As the weather last weekend was taking a turn for the worst, we unfortunately had to admit that our first camping trip of 2013 was going to be a no go.We then decided to visit somewhere with a bit of character and somewhere that was familiar. This was strange as the area we went to visit was somewhere we’d never visited before, but it was familiar, why was it familiar ? It was familiar because it was Heartbeat Country. Heartbeat for those uninitiated, is a television programme that ran from 1992 – 2010.
Heartbeat was a British police drama series set in 1960s Yorkshire and broadcast on ITV and the 18 series ran between 1992 and 2010. It was made by ITV Studios (formerly Yorkshire Television) at the Leeds Studios and on location. Heartbeat first aired on Friday 10 April 1992 (it was later moved to Sunday evenings). The 372nd and final episode aired on Sunday 12 September 2010.Heartbeat proved popular from the beginning, when early series consistently drew over 10 million viewers. The location they chose to film in was a small Yorkshire village on the North Yorkshire mores called Goathland, which we visited twice during a long weekend in which we stayed in Whitby, which also featured in the programme. We set off on the Friday morning at around 9am and apart from a 30 minute break in near Doncaster made it to North Yorkshire in a little over 4 hours. Once past York and Pickering the scenery change for the better as flattish country gives way to the rolling hill and gorges of the North Yorkshire moors.
It was here we first came across the stunning view of the Hole of Horcum. The Hole of Horcum is a section of the valley of the Levisham Beck, upstream of Levisham and Lockton, in the Tabular Hills. The hollow is 400ft deep and stretches 3/4 of a mile across. A “Devil’s Punchbowl” type feature, local legend has it that the amphitheatre was made by a giant, who scooped up a large ball of earth and tossed it aside to create a nearby hill, Blakey Topping. The road twists and turns up and down after that before you come across the early warning station of RAF Fylingdales on the right. This station is a Royal Air Force station on Snod Hill .It is a radar base and is also part of the Ballistic Missile Early Warning System (BMEWS). As part of intelligence-sharing arrangements between the United States and United Kingdom, data collected at RAF Fylingdales are shared between the two countries. Its primary purpose is to give the British and US governments warning of an impending ballistic missile attack (part of the so-called four minute warning during the Cold War). A secondary role is the detection and tracking of orbiting objects. Like the Hole of Horcum this station dominates the landscape as it is perched on the hill almost by the road edge. Moving past there about 2 miles you come across the road for Goathland on the left. After a drive of about a mile you go under two bridges and a down a hill before turning right and entering Goathland.
The church featured in Heartbeat is on the right and about ¼ of a mile further on is the village centre with the shops and the green. A further ¼ mile further on you come across Scripps garage and opposite the Goathland Hotel, better known in the series as the Aidenfield Arms. We popped in the hotel /pub for a pint and it looks almost the same as it does in the programme and still has a “Aidenfield Arms” sign on the outside wall. Apparently it was used for early filming before a replica was built in the studio. After our pint we visited Scripps Garage which is a gift shop before moving on back to the village green. We went past the Goathland base of the Goathland Plough Stots one of the last sword dancing teams in the UK. There we got a detailed history from one of its members and also a few sad stories of how the village is now full of holiday “lets” and how much of the villages character has been lost. After this we turned right just past the “surgery” and went to visit Beck Hole.
Beck Hole is not, as you might at first think, a cavern or pot-hole. The village history reveals: “The name is from the Viking description of ‘a deep valley through which runs a stream’. The Area surrounding Beck Hole was called Allan Tofts and was the northern most part of the great Forest of Pickering. In 1267 the King’s Foresters began clearing trees from the high ground and the land was improved to provide a rough living for smallholders in low thatched dwellings. The high moor land, rough grazing and harsh winters meant that life revolved around sheep farming and the production of wool. Eventually the clearance of trees and scrubland continued down into the valley at what we now know as Green End and Beck Hole, though in those days Beck Hole was called ‘Amerholm’ and Green End ‘Summerholm’.
By 1857 the industrial revolution had dawned. Coal and Ironstone mining was soon underway, and two blast furnaces beside the river produced pig-iron to be sent off to Whitby.All this activity brought with it a corresponding increase in workforce, and of course their families. A row of 33 cottages was built in the part of Beck Hole known as Buber Wood. It is around this time that we first hear of the Birch Hall Inn, when it was developed from two adjoining cottages to include a provisions store with accommodation above and a resident cobbler on the top floor. In 1860 it was granted a license to sell ‘Ale Porter, Cider and Perry’.The boom was short lived. By 1867 the mines had closed and the furnaces were dismantled. By 1871 only the Birch Hall Inn, the cottage opposite and The White House were occupied, and just 13 of the new cottages.
Once the cottages were all empty the whole row was demolished and the stone taken away to build Malton Station. All that remains to be seen is a few stone gateposts along the side of the path. Beck Hole slowly became a quiet backwater again, and has changed little since. In 1873 the stone bridge was built to replace the existing wooden footbridge with its ford alongside and demolition of the station buildings had provided stone for several new cottages. In 1940 the Lord Nelson Inn was closed and became a private house, leaving the Birch Hall inn as the only pub. Electricity came to Beck Hole in 1948 and eventually in 1952 the residents had the luxury of mains water instead of having to carry it from springs and streams.”
It was very picturesque with the river, twisting roads, railway bridge and the sheep, let’s not forget the sheep as they seem to grace all the roads in and out of Goathland and also many places in the village too. We then drove over the hill across the moor and back to join the A169. After a further 30 minutes of driving we entered the seaside town of Whitby. Whitby has many claims to fame, the abbey ruin at the top of the east cliff,the swing bridge across the River Esk,statues of James Cook and William Scoresby and a whalebone arch that all point to a maritime heritage. The town also has a strong literary tradition and has featured in literary works, television and cinema; most famously in Bram Stoker’s novel, Dracula.