Walking old York’s Walls (2)
Part two of the walk and rounding the corner, the atmosphere takes on a different hue as the people are left behind and the stroll becomes a more lonely trudge, overlooking the odd industrial unit and small streets of houses. The rather grand Micklegate Bar now comes into view standing sentinel over the old street, famed nowadays as a modern-day pub crawl with its many lively bars.
This was the most important gateway to the city where for many years the likes of rebellious or traitorous folk could find their head detached and then attached to a pike for display above the gate. The more things change the more they stay the same – The Micklegate is still responsible for a few slight headaches just as it ever was – particularly after a heavy Saturday night.
Walking on through the handsome and sturdy looking Victoria Bar, into a now fairly forlorn and quiet corner of York’s walls, the wall turns sharply left to reach Bailie Hill. The baile here is thought to be the remnants of an old castle built by William the Conqueror’s followers. It is said that a wooden tower would have at one day stood on this site.
The ‘Old Baile’ at Baile Hill
The walk around the walls is but a short one, (1.9 miles according to one guide). I was quickly becoming aware that the appeal is not necessarily what can be seen from the walls as regards the city or views beyond, but in the actual construction itself. This was shown by the many small streets of house near and under the wall. It’s modern York living cheek-by-jowl with a York of long ago. It seems that local people are hardly aware of its presence and just consider it as another part of the historic backdrop of where they happen to live. Perhaps this is always the way with such things.
It is soon time to leave the wall temporarily as one of its modern gaps now appear. Crossing the Skeldergate Bridge I pass into Tower Street Gardens and momentarily leave the trail to take a view of Clifford’s Tower and where York Castle’s bailey would have stood. This area would have once teemed with prisons and courts, all overlooked by Clifford’s Tower on its huge mound of rammed earth. Happily this area sees much more fun being had these days every Christmas period when an artificial ice rink is created in this historic and atmospheric setting.
Looking towards Clifford Tower in Tower Gardens
Time to get back to the wall as the weather began to threaten for the first time with dark grey clouds rolling over the city. The wall is regained at Fishergate Postern Tower where a sign sternly warns me ‘No Dogs on the Wall’ as I meander on to Fishergate Bar. Perhaps the most time-ravaged of all the bars, the building probably stood much higher at one time. In the fifteenth century it was ransacked by rebels and subesequently bricked up. It’s for me to note here that Fishergate Bar used to be used as a prison for Roman Catholics and also for lunatics. I’m figuring out my 100% qualifications for incarseration here and decide to move on rapidly.
When I’m at home and I think of this city one of the sights that always comes to mind is that of Walmgate Bar. This is simply because for the first few years I visited York I would always park and enter the city at this point. It became slightly symbolic for me. It’s had it trials apparently which include being battered by a canon during a seige and burned by rebels but still retains its barbican, portculliss and inner doors. I’m about to press on but not before a timely peruse of my small foldaway map.
Timely because here was something I’d been meaning to catch up on for quite a few years – around thirty in fact. It was the grave of the infamous highwayman, Dick Turpin which stands a few yards behind Walmgate bar in a small field and almost forgotten.
Dick Turpin’s grave
The surroundings are unprepossessing but had some resonance for me. I came here with a girlfriend three decades back and we visited the old rascal’s grave. One of those moments for me when time truly stopped still for a moment all these years later. Thinking about some of the things that had happened in my life since that time.
To be continued…