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.
Browse content similar to North Yorkshire Moors. Check below for episodes and series from the same categories and more!
For many, the 1950s were the Golden Age of British motoring.
Back then driving was leisurely, liberating and fun.
BRAKES SQUEAL AND HORN BEEPS
Yes, things have changed a bit since then.
But, perhaps it's still possible to recapture some of that old magic.
I'm setting off on six of the best drives from the 1950s,
as recommended by the guidebooks of the era.
And I'll be driving them in some of the decade's most iconic vehicles.
Oh, I've gone into reverse!
I want to find out if these routes still thrill and inspire.
This is a spectacular road.
And how, in 50 years, Britain itself has changed.
Oh, for God's sake!
They wouldn't have thought to come here without a sat nav.
I'm sure they wouldn't.
People don't value each other as much as they did then.
It was a different type of life, wasn't it?
There is no country in the world so completely satisfying to tour
as the British Isles.
The roads are excellent and the scenery is enchanting,
varying from an exquisite softness of beauty found in no other county in the world,
to a wild and rugged grandeur unsurpassed elsewhere.
England, Scotland and Wales between them are the finest countries in the world for motoring holidays.
It sounds like driving in '50s Britain was an utter delight,
but the sad fact is, I completely missed out on it all.
My family couldn't afford a car and I didn't pass my test until the late seventies.
Nowadays, well, it's hardly "the joy of the open road," is it?
Yes, this is a traffic jam.
So, finally I've got a chance to experience what I missed out on.
I've been tooled up with the best motoring guides of the decade and, with a little trepidation,
I'm putting all my years of driving modern automatics behind me,
and embracing 1950s technology.
Oh my goodness, it's splendid.
Gosh, it's a Morris Minor 1000, a Traveller.
Gosh. All I'm worried about is the state of the gears.
My first trip is to Yorkshire and a region that my 1959 guide
reckons is perfect for a motoring holiday.
It's a very easy car to drive,
the Morris Traveller, nice steering
and the gears are relatively simple.
Haven't quite got control of them, but we're getting there.
# ..Come on everybody...! #
The Morris Traveller first appeared on Britain's roads in 1952
and, with its "mock Tudor" half-timbered effect,
it's one our most fondly remembered vehicles.
It was conceived by the famous Mini designer,
Alec Issigonis, as a quality but affordable car for the working man.
And, with a fuel consumption of 38 miles per gallon,
it was about the most economical car on the nation's roads.
It's a classic piece of 1950s British engineering
and in it, I'll be doing a classic 1950s British drive.
Our recommended route will take in some of Yorkshire's finest scenery -
from the bucket and spade resort of Scarborough, through the lush
Dalby forest, and on to the A169 - described in 1953 as
"probably the finest moorland road in the world".
It leads to our final destination - the historic port of Whitby.
So first stop,
a town that's as British as sausage and mash or Winston Churchill.
Group of girls there with T-shirts on saying "slappers on tour".
# Whaddya want to make those eyes at me for
# If they don't mean what they say... #
Scarborough claims to be our country's first resort,
and it's got everything you'd expect to see in a British seaside town.
# You're fooling around with me now... #
Lots of amusement arcades, fish and chips, gift shops.
And, really, when you look at all this, you think,
well, this must have been exactly what it was like in the 50s.
Absolutely classic British seaside resort.
Catering for holidaymakers is Scarborough's principal industry.
Streams of motor coaches pour into it
from the towns of industrial Yorkshire,
disgorging some thousands of trippers near the beach.
The Harbour Ice Cream Bar has been a fixture on the Scarborough seafront since 1945.
And I've arranged to meet tourism expert, Victor Middleton,
to find out why the '50s were such a boom time for the British seaside.
Is it safe to say that the '50s
was the heyday of resort tourism in Britain?
British resort tourism, I would say, '50s and '60s were the period
of greatest demand for British seaside resorts such as Scarborough.
There must have been a real hunger for people to have a holiday.
-Working class people, as well.
Well, the whole population.
I mean, anybody over the age of 40 or 50 had lived through
two world wars, they'd had the deprivation of the 1930s.
They'd had six years of war and misery, and the danger as well, for many,
and they were absolutely hungry for holidays and so the resorts were the logical places to go.
Yeah. You grew up in a small hotel. What was that like in the 50s?
Well, it was a small hotel, which had about 30 people maximum.
