism, I would say, '50s and '60s were the period

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of greatest demand for British seaside resorts such as Scarborough.

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There must have been a real hunger for people to have a holiday.

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-Well, yes.

-Working class people, as well.

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Well, the whole population.

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I mean, anybody over the age of 40 or 50 had lived through

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two world wars, they'd had the deprivation of the 1930s.

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They'd had six years of war and misery, and the danger as well, for many,

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and they were absolutely hungry for holidays and so the resorts were the logical places to go.

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Yeah. You grew up in a small hotel. What was that like in the 50s?

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Well, it was a small hotel, which had about 30 people maximum.

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I think there were two lavatories for 30 people.

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There was one bathroom, because you were expected to have a bath before you came.

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And people were advertising spring-interior mattresses in all rooms, as opposed to straw!

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-And hot and cold running water was pretty upmarket.

-Gosh.

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But the key thing in the '50s, maybe more than now, because people

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had this pent up desire, there was a spirit of enthusiasm and enjoyment,

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which has probably diminished.

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People didn't have televisions, so they talked, it was a very social business.

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-Do you think people were happier then?

-In my view, yes, they were.

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-But there's a danger as you get older, you look back with a golden glow, as you know!

-Yes.

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Of course, the boom times of the '50s and '60s didn't last.

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The arrival of cheap foreign package deals

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meant the next 30 years were pretty grim for many of our seaside towns.

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But in recent times, happily, places like Scarborough have begun fighting back.

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And, with fuel prices going through the roof, lots of us

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are returning to the uniquely British charms of the resorts.

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PLANE ENGINE ROARS

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Oh, yes.

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Three times a week during the summer season,

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war is waged amongst the ducks and dragon boats

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of Scarborough's Peasholm Park...

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Oh, my goodness!

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..by the world's smallest crewed Navy.

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Apparently, there's seven of these boats are actually manned boats.

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I think they're motorised...

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but that doesn't look a terribly comfy job to me.

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It's almost like driving a vintage car!

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Game council employees have been blowing each other up here for the past 80 years.

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Most popularly, unsurprisingly, after the Second World War

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when it was all about trouncing the German Navy.

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Things are a bit more "PC" now.

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As someone once famously said, "Don't mention the war!"

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You notice they say "the enemy", they don't say...

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"the Iraqis, or the Afghanis...

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"or the Germans even."

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The combined attack of the Royal Navy and Royal Airforce

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have blasted the enemy into submission.

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I must say, I'm rather charmed by Scarborough.

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And it's, well, buzzing!

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Quite a lot of people though, who look - how can I put this nicely -

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like they really enjoy their food.

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It's a rather worrying 21st century trait that I'm taking

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as a warning to watch what I eat.

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And because I'm driving a late '50s car, the producers won't

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allow me a sat nav, so I've got to rely on these very old guidebooks.

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So it says here to start at Scalby, three miles out of Scarborough

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on the A171 and follow from there signposts to Hackness and Snainton,

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by a gated road which, happily, is little used.

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And provided that enough time is left to deal with the gates,

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is a thoroughly enjoyable route.

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And here, in Motoring in Yorkshire, "this leads to the forest drive

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"on which, through the kindness of the Forestry Commission,

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"the visitor can enjoy Canadian surroundings

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"and see almost every kind of conifer at close quarters."

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Now that's something to look forward to.

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"Every kind of conifer at close quarters."

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Oh, they're lovely... The vistas on the left here.

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My destination is North Yorkshire's Dalby forest, but the road that leads there is a joy in itself.

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Oh, this is spectacular forest up here.

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Absolutely quintessential British countryside.

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Oh, lovely.

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"Forest drive, toll road ahead"?!

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Toll road!

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Well!

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Ah, £7 per car. Ah, I see.

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Right, we'd better stop.

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Known as the "Great Yorkshire Forest"

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the Dalby Forest covers 8,000 acres and contains more than 20 million

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trees, making it one of Britain's largest expanses of woodland.

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And every year, a third of a million visitors come to enjoy it.

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The motorist who elects to spend his holidays in his own country

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may well be taking a wise decision, for Britain, it would seem,

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has been designed by nature for the pleasure of the tourist.

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GEARS CRUNCH

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The drive is a nine-mile run through the heart of the forest,

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with car parks, picnic places, play areas, and of course,

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one or two trees.

