"Do you know much about Yorkshire?" my French-Italian manager asked me on my first week at my new job at Rough Guides.
"Yes,” I beamed. "I'm actually from north Yorkshire."
“Great, the new edition of the book is in good hands then!” she replied.
Born and (mostly) bred in God's Own Country, I edited endless pages of outstanding landmarks, cosy pubs and lush green spaces in what I believe is the most beautiful part of England (all northern bias aside). Sifting through the pages and photographs, I oozed pride for where I'm from, but a sadness (and shame) also lingered within me - I realised I haven't been to the majority of these incredible attractions. I haven't walked across the sprawling lush Esk Valley, I haven't traced the outline of the crumbling Rievaulx Abbey with my hand, I haven't tucked into a fiery curry in Bradford and I haven't visited the world-famous Brontë Parsonage Museum – and I studied English at university.
I've had these places, and other spots in the UK, at the back of my mind, but international destinations have always taken first place for my holidays. Iran, Jordan, Morocco – I choose to go as far away from my London flat as possible. With the current pandemic affecting travel and restrictions shadowing the world, travelling as far away as possible seems like a distant memory. My holiday to Albania this summer was cancelled and a volunteering trip in Cambodia was postponed to next year. But then came the 4th of July: the announcement that travellers could stay in hotels again.
My housemate and dear friend Kate and I rushed to book our next break. Upon searching for places in the UK which are accessible from London, one craggy, wave-battered arch kept appearing: Durdle Door.
Masks and bottles of anti-bacterial hand gel in tow, we crossed into West Lulworth, arriving by bus from Wool. Endless green fields dominated the horizon, while fluffy sheep bleated in the distance, an odd house dotted here and there, the packed, soaring towers of London so far away. The winding lanes into the town are home to thatched cottages with blue wooden doors and hefty doorknockers – the quaint staple image of this part of England. They provide a sweet introduction to Lulworth Cove, a sparkling bay hugged by sandstone cliffs.
Kate and I walked over the tickling blades of grass to find the Stair Hole, west of Lulworth Cove, while the wind blew through our hair. A sea cave characterized by crumbling arches, Lulworth Cove is a riot of colour. Deep greens where vegetation is rife, sharp beiges and smooth caramels where the arches have cracked away, alluring blues where the water dips in and out and then a rush of white as it thrashes and foams against the rock.
The twisting and turning Jurassic Coast is spectacular. Steep uphill then downhill, our legs pulled and pushed with every step. The only natural World Heritage Site in the country due to its remarkable fossils and rocks, it stretches for 95 miles from Orcombe Point in Exmouth, Devon to Old Harry Rocks in Dorset. Kate and I walked no such distance in our unsuitable footwear of Stan Smiths and New Balance trainers. We were headed for Durdle Door: the main reason for our visit.
Pushing through the rock, surrounded by shingle beach, the hard limestone arch of Durdle Door is the icon of the Jurassic Coast. The gap in the crown shows the dancing and prancing sea behind it – noted in recent headlines as the spot where a diver plunged into the water, and thankfully survived. Friendly dogs parade the pebbles and stones around the arch; I say hello to the darling pooches (naturally), while in the distance selfie sticks are wielded. Some things never change.
I spot giddy children with ice-cream cones in their tiny hands. The smell of fish and chips tickles our nostrils – Kate and I look at each other and smile, knowing what comes next.
The paper bag is handed to me – dripping and doused in malt vinegar, with a generous sprinkling of salt – all so strong, and comforting, even through my mask. The thick curry sauce pot moves this way and that with the gusty sea breeze, and a cloud of steam escapes from the paper bag. I hear the crunch of the golden batter, the fish soft and flaky. The chips are just as good.
And then there’s dessert. My teeth turn cold with the velvety clotted cream and fudge ice cream. I go back to my childhood; I think back to the ice cream of Whitby, partly a fishing port, partly a seaside resort, in my homeland of Yorkshire. I think back to what is right there and just like that, I conclude my future holiday plans.
My next break will be to a "country in a county": Yorkshire. My home which soars and dips with rolling hills, my home which is a trailing map of swirling cobble lanes, my home which delights in fluffy and crispy Yorkshire puddings which cradle a pool of thick, hearty gravy. I think back to my first week at work and the pages of beauty within the Rough Guide to Yorkshire as I make plans to myself to see more of my home region. Esk Valley, I will walk you. Rievaulx Abbey, I will trace you with my hand. Fiery curry in Bradford, I will eat you. Brontë Parsonage Museum, I will finally see you, as a university graduate of English.
Top image: Durdle Door © sumon83/Shutterstock