I think there were two lavatories for 30 people.
There was one bathroom, because you were expected to have a bath before you came.
And people were advertising spring-interior mattresses in all rooms, as opposed to straw!
-And hot and cold running water was pretty upmarket.
But the key thing in the '50s, maybe more than now, because people
had this pent up desire, there was a spirit of enthusiasm and enjoyment,
which has probably diminished.
People didn't have televisions, so they talked, it was a very social business.
-Do you think people were happier then?
-In my view, yes, they were.
-But there's a danger as you get older, you look back with a golden glow, as you know!
Of course, the boom times of the '50s and '60s didn't last.
The arrival of cheap foreign package deals
meant the next 30 years were pretty grim for many of our seaside towns.
But in recent times, happily, places like Scarborough have begun fighting back.
And, with fuel prices going through the roof, lots of us
are returning to the uniquely British charms of the resorts.
PLANE ENGINE ROARS
Three times a week during the summer season,
war is waged amongst the ducks and dragon boats
of Scarborough's Peasholm Park...
Oh, my goodness!
..by the world's smallest crewed Navy.
Apparently, there's seven of these boats are actually manned boats.
I think they're motorised...
but that doesn't look a terribly comfy job to me.
It's almost like driving a vintage car!
Game council employees have been blowing each other up here for the past 80 years.
Most popularly, unsurprisingly, after the Second World War
when it was all about trouncing the German Navy.
Things are a bit more "PC" now.
As someone once famously said, "Don't mention the war!"
You notice they say "the enemy", they don't say...
"the Iraqis, or the Afghanis...
"or the Germans even."
The combined attack of the Royal Navy and Royal Airforce
have blasted the enemy into submission.
I must say, I'm rather charmed by Scarborough.
And it's, well, buzzing!
Quite a lot of people though, who look - how can I put this nicely -
like they really enjoy their food.
It's a rather worrying 21st century trait that I'm taking
as a warning to watch what I eat.
And because I'm driving a late '50s car, the producers won't
allow me a sat nav, so I've got to rely on these very old guidebooks.
So it says here to start at Scalby, three miles out of Scarborough
on the A171 and follow from there signposts to Hackness and Snainton,
by a gated road which, happily, is little used.
And provided that enough time is left to deal with the gates,
is a thoroughly enjoyable route.
And here, in Motoring in Yorkshire, "this leads to the forest drive
"on which, through the kindness of the Forestry Commission,
"the visitor can enjoy Canadian surroundings
"and see almost every kind of conifer at close quarters."
Now that's something to look forward to.
"Every kind of conifer at close quarters."
Oh, they're lovely... The vistas on the left here.
My destination is North Yorkshire's Dalby forest, but the road that leads there is a joy in itself.
Oh, this is spectacular forest up here.
Absolutely quintessential British countryside.
"Forest drive, toll road ahead"?!
Ah, £7 per car. Ah, I see.
Right, we'd better stop.
Known as the "Great Yorkshire Forest"
the Dalby Forest covers 8,000 acres and contains more than 20 million
trees, making it one of Britain's largest expanses of woodland.
And every year, a third of a million visitors come to enjoy it.
The motorist who elects to spend his holidays in his own country
may well be taking a wise decision, for Britain, it would seem,
has been designed by nature for the pleasure of the tourist.
The drive is a nine-mile run through the heart of the forest,
with car parks, picnic places, play areas, and of course,
one or two trees.
The spruce tree in America, in Canada,
of course, they grow over two-hundred feet tall,
but I don't think we've got them here.
Well, I suppose that's the end of the toll road.
And it was £7...
and I didn't really feel as though I was in Canada, somehow.
Mind you, I've never been to Canada so maybe I'm the last person to judge.
But it was very nice.
As I leave the forest, my route takes me onto the A169
towards Whitby -
a road that my 1950s guides promise is going to be pretty special.
"Severe gradients over the next twelve miles, check your brakes."
And smack dab by the side of the road
is one of Britain's geological marvels.
Ah, there it is.
That is the Hole of Horecum.
The Hole of Horecum is a remarkable feature in the Yorkshire landscape.
A natural amphitheatre 600 feet deep, a mile long, and a quarter of a mile wide.
Oh, there we are -
the Hole of Horecum.
Like a mini Grand Canyon.
