Jane Stuart – Writer

Writer on beer, football culture and Blackpool FC.

A Football Tourist’s Guide To York (& Leeds United v Blackpool)

Over the summer we made our annual pilgrimage to Lincolnshire (predominantly for the fish, chips and gravy from Steels in Clee). When I tweeted about the brilliance of Lincoln Cathedral, it provoked the residents of York, who insisted that York Minster was superior. I resolved to visit sometime to see for myself; however wasn’t expecting to do so quite so soon. Happily, Blackpool announced a friendly against Leeds United in York. I suspected this was my witchcraft coming into play again and immediately set to work planning this Football Tourist’s Guide To York.

Eastbound

I wanted to pack in as much as possible today which, as usual, necessitated a 1000 arrival, in time for the first museum’s opening. Google Maps advised that the journey could take as long as 3h20 so I worked back and decided on an 0630 departure time (allowing for a stop). This ended up being more like 0645 (me being late as opposed to Lee). We didn’t need to fuel up as we were still ok after Southport, so we headed straight for the M55.

We do like to listen to music from folk who hail from the town/city we’re visiting. Looking through the online list of musicians from York, the only artist I’d heard of was Shed Seven, although I couldn’t name any of their songs.

I realised it was a long time until lunch so I tucked into a couple of SlimmingWorld Fruit & Nut HiFi Bars by way of breakfast, hoping they’d see me through. I’m not a big eater in the mornings so I was hopeful here.

I had to dig a little deeper to select our next musical companion, reading the blurbs about artists we’d never heard of. I noted one was 60s psychedelic. Hmm. In Lincoln, we’d been along to my mate Jonny’s disco where this sort of music was played – and we’d enjoyed it very much. Hence here is what was up next on our York playlist.

They were great. I read up about them while we listened. They sounded like a great live band, with a spectacular show. They had spent six months in residence in Mexico and were subsequently offered the same in the US. Sadly their drummer was too young to get a work permit so they decided to return home. They never made it as recording artists and soon split up. And yet here we were, 50 years later, listening to them in a car trip from Blackpool to York. It’s amazing really how timeless art can be. I wonder if people will be reading my words in 50 years time.

As we passed a sign for Mother Shipton’s Cave, Lee wondered aloud where he’d heard that name before. Cue Wikipedia. Mother Shipton was born in this cave and lived in it for the first two years of her life, before returning to it years later following the death of her husband. She was famously not only locally but worldwide for her prophecies and herbal remedies. I need to visit this cave and learn more about this ‘witch’. But there was no time for that today, as we were on a tight schedule.

Now parking has been a bit of a problem for us on previous trips. Lee has been known to rant for hours on end about the exorbitant cost of car parks (he is still outraged at Nottingham in particular). I have therefore resolved to properly research parking in advance of these trips going forward. I outsourced this research to a local on this occasion: my fellow fanzine editor at York City.

As we pulled into Sainsburys car park we were confused to see a sign confirming a maximum three-hour stay. Hmm. We’d need longer than that. But that should be enough time for the first stop on our itinerary; we could always then return to the car and move it to the nearby Asda car park for a bit. Minor faff but at least it was free.

I needed a wee after the two-and-a-half-hour journey, so we popped into Sainsburys. Mission completed, I headed back towards the store front, only stopping to double-take at this notice in a shopping trolley.

This raised a lot of questions. Who was Brenda? Why did she need her own trolley? Did she, too, usually end up with one with a wonky wheel and was this the only one she’d found that went in a straight line? Was she nervous about COVID and insistent that no-one else touch her trolley? Was she neurodivergent and did she need this particular trolley?

As I began following Lee off the car park, he asked:

‘Do you know where we’re going?’

‘Er no I wasn’t really thinking about it – I was just following you.’

Pre-season is pre-season for fans too and we need to remember what it is we do on a matchday. And it was me with the itinerary and the map so I snapped back into tour guide mode. I tapped the first point of interest into the map. 1.8 miles away? That couldn’t be right, surely? Then it dawned on me: we must have the wrong Sainsburys. Doh! We traipsed back to the car and I tapped ‘Sainsburys’ into Waze, who found one about 1.8 miles away, so we headed over there.

