“Here be Dragons” means dangerous or unexplored territories, in imitation of a medieval practice of putting illustrations of dragons, sea monsters and other mythological creatures on uncharted areas of maps where potential dangers were thought to exist. You may well be thinking there’s nowhere quite like that left in England, but you could be mistaken…
It was the Easter holidays when I took my then teenage sons to North Yorkshire to spend some time with them bonding in the great outdoors. We stayed in Runswick Bay a few miles away from the delights of Whitby with its maritime heritage and tales of Captain Cook, Dracula and the 199 steps to the Abbey. We were in a teeny cottage clinging to the side of the steep cliff. It was barely big enough for the three of us and certainly had no room to swing the cat, which fortunately we’d left at home.
We were woken early by a squillion gulls that perched on our roof screeching annoyingly down the chimney: no alarm clock required. Our days were spent trudging over the moors on ancient Roman roads, watching steam trains or stepping over streams on lumps of rock, the boys trying, and succeeding, to keep their balance and not get a soaking. I admired the masses of dancing daffodils clustered under hedgerows and smiled with motherly concern as I watched newly born lambs wearing their wrinkly coats, gambolling in the fields on wobbly legs.
We discovered sea urchins and lumps of ancient coal on the beach and got soaked from the heavy sleeting showers before warming ourselves with mugs of real hot chocolate, along with heavily buttered toasted teacakes, in a steamy little café in Staithes. Returning to the cottage along the hazardous coastal path, the wind tangled our hair and blew us backwards.
We set out each day on an adventure as if we were the ‘Famous Five’ albeit with two members missing and no dog; armed with stacks of corned beef sandwiches, bottles of lemonade and cheese and onion crisps. Teenage boys have hollow legs and require feeding at all times. Pre ‘Sat Nav’ (GPS) made exploring the many narrow lanes an adventure in itself. Arriving at a junction or a fork where there were no signposts (removed in the war to confuse the enemy should they land and which have never been replaced) the boys would take it in turns to shout out directions to me – left, right – it didn’t really matter as we always found somewhere to park and explore.
One such wintry day on our way back from climbing up Roseberry Topping in the snow (which is where Cook glimpsed his first sight of the sea) we saw a rainbow. Not just any rainbow, this was a magnificent example, a 3D Technicoloured arch, the rainbow of all rainbows spreading over the blackened sky with both ends touching the earth. We decided in an instant to head for one end of the rainbow and zigged and zagged over the moors, sometimes even going under the bow itself in an attempt to reach the end. We didn’t of course, but the journey was exhilarating and eventually we reached our cosy cottage in fits of giggles to spend yet another evening pouring over the road map to try to guess where we’d been today and wonder whether there were any more dragons left to find tomorrow.
(originally posted in 2015)