Legend has it that the Hole of Horecum was caused
by a giant scooping up dirt and throwing it at his wife.
That's the legend.
The probable cause is lots of action of springs down in the valley.
Lovely. Lovely shape.
Don't know what you would do with it, but it is a lovely shape.
Not enhanced by the motorcycles going at 120mph.
I'm just going to go down there and stand at the bottom of the hole
and wave back.
So see you shortly.
Oh, no, maybe I won't!
Leaving the green valley of the Hole of Horecum behind, the road
now leads on to a massive expanse of heather-strewn moorland,
with views stretching off in all directions.
A stunning sight in all its moody magnificence.
Probably one of the finest moorland roads in the world.
This should not be attempted in bad weather, but if fine, and in autumn,
it should not be missed.
Over there on the hill on the right is Filingdales,
the RAF early warning system.
Big sort of triangular thing.
Nine miles from Whitby, we'll detour to the village
of Goathland, a recommended stop in the 1950s
and described in my guidebook
as "a most attractive hamlet,
"and one of the most memorable of the moorland villages."
And this is Goathland we are coming into now.
And there's sheep trying to cross the road.
Here I am in Goathland, slightly confused because
it says Aidensfield stores.
That's because this is the base of a very well-known
police series on the other side.
This might give you a clue...
HEARTBEAT THEME TUNE
And this is where they film it.
Thanks to said series, Goathland has been transformed from a simple
picturesque photo opportunity,
to a place of pilgrimage for thousands of TV fans a year.
Why have you come here?
Because I watch Heartbeat regularly.
-Oh yeah, I even watch the old series, I don't miss it.
-And have you been here before?
Oh yeah, I've brought my family, this is my third time, I love it.
And why have you come to Aidensfield?
We used to match it on a Sunday, you know.
You used to? Not any more?
No, no, I'm afraid I don't.
-I don't know, we just, you know...
there's a lot of crap on the telly, as you know.
-We watch your program quite a bit.
-Ah, there you are.
And hello! Have you ever seen Heartbeat? No!
-We come every year on a coach.
-Once a year...
-But once you've seen it, you've seen it!
Yeah, sure, but it's just nice to come back, isn't it?
-It's his first time here, isn't it?.
-First time? You're a virgin!
In more ways than one!
An Aidensfield virgin.
Yeah, he is.
Peter Walker joined the North Yorkshire Police Force
in the fifties and, based on his experiences, wrote the Constable
series of books, which inspired the TV series.
So Peter, you are really responsible for this small moorland village becoming a bit of a theme park?
Yes, with a bit of help from a Yorkshire television company.
So what was it like being a village policeman in the '50s?
Pretty good, cos you were certainly an important person in the community.
And people trusted you as well, they came for advice,
not necessarily police advice.
They would ask you to fill forms in and a whole range of other things.
-Yeah. So people sort of looked up to you?
-They did, yes..
Probably more than they would now.
We don't know our local policeman now.
-That's the problem.
-The public in the '50s, I think, were far closer to the police service than they are now.
And how often would you have to lock somebody up in the course of...?
I got a complaint from a woman one day who'd caught a youth stealing apples from her orchard.
He was a small youth, about sixteen, but he was a tiny, tiny lad.
Now I thought, my sergeant will, if I arrest him for nicking apples, I'll be in dead trouble!
So when I went to see him,
I said to this boy, "Do you like picking apples?" and he said, "Well, yes".
I said to the lady, "Do you want someone to pick all your orchard apples?"
She said, "Yes, I do" so we made him pick all the apples.
-It never went to court.
Apparently he was a jockey, stealing apples for his horse!
Would you say that the '50s were a happier time?
Yes, I would certainly. Beyond doubt.
Peter's obviously convinced that the '50s were a far better time for law and order.
And, even without rose-tinted specs, it's difficult to argue with him.
I mean, there clearly weren't the drug problems that fuel so much
crime today, and there can be little doubt that much of our community spirit has since evaporated.
I suppose that's one reason his stories are so popular -
they conjure up a much simpler, safer time.
It's very Blake-ean.
God's in his heaven.
This must be lovely when the heather's in full bloom.
From Goathland, our route takes us the final few miles
to our ultimate destination - one of Britain's most historic ports.
Few places equal Whitby in picturesqueness of situation.
At the very gates of the town is scenery of almost every type.
