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Pickering - Stories from then and now

PUBLISHED: 00:00 15 July 2014 | UPDATED: 16:05 09 February 2018

View from the castle

View from the castle

Joan Russell Photography

Wrap a warm blanket of nostalgia around you with a trip to Pickering, says David Marsh

Roof tops of PickeringRoof tops of Pickering

There are some people who will tell you, perhaps with a wry smile, that nostalgia ain’t what it used to be. They have obviously never been to Pickering. Standing as a gateway to the glorious North York Moors, there are few towns that can better evoke the golden age of steam or capture that sense of yesteryear than Pickering.

The final preparations are currently underway for the 62nd annual Pickering Steam Fair and Traction Engine Rally which takes place over four days starting on July 31st at the town’s showground. Spectacular fairground organs, showmen’s engines, colourful agricultural traction engines, steam lorries, steam tractors and miniature steam engines will all be on display along with classic and vintage cars and old bicycles including Penny Farthings and Boneshakers. Music, dance, fairground rides and fireworks all add to the fun. Visit pickeringsteam.com for full details.

In October it will be the strains of Dame Vera Lynn and Glen Miller helping to attract the visitors as the town stages its annual Wartime Weekend, an international re-enactment event which attracts participants from different parts of the world. Said to be the largest festival of its kind in Europe, Pickering turns the clock back to the 1940s with a host of events around the town and at the showground. This year’s special weekend is October 10th-12th.

Not that you have to wait until October to take a stroll down memory lane to the 1940s. About seven miles south of Pickering, off the A169, is the award-winning Eden Camp, a modern history-themed museum that transports visitors back to wartime Britain. Based in the huts of an original prisoner of war camp built in 1942, the museum’s displays and exhibits recreate the sounds, sights and even the smells of the era.

View from the castleView from the castle

But it would be wrong to think that Pickering is locked in the past. You do not have to be a history buff or enjoy being wrapped in a warm blanket of nostalgia to enjoy its many attractions. Market Place and the surrounding streets have an array of welcoming pubs, first class restaurants and tea shops and welcoming, independent stores. A popular market takes place every Monday.

Pop into Pickering’s friendly tourist information centre and it’s quickly apparent that the town boasts a full events and entertainment calendar. The Kirk Theatre offers a varied programme and from July 20th-26th the Ryedale Jazz Festival is a must for many music lovers. Most of the performances take place in the historic Memorial Hall, which was gifted to the town by the Kitching family in 1922. Among its features is a mural by Rex Whistler, painted in 1943 at a Christmas party hosted by the second battalion of the Welsh Guards.

The tower of the Parish Church St Peter and St Paul is a key landmark. Dating back to the Saxon period, the Normans rebuilt the church in the 11th century. It is a grade one listed building notable for its mid-15th century wall paintings. They were covered over during the Reformation and rediscovered in 1851. Initially covered over again, they were finally restored in the 1870s.

The Normans were also responsible for Pickering Castle, a motte and bailey structure erected to defend the area from the Danes and Scots. These days it is an important visitor attraction, as is a railway line that was axed in 1965 but later revived by a group of dedicated volunteers. The North Yorkshire Moors Railway’s steam trains and heritage diesel engines attract up to 350,000 visitors a year, all eager to hop aboard and enjoy the stunning national park scenery on the 18-mile trip from Pickering to Grosmont. Some trains also run through to Whitby.

Pickering StationPickering Station

Perhaps one of the best ways to learn about the many stories Pickering has to tell is on one of the town walks, a one-and-half hour guided stroll organised by Pickering Civic Society. Discover the town’s connection with Washington DC and learn how a hedgehog protected the castle. Intrigued? Go to pickeringcivicsociety.btck.co.uk for details of the Monday walks.

Mike Potter, chairman of Pickering Civic Society who also runs a self-catering holiday accommodation business, said: ‘The town is certainly proud of its history and some of the events do focus on that but what shouldn’t be overlooked is the great sense of community you get in Pickering.

‘There are just so many different organisations and people really do get stuck in and work together for the benefit of the town. We are in the process of launching the Pickering Business Group which will promote the town’s businesses and attractions. I made a list of things to do for some guests and it is astonishing just how much goes on in the area.

‘Of course it does help having the delights of the North York Moors and Dalby Forest on your doorstep. It makes it hard to dispute the claim that Yorkshire is God’s own country.’

What do you love about Pickering? Email feedback@yorkshirelife.co.uk

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