Exploring the World of James Herriot

Down at the harbor in Whitby this morning I noticed the cutest scene. A line of children with plastic buckets were catching tiny crabs with nets and tossing them back into the sea. “Ahoy mate. Fancy a harbor tour?” said a pirate in front of his packed pirate ship.  Everyone was in such a summer holiday spirit that we knew it would be a great day in Yorkshire.

We headed out over the barren rolling moors with no trees or farms in sight.  They looked like a scene right out of James Herriot.  Our first stop was Eden Camp: Modern History Theme Museum. The museum is located on the site of a 1942 POW camp and at one time  held 1100 prisoners. Each barracks featured a different theme: women in the war, air raid shelters, rationing, or small businesses that existed during the war. There were airplanes and weapons on display and it was packed. Some of the rooms had simulations of bombing air raids complete with smoke.  One 10 year old boy tried to coax his little brother in, but he was too scared of the darkness and scurried out the door.  I cannot imagine what it was like for the people who lived through the war.

Our next stop was a happier kind of place: The World of James Herriot in Thirsk. I have read all of his books several times, have seen every episode of the BBC series, and use the children’s versions of his books in my fourth grade class. We got to tour his house, the surgery, and a recreation of the BBC set for the series. I loved every minute of this tour. They even had an interactive area with a Chutes and Ladders game James Herriot style, and an operation game for kids where a wooden dog barks joyfully if you remove a metal piece he had eaten.  You even get to try your hand at calving by grabbing the hooves inside a life sized plastic cow which was an unusual activity to say the least. Everywhere you looked in his house you could feel James Herriot’s love and respect for animals. When I get home I am going to read all of his books again and rewatch the series too.

David really wanted to visit Rievaulx Abbey, but getting there was a white knuckle ride down a 5 mile winding one lane road where the branches from the hedgerows snap at your car and the stones bounce off the undercarriage. I honestly wasn’t convinced this car journey would be worth it, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. The shell of the Abbey built in 1132 was massive and looked stunning against the backdrop of the rolling hills and sheep grazing in the field. At one time in history over 500 people resided there. The Abbey was closed in 1538 by Henry VIII and for hundreds of years crumbled apart until the 1800s when people became interested in antiquities and excavations began. They gave us a very informative audio guide, but I abandoned it part way through. Sometimes it feels best to let a setting in nature speak for itself in silence.

The seaside town of Whitby where we are staying lies in the shadow of Whitby Abbey. We were too late to visit it, but walked the perimeter of the wall around it.

Back in town the children were still crabbing by the water. We had dinner at a new restaurant in townThe Star Inn, located in a former tourist information office and dined on halibut steaks. We played a few arcades and headed back to the room. We will miss Yorkshire. Tomorrow we take a train to London.

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