Happily, this one was a pay and display car park with a decent hourly rate that allowed us to stay as long as we liked. Still Lee grumbled about the charges (I suppose a free car park would have been preferable) but at least we could relax now without having the inconvenience about moving the car.

I skipped down the street, having just got the news that Boris Johnson’s resignation was finally imminent, and tried to maintain a good pace as it was a 20 minute walk to the museum, which opened in ten minutes. The walk did take a little longer as we both kept pausing to photograph/film objects of interest en route.

Our walk also took us past what we assumed to be a nursery. From the other side of a high wall we could hear the torturous screams of toddlers. It put us in mind of a local cattery and kennels, which is home to the constant howling and barking of dogs. Why would anyone subject their cat to residence there?

National Railway Museum

I was alerted by the word ‘National’ in the name of this museum. We learned at St Fagan’s National Museum of History in Cardiff that national museums are free to enter. This is particularly appealing in these current times of everything else being ridiculously expensive. Hence we made it our first port of call today.

Last season we visited many transport museums but we saw many more planes and road vehicles than trains. The season did, however, end with a lovely visit to Railworld in Peterborough. That whetted our appetite for more trains – as well as leaving us with some unanswered questions – so here we were at the National Railway Museum.

We approached through the above tunnel, where we were met with a giggle of schoolchildren (not sure if that’s the correct collective term, but it seems apt). I’m not sure quite how loud a classroom of excitable primary school children is but in a tunnel they are fucking loud. I was beginning to think I was in a horror movie. Mercifully we emerged at the other end before I started screaming outwardly. Amazingly the sun was blazing brightly at this end of the tunnel when I was sure it hadn’t been at the other end. Exactly how long had we been in there? Had I collapsed holding my ears and screaming ‘MAKE THEM STOP!’? Had my brain filtered out the worst of it to protect Future Me? Perhaps I’ll never know.

Anyway – the museum!

There were a few large halls that housed the displays. Each hall was dominated by trains as the centrepieces. Yet it was the railway culture that interested me the most on my visit here today – and the museum was brimming with that. I loved the art and the old station signs.

Of course the trains were stunning too. Sadly we didn’t get to step inside one. My favourite was the Japanese bullet train.

This train is on skis!

I also loved and coveted the royal carriages, which included sofas, comfy chairs, a desk and even a bath!

I was excited to see and learn about Stephenson’s Rocket

This sign creeped me out a bit.

We stopped for a brew at the caff in the middle of the first hall. We didn’t particularly want a drink or need a break but were excited to sit in the train-style seating.

I had an Earl Grey and Lee had a very strong coffee. We each resisted the scones and cakes as we are both trying to be good at the moment. However here’s a pic for your salivation.

I got very excited to see a ride that I wanted to go on – but where had Lee gone? I’d lost him in the large hall. I loitered around the ride for a while – there was no queue and no-one seemed at all interested in going on it. But I was dying to have a go! We’d get to experience what it was like to travel on the fastest train! But there was no sign of Lee, so I wandered off in search of stuff to photograph.

At length I spotted Lee on the balcony, interviewing someone. I headed up there. As his interviewee was keen to continue enthusing on camera about the museum, I wandered off to see what else was up there. I was delighted to find a library dedicated to the railways. This included specific sections on a variety of subjects, including railway catering and railway staff personal safety.

I then headed back down to the main hall, where I found a huge model railway, which even had its own timetable.

There was a separate room dedicated to the Flying Scotsman and a whole host of train memorabilia.

By now Lee and I were reunited and were both keen to have a go on the ride.

Sod’s Law dictated that there was now a queue for the ride but we were soon at the front – only to be told that the next available slot was after we were scheduled to leave. Bah!

We’d also missed out on riding on the miniature railway (put off by the length of the queue) and the steam train (not running today). The moral of this story is BE PREPARED when you visit and get these things booked up straight away.

Of course no visit to a museum is complete without popping into the museum shop. We searched in vain for a train Top Trumps (apparently they did have some, but sadly not today). The highlights were thus:

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is IMG_4664-1024x823.jpg
Do pandas do somersaults?
Brewed by Half Moon Brewery.

But now it was approaching noon and thus time to emerge into the sunshine and head to the pub for lunch.