A bold, indented coastline,
lofty cliffs, heather-clad uplands, pretty woods and waterfalls.
1950s Whitby had of course attractions galore to entertain the touring motorist.
But I'm here to investigate a phenomenon that the authors of
my old guidebooks could never have dreamed up in a million years.
Nowadays, Whitby is the Goth Capital of the World.
Twice a year, up to 10,000 of these exotic creatures descend on the town
for a weekend of gothic music and celebrations.
And several have decided to make the town their permanent home.
-Hi. What a car!
-Thank you very much.
It's beautiful, beautiful.
And beautifully maintained by...?
And do you use your hair to do that?
I see you've got matching colours.
-Very good and it says Chevrolet.
-Chevrolet, yes, it's American.
-And you're Goths.
I'm going to find out all about that.
Are we all in?
My new friends have agreed to show me the town's number one tourist attraction -
Whitby Abbey founded in 657 and rebuilt in the 13th century.
A huge inspiration to Gothic hero Bram Stoker, when writing his horror classic, Dracula.
So do you all dress like this all the time or just for occasions?
-I personally dress like this all the time.
-But your make-up is quite complicated, isn't it?
-It is, yeah.
Especially when you're wobbling at five o'clock in the morning!
How much does Dracula come in to your culture?
The Dracula association with Whitby is why we all came here in the first place, to check it out.
-Then we fell in love for it for different reasons, I guess.
And you have all actually moved to Whitby, haven't you?
-Yeah, that's right.
-Why is that, essentially?
-Because it's beautiful.
-Because it's beautiful?
It is a beautiful town and it's much safer to bring your family up in.
We're all trying to get away from the crime and violence where we live.
Life here is like it was many years ago.
And people actually respect each other, in a surer sense of the word - respect each other.
Ah, it was all going so well.
But the combination of a one in four incline, a carload of Goths,
and 50-year-old technology, has pushed my rusty clutch skills to their limit.
Who would like to do it?
I'll give it a go, I'll give it a go.
Right. I'm giving up! Thanks!
-OK, let's give it a go.
'You never know when a Mohicanned vintage car enthusiast will come in handy.'
-We made it.
-Well done. I don't know how you did it in those boots!
I'm not quite sure how I did it in these boots either!
Very, very impressive.
-What date are we talking about here, Michael?
-It's around 657 and it was founded by Saint Hilder.
What else do we know about the abbey?
Oh, I know something about the abbey, didn't the Germans shell it in the First World War?
-That's right, they did. They took one of the towers off.
-From a gun ship?
Out just past the harbour way, yeah.
But it's a fantastic place to photograph, I come up here a lot to photograph. It's beautiful.
-It's great, the different colours of stone. Is that sandstone?
-Sandstone, that's correct.
You can see where it's weathered. But originally, this must have been a marvellous site.
Yeah, 7th century, extraordinary.
Well, it's lovely.
You can kind of sense a presence. You can feel the atmosphere.
Yes, it has got an atmosphere, hasn't it?
You can just feel it, you can sense it and it's very, very peaceful, it's nice to come up here,
just for a bit of solitude, even though there's lots of people you feel isolated.
That's the mist as well, doing that.
-Of course, it won't always be here, presumably.
Indeed but even when it's sunny...
it's really good when it's raining, actually, and there is a storm and stuff, it's really good!
The Abbey is a magnificent site, well worth a visit, especially if there's a sea mist!
And it's a fitting climax to my Yorkshire drive.
So, the ruins of Whitby Abbey.
7th century. Astonishing and guided by four Goths.
I never thought I would do a programme about Britain's best drives
with four Goths in a Morris Traveller! That must be a first.
Interesting that the Goths had come to Whitby, and left London and left
Croydon and left places like that, because Whitby is Goth friendly.
Great to see the Hole of...
scrotum, I was going to say!
What was it called?! Horecum! Horecum!
Great to see the Hole of Horecum as a very, very picturesque bit of handwork by a giant. Very nice.
The moors were just spectacular.
It's been a hugely varied drive, both in scenery and people,
and yet despite that, my whole journey has felt distinctly British.
Compared to the fifties?
Different certainly, but not unrecognisable, and although there's
obviously a lot more traffic on the roads, still hugely enjoyable.
It's our first drive, but 50 years on,
it must undoubtedly still be one of Britain's Best.
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
E-mail [email protected]
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.