Why you should take the time to explore Pickering
PUBLISHED: 00:00 08 February 2019
Joan Russell Photography
If you had to pick a plethora of places in Pickering, which plethora of Pickering places would you pick? Impossible to do as it is to say, notes Tony Greenway
Generally, whenever I point the car in the direction of Pickering, it’s because I’ll be travelling through it to go somewhere else – no disrespect to Pickering. It’s just that it’s the gateway to the moors and the coast and when I’m off to, say, Dalby Forest, Scarborough, Whitby or Robin Hood’s Bay, I never (well, hardly ever) take the chance to park up and explore. But I should. And so should you.
Alison and John Lawson are wardens at the Friends’ Meeting House, a Quaker-owned Grade II listed building dating from 1793. ‘It is like a crossroads with Scarborough to the east, Whitby to the north, York to the south and the Dales to the west,’ says Alison. ‘But Pickering packs a lot into a small area. It’s still thriving as a town centre.’
For the purposes of this article, I turned up in the depths of winter; not a great move because three of the town’s highlights – Beck Isle Museum, the North York Moors Railway (NYMR) and the 13th century Pickering Castle – had closed for the season.
Even so, there were other things to see and places to visit: a mix of independent and chain shops; good cafes and tea rooms; three events venues; the 1930s-themed railway station (part of the NYMR) and the unbelievably beautiful medieval frescoes in the parish church. There’s also an annual summer jazz festival and the 1940s Wartime Weekend held every October. Oh, and Eden Camp war museum is just 11 minutes away by car – or so Google tells me – along the A169.
After a wander around Pickering, I stopped at a new venture in town: a swish cafe bar called Two Burgate, which opened a couple of months ago. Its owner, Janet Hunter, is a former driving instructor who wants to give Pickering – and its untapped potential – a boost. Never mind Pickering, I needed a boost on a freezing morning in December, and got one when Janet served up fantastic cupcakes and great coffee.
‘We’re promoting Yorkshire here,’ she explains. ‘We love Yorkshire. Our coffee is brewed locally in Malton by Roost; we’ve a range of Yorkshire gins from Harrogate, Whitby and Cooper King from Sutton-on-the-Forrest (near York), plus a range of beers from Cropton. We buy everything locally. We haven’t had to go outside of Yorkshire yet.’ Two Burgate is in a fine location at the top of the high street opposite a very good butcher and fruit and veg shop. Pickering is still a rather traditional market town in that way.
‘Shopping-wise, you can get most of what you want here, but not everything,’ says Janet. ‘And the people are fantastic.’ There’s a real sense of camaraderie among the local retailers – even potential commercial rivals. When Janet first opened for business, the owner of the cafe down the street turned up with a bunch of flowers and wished her good luck. It’s that kind of place.
Alison Lawson agrees. ‘It’s hospitable,’ she says. ‘There’s a strong ethos of community volunteering here. There are a lot of interest groups and a lot of diverse churches that meet up and share events. We’ve been in Pickering for 15 years and there’s a lot of goodwill in the town. People support you and are interested in what you do. Everyone seems to pull together somehow.’