The Maltings

I know York to be home to several famous pubs; however I don’t remember visiting any of them, bar the York Tap on the station. Indeed it was 2004 when Blackpool last played here – which predated me drinking real ale. I wanted to visit all of the pubs, of course, but I had to be realistic about how many I could fit into today’s schedule, whilst also being mindful of my diet. I therefore did my research in advance – using my trusty CAMRA GBG app – seeking out pubs that served food at the times we would be eating (1200 and 1700), which also had a decent beer offering. And that’s how we ended up in The Maltings for lunch.

On arrival I was very excited at the range of beers.

Despite the scorchio conditions, I found myself unable to resist the mild. I opted to sit inside so as to remain cool enough to enjoy it. And my oh my what a lush beer this was. I might even go so far as to say that this Saltaire Mildlife trumps the Church End Gravediggers as my favourite mild. Look out for this one, folks.

There were countless conversation pieces dotted around this pub.

But of course it was time for food.

I already sort of knew what I was having, as I’d researched the menu online beforehand. Further scrutinisation of the menu here today revealed the chilli to be famously hot. Now it’s a big bugbear of mine that pub chillies are never spicy enough, so I simply had to order this as a topping to my jacket potato. Indeed it even came with a disclaimer from the barman as I ordered it.

‘It is very hot.’

‘That’s why I’m ordering it.’

Dear reader, it WAS hot. We’re talking vindaloo hot. But I wasn’t complaining. Yay for hot chillies!

In a non-chilli-related activity, I popped to check out the Ladies before leaving. Lee had told me there was today’s sports news available to read in the Gents so I was keen to see if this was in the Ladies too. It wasn’t, but there was a tissue dispenser, which was pleasing, as I’d used up most of mine blowing my nose while eating that chilli. I replenished my supply.

Right. Now let’s get back on the tourist trail…

City Cruises

We do like a good guided tour. We’d done the Hop On Hop Off bus tour in Lincoln this summer and really enjoyed it. You can learn so much about a city from an experienced guide and it is nice to hear from the locals. There was a similar bus here but we opted for the river cruise today because:

(a) we didn’t realise there was a river in York, so this was a bonus;

(b) it was something a bit different; and

(c) it was an open top boat and thus an opportunity to bask in the sunshine for an hour.

We boarded at Lendal Bridge (apt during Wimbledon fortnight), successfully swerving the Ice Cream Boat while we waited. Surely this should be called Ice Cream Float?

We were soon on board our boat and selected some good seats at the front of the raised section towards the rear of the upper deck.

We learned about the various bridges crossing the River Ouse, the floods, where the river connected with other rivers, York’s history, including invasion by the Romans (who founded the city) and the Vikings, the dissolution of the monastery and the city’s famous chocolate industry (one we were purposefully not investigating in greater detail today for the benefit of our diets).

I began to realise my arms were burning, so I rolled up the sleeves of my tee to try and avoid getting a tan line.

By the time we disembarked, I was feeling quite dopey from that hour in the lunchtime sun. That’s by no means a complaint – just such a rarity in this country. We really did feel like we were on holiday today. This is what the Football Tourist’s Guide is all about.

We noticed an exhibition of landscape photography by the riverside and paused to enjoy this before continuing on with our itinerary. Again, there was much to catch our eye along the way.

York Minster

Right then – here we were. How would York Minster match up to the magnificent Lincoln Cathedral?

From the outside, York Minster looked equally imposing. Situated right in the city centre, we found it difficult to gaze on it from a distance as BANG it was just there.

We had to queue to get in, which annoyed me slightly, as I needed a wee – and I wasn’t even sure there would be toilets inside (but surely there would be, in a building of this size?). We also had to pay to get in – and it wasn’t cheap at £12.50 each. I was docking points from York Minster for all of these things, quite determined it wasn’t going to be as good as my beloved Lincoln Cathedral. Indeed, as we approached the payment counter, our initial impression of the inside was that it was nowhere near as big as Lincoln Cathedral, nor was it as impressive. There wasn’t going to be an imp in here or anything.

My mood began to shift when I was given clear directions to the toilets. When I emerged from the Ladies, I spied the entrance to a crypt. Ooh crypts are exciting and mysterious! I headed down immediately.

Back upstairs I began to be impressed with the art on display. This piece put me in mind of Statler and Waldorf.

