The bus route between Pickering and Whitby, part of a route linking Whitby with Leeds via York, has beaten off competition from other routes on the South Coast and up in Scotland for the title “The Most Scenic Bus Route in Britain”.
It is a stretch of just over 20 miles. It is an accolade of which it can be extremely proud. It requires subsidies in the winter when passenger numbers drop but there is no doubt that winning this unofficial award will help towards its continued existence.
Remember we are living in times when elements of rural life are under threat.
One of the motives of the man who produced this award, Paul Kirby, on behalf of Bus Users UK, was to add to the pressure on the authorities to ensure that rural areas still get the services they deserve.
Route 840 is run by Transdev and passengers are able to see the bus timetable and buy their tickets online at http://www.yorkbus.co.uk/explore.jsp.
The double-decker bus allows passengers to get an excellent view across the North York Moors. The route from Pickering to Whitby takes in Goathland and Sleights and regular passengers are treated to many colour changes throughout the year as the seasons change.
There are four buses every day and, in some ways, they provide a lifeline to rural communities en route. The service gets some reimbursement from local authorities for customers with a bus pass who can travel for nothing.
While in mid-winter, the moors can look bleak, once the spring arrives, the fresh colours start. You can certainly join the bus wherever you wish, including Leeds and York but many passengers want to board the double-decker on the last part of the journey, Pickering onwards.
Pickering is an ancient market town of just 7,000 people. This is the starting point for the stretch of the route voted the ‘’Best in Britain.’’ There is a castle that was built by the Normans after their conquest of Britain.
It was continually developed between the 12th and 14th Centuries and remains a major attraction today. The St. Peter’s and St. Paul’s Church is another that dates back centuries.
It is right in the middle of this delightful town and you should pop in to look at the famous 15th Century wall paintings. Beck Ise Museum with its 50,000 exhibits is something else to see before you board the bus to Whitby.
That is because it was used in the ITV Series, ‘’Heartbeat’’ as the Aidensfield Arms. The village itself is the setting for the drama and some of the road you travel on the bus may have that familiar look as well.
Goathland has also appeared in Harry Potter films. Visitors to Goathland often come to see the Railway Station which is Hogsmeade in the films.
The steam railway line runs for 24 miles between Pickering and Whitby over the North York Moors National Park. It is a chance for railway enthusiasts to enjoy seeing steam trains that used to be so common in the Country.
Mallyan Spout is a waterfall with a 21 metre drop close to Goathland in a steep gorge. St Mary’s Church was fully rebuilt a century ago but people have prayed somewhere in Goathland for at least eight centuries.
Grosmont in the Esk Valley is not directly on the bus route but is easily accessed from Goathland. While it is now a tranquil village, at one time it was a busy industrial settlement due to ironstone being found in 1836. It was while the rail line of George Stephenson was being built.
The industry ceased many years ago but the railway still remains, a station on the North York Moors Railway. One platform serves the line that still runs today between Middlesbrough and Whitby. The oldest railway tunnel in the world is at Grosmont.
Another delightful village close by is Glaisdale where farming has always been important. It developed in the 19th Century as homes were needed for the miners who worked in the nearby hills.
It was formerly home to Peter Walker, who in his nom de plume, Nicholas Rhea, wrote the ‘’Constable’’ series that inspired the TV Series ‘’Heartbeat.’’
Just outside Glaisdale, there is Beggar’s Bridge, which the road drops down into the Esk Valley. It is dated 1619 and was built by Thomas Ferris who was the son of a poor Glaisdale farmer.
He used to have to wade across the river to meet his sweetheart, the daughter of the Squire who refused to permit their union. He left Glaisdale, made his fortune and returned to claim his bride. He later became Mayor of Hull.
Heading towards Whitby from Goathland you arrive in Sleights which overlooks the River Esk. There are lovely gardens and a café beside the river, a lovely place to relax.
One of the stations on the Pickering line is in Sleights and there is an impressive stone and steel bridge across which there is a road up to the moors.
Then it is on to Ruswarp on the outskirts of Whitby. Ruswarp has its own railway station on the Middlesbrough – Whitby line. The viaduct across the Esk is 120 feet high which carried the now defunct Whitby-Scarborough railway line.
It closed in 1965 and today, it is a cycle and walkway. There is a miniature railway in Ruswarp and there are rowing boats and canoes for rent on the River Esk.
Once you reach Whitby, there is plenty to see and do but it is natural for you to think about the route you have travelled. If you enjoy walking, there are a host of popular trails within the North York Moors National Park to try.
The most ambitious walk down the River Esk to the estuary at Whitby is 35 miles with parts in a wooded gorge.
There is no doubt that rural areas are under threat. Over 500 routes have been reduced or withdrawn in England and Wales last year alone. The result is that people living in village without a car can be cut off from basic necessities.
It hits the elderly in need of medical help and youngster needing to get to school or college. Rural England is being hit by Government cutbacks and non-profitable bus routes inevitably come under the microscope.
As a spokesman for the Campaign for Better Transport pointed out, once a route is lost, it is rarely reinstated. While the Government puts the onus on regional authorities to make decisions, balancing a shrinking budget is certainly a problem.
This award for a lovely stretch of moorland, Pickering to Whitby must surely ensure that financial decisions alone don’t decide the way forward.