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The spruce tree in America, in Canada,

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of course, they grow over two-hundred feet tall,

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but I don't think we've got them here.

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Well, I suppose that's the end of the toll road.

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And it was £7...

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and I didn't really feel as though I was in Canada, somehow.

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Mind you, I've never been to Canada so maybe I'm the last person to judge.

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But it was very nice.

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As I leave the forest, my route takes me onto the A169

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towards Whitby -

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a road that my 1950s guides promise is going to be pretty special.

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"Severe gradients over the next twelve miles, check your brakes."

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Lovely.

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And smack dab by the side of the road

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is one of Britain's geological marvels.

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Ah, there it is.

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That is the Hole of Horecum.

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Ah, spectacular.

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The Hole of Horecum is a remarkable feature in the Yorkshire landscape.

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A natural amphitheatre 600 feet deep, a mile long, and a quarter of a mile wide.

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Oh, there we are -

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the Hole of Horecum.

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Like a mini Grand Canyon.

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Legend has it that the Hole of Horecum was caused

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by a giant scooping up dirt and throwing it at his wife.

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That's the legend.

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The probable cause is lots of action of springs down in the valley.

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Lovely. Lovely shape.

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Don't know what you would do with it, but it is a lovely shape.

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A great...

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..vista.

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Very beautiful.

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Not enhanced by the motorcycles going at 120mph.

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I'm just going to go down there and stand at the bottom of the hole

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and wave back.

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So see you shortly.

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Oh, no, maybe I won't!

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Leaving the green valley of the Hole of Horecum behind, the road

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now leads on to a massive expanse of heather-strewn moorland,

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with views stretching off in all directions.

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A stunning sight in all its moody magnificence.

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Very pretty.

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Probably one of the finest moorland roads in the world.

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This should not be attempted in bad weather, but if fine, and in autumn,

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it should not be missed.

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Over there on the hill on the right is Filingdales,

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the RAF early warning system.

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Big sort of triangular thing.

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Nine miles from Whitby, we'll detour to the village

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of Goathland, a recommended stop in the 1950s

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and described in my guidebook

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as "a most attractive hamlet,

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"and one of the most memorable of the moorland villages."

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And this is Goathland we are coming into now.

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And there's sheep trying to cross the road.

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Here I am in Goathland, slightly confused because

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it says Aidensfield stores.

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That's because this is the base of a very well-known

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police series on the other side.

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This might give you a clue...

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HEARTBEAT THEME TUNE

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That's enough.

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And this is where they film it.

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Thanks to said series, Goathland has been transformed from a simple

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picturesque photo opportunity,

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to a place of pilgrimage for thousands of TV fans a year.

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Why have you come here?

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Because I watch Heartbeat regularly.

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-Regularly?

-Oh yeah, I even watch the old series, I don't miss it.

-And have you been here before?

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Oh yeah, I've brought my family, this is my third time, I love it.

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And why have you come to Aidensfield?

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We used to match it on a Sunday, you know.

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You used to? Not any more?

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No, no, I'm afraid I don't.

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-Why's that?

-I don't know, we just, you know...

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there's a lot of crap on the telly, as you know.

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-We watch your program quite a bit.

-Ah, there you are.

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And hello! Have you ever seen Heartbeat? No!

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-We come every year on a coach.

-Every year?

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-Once a year...

-But once you've seen it, you've seen it!

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Yeah, sure, but it's just nice to come back, isn't it?

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-It's his first time here, isn't it?.

-First time? You're a virgin!

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In more ways than one!

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An Aidensfield virgin.

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Yeah, he is.

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Peter Walker joined the North Yorkshire Police Force

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in the fifties and, based on his experiences, wrote the Constable

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series of books, which inspired the TV series.

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So Peter, you are really responsible for this small moorland village becoming a bit of a theme park?

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Yes, with a bit of help from a Yorkshire television company.

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So what was it like being a village policeman in the '50s?

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Pretty good, cos you were certainly an important person in the community.

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And people trusted you as well, they came for advice,

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not necessarily police advice.

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They would ask you to fill forms in and a whole range of other things.

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-Yeah. So people sort of looked up to you?

-They did, yes..

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Probably more than they would now.