The mightily impressive Great East Window ‘tells the story of the beginning and end of all things.’ I began to wonder if this was where Mother Shipton got her prophecies from.

This bishop looks incredibly laid back. Had he just been on a river cruise in the York sunshine too?

It was mercifully cool in here and I do enjoy the peace, tranquility and reflection of a cathedral. I picked up a couple of these prayer cards. I appreciate that the church and its people can be of great comfort to many.

I ought to have really stood in front of the Grand Organ pipes for scale for they were massive.

There was a particularly stunning part of the interior that my photo simply can’t do justice.

And then there was the fun stuff!

I almost missed the museum, located in the other half of the lower floor. I learned that this area was excavated to secure the safety of the structure. It now housed a history of York Minster. And, er, Star Trek…

Down here we got chatting with a woman who worked here. We mentioned the outrage from York when I’d championed Lincoln Cathedral as the best. She confirmed that there was indeed an ongoing rivalry between the two cathedrals. We also learned there’s another rivalry between York Minster and Exeter Cathedral, both of which claim they have the oldest piece of yellow glass.

Finally, we couldn’t leave without visiting the cathedral shop (we physically couldn’t, as the exit was through the shop). And there were some right treats in here (although sadly no Cathedral Top Trumps, which I thought they’d have been all over with their rivalries).

Stonegate (not Shambles)

I had been informed that famous York street Shambles was not to be missed. However I think we DID miss it (or was it merely yet to come…?). We instead walked along Stonegate: a great street brimming with old, independent shops which we adored – and which again had echoes of Lincoln and its Steep Hill (but crucially without the hill, winning further bonus points for York).

We were proud of our willpower as we walked past the fudge shop. But then I stumbled across somewhere I simply could not walk past.

House of Trembling Madness

This was one of those famous York watering holes that I had heard about many times. Indeed, there are two outlets in York (Stonegate and Lendal).

As soon as I stepped inside my eyes widened. Ooh look at all these bottles and cans! One shelf in particular caught my eye.

Ohh I REALLY wanted this. But my diet! I don’t have any beers in at home now to avoid that temptation (historically the main contributor to my weight gain). I continued walking through the store and was amazed at this selection of spirits.

I’ve never seen anything like that in this country. How brilliant that you can try spirits without committing to a large bottle.

There was another room at the back brimming with bottles and cans. I did not dare to study the shelves too closely for fear of temptation.

We headed upstairs to the bar. Just wow.

I fully understand why this place has such legendary status amongst the beer community. I really really wanted to stay for a drink but (a) it was hot in here; and (b) the willpower is strong at the moment. As soon as we got back downstairs, I’d talked myself out of buying that can of Banana Split to drink upstairs – and walked straight out of the door. This was not without some guilt for calling in, taking photos and leaving without purchasing anything, but I hope they’ll forgive me as I am promoting them here – and I’ll definitely be back when I return for a proper crawl of York.

We continued our walk down Stonegate (Not Shambles).

And then we found another place that practically yanked us in by the arm.

Käthe Wohlfahrt

A CHRISTMAS SHOP!!! This one doesn’t need any words, other than to say it was the shop that inspired the Christmas movie Last Christmas. This movie was set in a Christmas shop and, to be honest, it’s pretty terrible – and I love Christmas movies. But the shop itself was magical – as, indeed, was this little treasure.

If you click the link in the heading, it will take you to their online shop (all my headings have links, if you didn’t know).

But now it was teatime, so we strode onwards in the direction of another carefully-selected pub.

Lendal Cellars

Whilst this was not a pub I had heard of, this seemed to fit the bill nicely. It was a Greene King pub (bear with me here) which I know to have a menu that is suitable for our dietary requirements. But it was also a cellar pub – and I LOVE cellar pubs. I love the dim lighting and the fact you are completely separate from the outside world. Windows are all well and good but I’m not really a fan of them in pubs as a rule. Oh and it had a random pubcow.

It was lovely and cool inside and it was pretty empty too (the majority of drinkers on the outside patio), rendering the taking of photographs much easier. And it was a stunning pub. I was very pleased with my choice.

We selected a table and I headed to the bar to order drinks and food. I’d decided in advance that I’d be having the Half Roast Chicken. Now it was time to consider the beer selection.

