Thu 11th June 2020
Ian Richardson Around Our Lockdowned Town

Some unexpected pleasures to be discovered, in and around town, during the virus lockdown.

It might seem very strange to state that in all my 30 years of living in Beverley, never have the town and its immediate environs, seemed so beautiful than in the early morning sun of a recent Saturday. Certainly the town has never been so tranquil, so free of traffic noise and consequent pollution. For those of us fortunate enough to have been responsibly going outdoors, to take exercise on foot, or in the above case, by cycle, there have been things to relish over this difficult lockdown period - which as I write, might just be starting to ease. Here, I would like to share with you some of the unexpected pleasures derived from those little journeys of exploration that I have been taking over the past 7 troubled weeks. I have always been a great believer that for those who wish to discover, there is no better place to start than on your own doorstep.

My photo of a deserted Saturday Market (26.03.20) was used on BBC Look North

I think my most startling discovery, was to notice for the very first time, the quite stunning roof rib-vaulting, that lies under the North Bar. Sadly, in normal times it is almost impossible to enjoy this striking and historically important iconic entrance to our town, one that has stood so elegantly for over 600 years. It has become little more than a funnel for busy traffic ; disfigured by lights and road signs. I venture to suggest that few of our continental neighbours would be so brazen with their precious built-heritage.

Certainly, it is normally most unsafe for a cyclist or pedestrian to take a close look from within. On this morning, however, there was no traffic at all. So I stopped and looked up - you can even see the former portcullis groove - the photo here hopefully conveys just how splendid it all is. Now, is it fanciful for me to hope that post-Covid 19, our town will recognise what an asset it has here and not treat it in such a disdainful way? I know there are many local people who plan to campaign to win back the town streets for pedestrians and cyclists with more sustainable use of vehicles ; just possibly the political climate is changing to allow this to happen - time will tell.

Glorious medieval vaulting under North Bar

From here it was a short ride up lovely ,tranquil North Bar Without. VE Day was just over, so I was especially moved by the Polish flag flying outside the handsome house, that rather surprisingly hosts a consulate. As a historian, I have always been fascinated by the modern history of this tragic country. It was supposedly for Poland (ask Basil Fawlty!) that the UK declared war on Nazi Germany. Some have argued we did far too little to help them, even less to prevent Poland falling into Soviet hands post-1945. Anyway, historical debate aside, it is a fine sight on a beautiful street. The esteemed architectural expert, John Grundy, rightly called it one of the most elegant ways to enter any town. By the way, his Townscapes book and 1990 TV series, are well worth seeking out, and not just for its fine section on our town.

A little piece of Poland in Beverley

On this gorgeous day, the bluebells of Burton Bushes at the top of Westwood beckoned. On the way, I was very taken by the huge tree swing that has been erected deep in the woods of the former pits, some 4oo yards east of Black Mill. I am a touch embarrassed to admit, that  as a 60 year old , I could not resist having a go. It was wonderful , taking me right back to 1966, when I was probably swinging when Bobby Moore lifted our only World Cup - maybe you will seek it out soon.

The bluebells are magnificent each May in the Bushes, this year they seem more vivid, more uplifting, than ever. I suspect we all need a little beauty and hope in our lives these days. You can wander at will here , the many carpets of England`s most loved wildflower are intoxicating. Do try to visit before they fade.

Bluebells at Burton Bushes

Now, its upon my roof , trying unsuccessfully to resist humming The Drifter`s tune. If at all possible, you might well enjoy doing the same at your home , or at least looking from the highest window - Larkin built a fine poetry collection around just that, whilst living in Pearson Park. Our house has 3 floors and being near the railway station in the heart of town , I can safely take in a 360 degree panorama of Beverley and its surroundings. The crest of the Wolds are usually easy to see and at night the flashing light of Flamborough`s lighthouse, some 30 miles away. Best of all , the roof affords an ever- changing spectacle of the Minster, seeming like some golden galleon floating on the seas of Eastgate and Highgate. Let us hope that both our splendid historic churches - few towns can boast even 1 of such quality - will be able to safely reopen soon, offering comfort and support, so vital at this time of crisis.

From my rooftop

The quiet streets may also encourage us to explore some of the town nooks and crannies, we might previously have overlooked. This was true for me when discovering a new and thrilling prospect of the Minster from St. Matthew`s Court recently.

Minster from St Matthew`s Court

The town may well still be in at least partial lockdown when you read this , yet we are so fortunate to have so much to discover and enjoy, until more normal times return... and I can get on with completing the Wolds Way!

Keep Safe.

Ian Richardson

Just Beverley