A Memory Walk - Over WestwoodThu 7th May 2020
My plans to complete the Wolds Way with you this spring, have obviously had to be postponed due to the implications of the coronavirus crisis.
Even short walks around the town, or over our wonderful commons, are likely to become more restricted as April unfolds. So here is an idea for those of us who love to explore on foot, away from noise pollution, with space to think and breathe - a walk in the mind - based on memories of happier times on our glorious Westwood. Of course, it will never replace the real thing, yet it might just deliver some pleasant moments of contemplating the past and anticipating joys, once these difficult times are over.
So come with me over Westwood, and this is also your journey too, for if you have lived in or around town, for any amount of time, you must surely have many memories of time spent there.
In my imagination our walk starts deep in Newbegin Pits, just beneath the former hospital, where, until the 1990`s, most babies in Beverley took their first breaths. Indeed, some of you may recall, proud new parents pushing their newborns along the nearby paths. No doubt the ultra-modern maternity facilities at HRI are safer for mum and baby, yet perhaps we have lost something with this progress too.
In my mind, this is a particularly peaceful walk, for mercifully there is so little traffic noise during the lockdown. The pits are a marvellous natural habitat of tangled bushes, trees, wildlflowers and meandering paths - that seem to head nowhere in particular.
Here, 10 years ago, my middle child learned to ride a bike; the grassy mounds, ideal to cushion those initial crashes. Here too were dug limes and clays, so vital for centuries in building , the 600 year old bricks at North Bar, are made from these clays , some of the very oldest, and most beautiful, to be found anywhere.
Think of the sights , sounds and smells of the pits. It is usually calm here, sheltered from the winds that can whip across the open land above. Now gently climb out of the bowl and make your way towards Blackmill on the western horizon. You are walking over an ancient landscape, burial mounds and barrows are everywhere, although now only visible from aerial photos.
At the mill, sit and admire what has been rightly described as 'one of the most enthralling views in England.' See in your mind's eye what the gifted writer Christopher Somerville called the 'twin golden rockets' of the Minster, scan across the town to the confident thrust of St. Mary's tower.
Indeed, what town prospect can compare? Cambridge, imperious from the Backs, Stamford, serene across the Welland, Richmond, craggy and proud, from the Swale, Ludlow's swaggering castle from the Teme? None, (we are biased, of course) can surpass it.
Unsurprisingly, for such a lovely place, it has produced some outstanding cultural moments, Peter de Wint's sublime nineteenth century watercolour, more recently the charming opening scenes of novelist Jonathan Coe's bestselling Number 11, with the children, racing from Blackmill down into town, to buy old-fashioned sweets.
Now head north east, over the golf course and sunken Newbald Road , up the incline to reach magical Burton Bushes, some 600 yards away. I shamefully confess, I had lived in Beverley for over 25 years, before I realised how wonderful this place is. Until 2017, I had never even gone trough the gates to enjoy it. Once discovered , this is a never to be forgotten place. This year, after such beautiful warm weather in April, the bluebells, for this is one of the very best spots to see them, will come early.
You may not be able to experience them in the flesh - but just think for a minute - upon the sweep of fresh promise they deliver each spring , the sweet scent of hope they convey for new life, for beauty, for all that is good in life. Perhaps the photo here will help you conjure the picture. This time last year, I unintentionally startled a young deer; vivid russet flashed right before me, in this deep thicket of ancient woodland , I felt like Robin Hood. The bird-life here is special too with woodpeckers doing what hey do best. You may even discover the remains of a significant ancient settlement, to be honest I have sought it many times, but have failed to locate - of course I can imagine it.
Bluebells at Burton Bushes
Skirt back towards town, perhaps seeking out the enigmatic Cobbler`s Well, which formerly provided exactly what its name suggests. As I drift back to our starting point, I reflect upon vivid memories of times on the Westwood from the thirty five years I have known it: a hot day in June 1986, listening to England play in the football World Cup, my 3 children sledging at Hill 90, on those increasingly rare occasions we get deep snows.
Most evocative of all, in 1995, introducing my new, southern (sic) girlfriend, to the delights of Westwood. I am pleased to say, that we married two years later at those golden Minster towers - hence the 3 children! Stay safe, keep healthy - Westwood, our marvellous town, and surrounding countryside, await us, when this crisis is just a memory.
May 15th 2020.