Walking old York’s Walls (1)
Recently I’d the opportunity to spend a few hours in my favourite English city, York, something I’ve not been able to do in a while. Taking a free ride up the A1 to the old walled city with my partner on business there, it gave me ample time to carry out a little project I’ve been meaning to carry out for some time – to walk around the city’s walls in their entirety.
I’ve a slight fascination for walled cities and a great liking for York itself. I’m not sure why the latter is, maybe it’s because of some of its similarities with Edinburgh, the history being very evident wherever one walks. On the practical side it is not a huge conurbation and its sights and attractions are all walkable.
The Hospitium, York Museum Gardens
Where to begin then? Well with a quick pint for (another kind of) fortification of course (more of which another time) and a bacon roll in the York Museum Gardens naturally. Whilst watching small children gambolling on the grass with mums chattering nearby. Ever an adventurous pigeon to steal the crumbs from under my very feet too.
The walk was on.
With little of the careful planning of a seasoned explorer, I found myself at the suggested beginning to the walk and traced a footpath down to the lapping waters of the river edge. Immediately the old walls show their first feature of interest Here was the 13th century Lendel Tower. Apparently originally used as a water tower and one of the very first of its kind in the country. Peering across the Ouse on the far bank sits the Barker Tower. It was between these two constructions that a long iron chain was stretched across the river to ensure that boatmen paid their tolls to pass or alternatively as an aid to defense in less peaceful times.
Wandering across the Lendel Bridge, high over the wide waters, I stopped for a few moments to study the life on the river which mainly consisted of the odd pleasure cruise and young rowers straining hard in time and synchronicity. If you were in your ‘hot blood’ you could have walked today in shirts sleeves like I did as the fluffy white clouds occasionally and fleetingly gave way to watery sunshine.
The wall walk begins in earnest this side of the river as I climb on to the fortification. Outside lies a small graveyard containing hundreds of cholera victims though only twenty inadequate gravestones. Many lay in unmarked graves where pestilence once wrought its havoc on the city of York like many other cities.
Gaining the wall at Barker Tower
Looking back to Lendel Bridge overshadowed by York Minster
I surveyed the fine and important – for York has always been a railway town – city railway station over my shoulder to my right as an extremely large group of supervised schoolchildren headed my way like a swarm of bees. Thankfully we all managed to stay upright and on the wall as opposed to falling off what was a fairly steep incline down the grassy banks below. At the more acute sections safety fencing is necessarily provided.
The road ahead
To be continued…
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