Chocolate and Chicory: York and beyond, by bicycle
Journeys beyond the well-known histories within York’s city walls. By bike. The stories to be found in the buildings, parks, fields and airfields.
This book can also be enjoyed in the form of imaginary journeys, from the comfort of your sofa, avoiding the potential problems of rain and mud.
Each of the eight mapped routes has a broad ‘theme’, with an emphasis on aspects of our more recent history. Toll cottages and mileposts and railway lines, our connections to an expanding world of travel possibilities. Asylums treating ‘the insane’, in the centuries before our national treasures talked openly about mental health difficulties. Our open spaces, our land, common land protected, not parcelled up and sold for development. Weathered stones still standing to remind us of ‘pest-houses’ that are long gone. Churches, some old, some new, some restored by the Victorians. Landscapes of war, smoothed over or still jagged, memorialised or not. All beyond the ‘historic core’ of central York.
The well-known historic streets and buildings in the city centre become a bit crowded, particularly in the summer months, and some of the tourist trail history can feel a little stale. Guy Fawkes was born in York, and Dick Turpin died in York, as we no doubt all know. Yet there have been many interesting individuals who have had a proper, long-lasting connection with the city and its surrounding areas, and their stories are less well-known. People who worked all their lives to relieve the sufferings of the poor and powerless. People who came here because of war or famine. People who were based at local airfields, during and after the Second World War. People who harvested crops in the fields in the 19th century. People who made a living from breeding and racing horses. People who had to choose sides during the Civil War. People who saw our suburbs burning. Their stories feature in these pages.
The first section introduces aspects of the local landscape featured in the routes that follow, placing them in context and reflecting on the wider landscape of the Vale of York – a flat land filled with airfields during the Second World War.
The general flatness of our landscape makes it a good location for cycling, for those of us who prefer not to cycle up too many hills. In the York area we’re particularly fortunate, as we’re provided with a good network of cycle tracks and cycle lanes. The suggested routes in this book use the off-road cycle tracks to get beyond the city centre, and then head for quiet country roads and bridleways, avoiding busy roads wherever possible. Those closer to the city centre use the ‘cycle-friendly’ routes.
All the mapped routes were travelled and tested by a rather unfit forty-something on an old and basic bike. An account of the author’s return to cycling – and the daunting business of buying a bike – is included in the final chapters.