Hmm none of those were inspiring. I decided to ask for a taster of the Progress (only because I liked its name, as it was synonymous with Blackpool, although the word ‘hoppy’ was a red flag).

When the barmaid eventually appeared, it was only to say that there would be no food available for about an hour. But we were on a set schedule today. How can a Greene King pub not be serving food at teatime (it was 1700)? This was my banker. Plan foiled! We left immediately. It was a lucky escape from uninspiring beer really. But where would we eat now? The clock was ticking on the car parking meter. I opened the trusty CAMRA GBG app – and lo and behold there was a Nicholsons pub right next door. Result!

Harkers

This beer selection was marginally better – and I ought really to have been pleased there was no dark beer, as that was much better for my diet.

I can still never resist a Leeds Pale (forgetting we were playing Leeds tonight), as this was a big favourite of mine in on my visits to Leeds back in the day, which, shamefully, rarely took me beyond the Scarbrough Hotel, as my friends weren’t for moving once they had settled in a pub (another reason I go it alone a lot these days).

I had to think on the spot when it came to selecting my food but that decision is made much easier since they have started printing calories on menus. I now veer towards the items with the lowest calories. Tonight this was the Salmon & Dill Fishcakes, which sounded lush.

The food was delivered with apologies: we’d got a Nourish Bowl with our Fishcakes. This consisted of ‘a tabbouleh salad on a houmous base, with chargrilled long stem broccoli, topped with pumpkin seeds’, as opposed to what the Fishcakes should have come with, which was ‘herb-glazed baby potatoes, house salad and lemon aioli’. We waved this off as not a problem. I love mystery item dishes and this Nourish Bowl was quite delicious.

We ate pretty quickly because we did need to get back to the car to avoid having to pay for another hour’s parking. But, despite our hurry, we still found time to photograph interesting stuff en route.

We also found time to take a slightly (two minute) longer walk back to the car park via the City Walls.

Leeds United v Blackpool at York Community Stadium

My parking correspondent had recommended we park at M&S by the ground. As we entered the car park, a sign flashed up our registration and told us we had four hours before we had to leave the car park. That was plenty of time. A separate notice confirmed it was two hours parking on matchdays, but this didn’t seem to count as a matchday – despite what turned out to be a near capacity crowd – so we weren’t complaining.

This whole complex – comprising shops, a cinema, restaurants and bowling alley – looked brand new. M&S itself was alluring, with its ‘living wall’.

It was also alluring because I again needed a wee. While Lee was waiting for me, he spotted a tangerine top that he loved (there’s always a good bit of tangerine in M&S), and he ended up buying it. We returned to the car to put the shopping away and now headed towards the ground.

Of course the away end (which we had been allocated) was right round the other side, as it always is.

I made a point of photographing the refreshments menu for you.

I wasn’t eating here of course, although I did buy three bottles of water.

Our starting 11 looked decent. I was pleased to see Rob Apter getting another chance. I really hope to see a lot more of him this season. He’s been patient enough.

It was a pleasant little stadium and I felt quite comfortable here. I loved the location; the pitch was in magnificent nick; the toilets were easy to get to; the crowd sat down for the duration of the match. I felt safe. But the ground lacked the personality of Bootham Crescent and other traditional grounds.

I don’t wish to write about the match, other than to say I think playing a Premier League side in only our second friendly (the first being against non league Southport) was too much too soon. Leeds looked great and I’m more than a little relieved that they survived relegation to the Championship so we don’t have to face them in a competitive match. But I suppose it was a good workout and pre-season is about fitness and not results and all that. Sonny Carey looked good again, mind. And we got to see Joshy taking on defenders again. So it wasn’t all bad.

Westbound

Back on the road, we selected another son of York to accompany us on the way home.

John Barry composed music for many movies, including James Bond, Dances With Wolves and Out of Africa. We enjoyed listening to his award winning scores for a good while until we realised many were really very sad, heartbreaking tunes, which wasn’t ideal for a late night car journey. We resorted to our old friend from Peterborough, Paul Nicholas, to get our feet tapping and keep us awake for the rest of the journey home, where we arrived at a quarter to midnight.

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Next Up: Blackpool v Rangers.

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