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We don't know our local policeman now.

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-No.

-That's the problem.

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-The public in the '50s, I think, were far closer to the police service than they are now.

-Yes.

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And how often would you have to lock somebody up in the course of...?

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Extremely rarely.

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I got a complaint from a woman one day who'd caught a youth stealing apples from her orchard.

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He was a small youth, about sixteen, but he was a tiny, tiny lad.

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Now I thought, my sergeant will, if I arrest him for nicking apples, I'll be in dead trouble!

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So when I went to see him,

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I said to this boy, "Do you like picking apples?" and he said, "Well, yes".

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I said to the lady, "Do you want someone to pick all your orchard apples?"

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She said, "Yes, I do" so we made him pick all the apples.

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-It never went to court.

-Very sensible.

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Apparently he was a jockey, stealing apples for his horse!

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Would you say that the '50s were a happier time?

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Yes, I would certainly. Beyond doubt.

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Peter's obviously convinced that the '50s were a far better time for law and order.

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And, even without rose-tinted specs, it's difficult to argue with him.

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I mean, there clearly weren't the drug problems that fuel so much

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crime today, and there can be little doubt that much of our community spirit has since evaporated.

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I suppose that's one reason his stories are so popular -

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they conjure up a much simpler, safer time.

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It's very Blake-ean.

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God's in his heaven.

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This must be lovely when the heather's in full bloom.

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From Goathland, our route takes us the final few miles

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to our ultimate destination - one of Britain's most historic ports.

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Few places equal Whitby in picturesqueness of situation.

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At the very gates of the town is scenery of almost every type.

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A bold, indented coastline,

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lofty cliffs, heather-clad uplands, pretty woods and waterfalls.

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1950s Whitby had of course attractions galore to entertain the touring motorist.

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But I'm here to investigate a phenomenon that the authors of

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my old guidebooks could never have dreamed up in a million years.

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Nowadays, Whitby is the Goth Capital of the World.

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Twice a year, up to 10,000 of these exotic creatures descend on the town

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for a weekend of gothic music and celebrations.

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And several have decided to make the town their permanent home.

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-Hi. What a car!

-Thank you very much.

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It's beautiful, beautiful.

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-What year?

-1957.

-57.

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And beautifully maintained by...?

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-Me, Paul.

-Paul.

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And do you use your hair to do that?

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I see you've got matching colours.

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-Of course.

-Very good and it says Chevrolet.

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-Chevrolet, yes, it's American.

-And you're Goths.

-Indeed.

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I'm going to find out all about that.

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Are we all in?

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My new friends have agreed to show me the town's number one tourist attraction -

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Whitby Abbey founded in 657 and rebuilt in the 13th century.

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A huge inspiration to Gothic hero Bram Stoker, when writing his horror classic, Dracula.

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So do you all dress like this all the time or just for occasions?

0:23:290:23:33

-Varying degrees.

-I personally dress like this all the time.

-Yeah.

0:23:330:23:37

-But your make-up is quite complicated, isn't it?

-It is, yeah.

0:23:370:23:41

Especially when you're wobbling at five o'clock in the morning!

0:23:410:23:45

How much does Dracula come in to your culture?

0:23:450:23:50

The Dracula association with Whitby is why we all came here in the first place, to check it out.

0:23:500:23:55

-I see.

-Then we fell in love for it for different reasons, I guess.

0:23:550:23:59

And you have all actually moved to Whitby, haven't you?

0:23:590:24:03

-Yeah, that's right.

-Why is that, essentially?

0:24:030:24:05

-Because it's beautiful.

-Because it's beautiful?

0:24:050:24:08

It is a beautiful town and it's much safer to bring your family up in.

0:24:080:24:12

We're all trying to get away from the crime and violence where we live.

0:24:120:24:16

Life here is like it was many years ago.

0:24:160:24:18

And people actually respect each other, in a surer sense of the word - respect each other.

0:24:180:24:23

Ah, it was all going so well.

0:24:300:24:33

But the combination of a one in four incline, a carload of Goths,

0:24:330:24:37

and 50-year-old technology, has pushed my rusty clutch skills to their limit.

0:24:370:24:43

We're rolling!

0:24:430:24:45

Who would like to do it?

0:24:540:24:57

I'll give it a go, I'll give it a go.

