My recent whistlestop tour of Northern England by train put me in mind of the wonderful English Journey by JB Priestley. Modesty (and indeed accuracy) forbids me from making a direct comparison between that book and any humble scribblings of my own, though I’m sure I’m equally liable to offend some residents (never intentionally).
What have I learnt? Not much, probably. Don’t rely on dry weather to the west of the Pennines (but really I knew that already). Not all staffed stations have toilets, so even if you find the swaying and jolting of the train off-putting, you might not have much alternative – go easy on the flask of tea.
What have I seen? Loads, and I’ll try and share a bit of it with you over the next week or so.
Starting in West Yorkshire, over the course of a week or so I visited Lancashire, Cumbria, Northumbria, East and North Yorkshire, and passed through Tyne and Wear and County Durham. I revisited childhood haunts and went to places I’d never been before. I stood at the East and West coasts in a variety of weather and mused on the difference of beaches. I watched from train windows as we skirted rivers, estuaries and the sea, seeming to hang over the water – there’s a couple of places I wouldn’t fancy travelling on a windy winter day.
If there’s going to be a Northern Powerhouse (which I picture at the moment as a sort of Heath Robinson generator contraption in a tumbledown stone barn on a moor) and it’s going to be based in Manchester (which I’m sure in Westminster minds is as solidly Northern as you can get, but dismissed as ‘the Midlands at best’ by Geordie OneMonkey, and even I see it as borderline North) then the rail rules will have to change: Northern Rail’s North Country Rover ticket doesn’t allow travel to Manchester. Too far south.