0:24:570:24:58

Right. I'm giving up! Thanks!

0:24:580:25:01

Game over!

0:25:010:25:03

-OK.

-OK, let's give it a go.

0:25:050:25:08

Very good.

0:25:100:25:13

'You never know when a Mohicanned vintage car enthusiast will come in handy.'

0:25:130:25:19

-We made it.

-Well done. I don't know how you did it in those boots!

0:25:190:25:24

I'm not quite sure how I did it in these boots either!

0:25:240:25:26

Very, very impressive.

0:25:260:25:28

-What date are we talking about here, Michael?

-It's around 657 and it was founded by Saint Hilder.

0:25:360:25:42

-Saint Hilder?

-Yeah.

-Right.

0:25:420:25:44

What else do we know about the abbey?

0:25:440:25:46

Oh, I know something about the abbey, didn't the Germans shell it in the First World War?

0:25:460:25:51

-That's right, they did. They took one of the towers off.

-From a gun ship?

0:25:510:25:55

Out just past the harbour way, yeah.

0:25:550:25:58

But it's a fantastic place to photograph, I come up here a lot to photograph. It's beautiful.

0:25:580:26:03

-It's great, the different colours of stone. Is that sandstone?

-Sandstone, that's correct.

0:26:030:26:08

You can see where it's weathered. But originally, this must have been a marvellous site.

0:26:080:26:13

Yeah, 7th century, extraordinary.

0:26:130:26:16

Well, it's lovely.

0:26:160:26:18

You can kind of sense a presence. You can feel the atmosphere.

0:26:230:26:26

Yes, it has got an atmosphere, hasn't it?

0:26:260:26:28

You can just feel it, you can sense it and it's very, very peaceful, it's nice to come up here,

0:26:280:26:34

just for a bit of solitude, even though there's lots of people you feel isolated.

0:26:340:26:38

That's the mist as well, doing that.

0:26:380:26:40

-Yeah.

-Of course, it won't always be here, presumably.

0:26:400:26:44

Indeed but even when it's sunny...

0:26:440:26:48

it's really good when it's raining, actually, and there is a storm and stuff, it's really good!

0:26:480:26:53

The Abbey is a magnificent site, well worth a visit, especially if there's a sea mist!

0:26:530:26:59

And it's a fitting climax to my Yorkshire drive.

0:26:590:27:03

So, the ruins of Whitby Abbey.

0:27:030:27:06

7th century. Astonishing and guided by four Goths.

0:27:060:27:12

I never thought I would do a programme about Britain's best drives

0:27:120:27:16

with four Goths in a Morris Traveller! That must be a first.

0:27:160:27:20

Interesting that the Goths had come to Whitby, and left London and left

0:27:200:27:25

Croydon and left places like that, because Whitby is Goth friendly.

0:27:250:27:30

Great to see the Hole of...

0:27:300:27:33

scrotum, I was going to say!

0:27:350:27:37

LAUGHTER

0:27:370:27:39

What was it called?! Horecum! Horecum!

0:27:390:27:43

Great to see the Hole of Horecum as a very, very picturesque bit of handwork by a giant. Very nice.

0:27:460:27:54

The moors were just spectacular.

0:27:540:27:56

It's been a hugely varied drive, both in scenery and people,

0:28:010:28:06

and yet despite that, my whole journey has felt distinctly British.

0:28:060:28:11

Compared to the fifties?

0:28:110:28:13

Different certainly, but not unrecognisable, and although there's

0:28:130:28:17

obviously a lot more traffic on the roads, still hugely enjoyable.

0:28:170:28:22

It's our first drive, but 50 years on,

0:28:220:28:25

it must undoubtedly still be one of Britain's Best.

0:28:250:28:31

Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd

0:28:380:28:41

E-mail [email protected]

0:28:410:28:43

Actor Richard Wilson takes a journey into the past, following routes raved about in motoring guides of mid-20th century.

In a classic Morris Minor Traveller, he drives from Scarborough to Whitby via the Yorkshire moors. On the way, he learns about the rise and fall of the British seaside resorts, takes a toll road through the Dalby Forest and checks out the mythical roadside wonder that is the Hole of Horecum.

He finds out how the village of Goathland now lives a double life, and ends up with a carload of goths on their way to visit Whitby Abbey.