Back to Dewsbury for the next stage of my coast to coast walk and straight to the finest accommodation I have ever visited in Britain or elsewhere.
What a shame it’s for cats only. The Ings Luxury Cat Hotel is simply a knockout. Set up, owned and managed by a lovely Yorkshire couple who were reluctant to leave their own pets in catteries or kennels when they went on holiday, the Ings now provides 5 star (10 star if they go up that far) luxury. With 12 suites (yes, suites) in the spa building and 6 more in the lodge (for “activity holidays”) and 100% occupancy throughout the year, Jo and Phil have developed a very distinctive model which the Ritz can only dream about.
A welcome tray, with Pussy’s own name on it, bearing shrimp delights and other tasty nibbles – tick.
Large flat screen TVs showing alluring visions of denizens of the deep – tick.
Afternoon tea served in the comfort of your own suite – tick.
Bedtime stories and birthday celebrations – tick.
Weekly disco with disco lights and prizes – tick.
Personalised (felicised?) party bag on departure – tick.
Check out the website! I promise it’s all true.
Did I mention, Phil is also a former winner of the World Coal Carrying Championships, held just along the road in Gawthorpe? It’s reassuring to know that the closure of the actual coalmines hasn’t prevented the Brits remaining competitive – I didn’t like to ask but I hope the coal hasn’t been imported…
From Dewsbury the next day to Wakefield via field footpaths, disused railway lines and river bank. In a sidings I walked past by far the longest train I have ever seen (other than some Mauretanian iron ore train, I think it was, on a Michael Palin travel programme which was, I recall, visible from outer space, or from the Great Wall of China, or somewhere. That is, the iron ore train was visible….rather than the Michael Palin programme, for which you probably needed a dish.) But I digress. “My” train was attractively liveried in blue and bearing the label “Drax: Powering Tomorrow: Carrying Sustainable Biomass for Cost Effective Renewable Power”. So that’s all good then.
As Wakefield town centre appears to have leaked away into a number of “retail parks” on the edge of town, I wandered off in search of fast “food” in lieu of an evening meal, then spent the evening at the Theatre Royal enjoying “Bat Boy the Musical” from a privileged position in my own box. All great fun. A musical about inter species intimate “relationships”, uxoricide, filicide, a lynch mob triggered by a Christian revivalist meeting – what’s not to enjoy? Certainly, all the children in the audience seemed to be having a good time. But the loudness of much of the music meant that singers were obliged to shout their words throughout the songs, with a variety of dubious American accents, so some of the subtlety may have passed me by.
From Wakefield to the National Trust’s fine property at Nostell Priory and a tour of the house led by devoted Trust volunteers (I am one myself, though happily not in a way that might lead to serious damage either to me or the property). Having gazed at a score of family portraits in the house, I asked why people in general, and children in particular, seem to have been so strangely unattractive back in the day. Our guide offered the suggestion that poor lighting and the lack of a local branch of Specsavers may have led to more breeding than was strictly wise, but it was just a thought.
From Wakefield to Castleford and a Sunday morning contentedly spent at the annual Pontefract liquorice festival, taking in a talk from a retired liquorice maker (yes, I did) and sampling the “Big L” (as nobody calls it) in ice cream, beer, cakes, jams and – my own favourite – pork pies (I ate three). If you have never danced in the street with a lady dressed as one of those round blue jobs from Bassetts with little bits of something on the outside, well then, you haven’t.
But all good things must come to an end and I made my apologies and set off for the Super League (13 a side rugby league) fixture at Castleford to watch the Tigers playing at home to the Catalan Dragons from Perpignan – which wouldn’t have happened in Eddie Waring’s day. As my room at the very welcoming Wheldale Hotel faced the Tigers’ stadium across the road, it was hard to miss – and at £14 with my bus pass, excellent value. Unlike football, scoring points is a regular occurrence in rugby league but you do miss the theatrical diving and rolling that plays such a key part of the former. If he were on the receiving end of a tackle from a rugby league forward, Ronaldo wouldn’t stop crying for a week.
The Wheldale Hotel, Castleford — ideally placed for the rugby league ground
Sadly, a good number of Castleford’s pubs are now closed and boarded up, including one just down the road from the Wheldale. Named the Early Bath, as in “you’re red carded, take an early bath”, it was until recently the home of one of the local amateur rugby league clubs.
The Tigers’ stadium currently goes by the name of the Mend a Hose Jungle (the Jungle being the home of tigers, of course, while Mend a Hose, in the words of its website:
“…services, stocks and markets the widest range of fluid connector products available such as pneumatic and hydraulic fittings, quick couplings, rubber and thermoplastic hoses, and all associated requirements”
… which, sadly, can’t quite be accommodated on the rugby shirt.
Local rivals Wakefield (now, I believe, thankfully restored to “the Trinity” rather than the Trinity Wildcats) play at Rapid Solicitors Stadium, Featherstone Rovers are based at Bigfellas Stadium (the eponymous pizza firm also having naming rights to “Pontefract’s Leading Nightclub” so they’ve got the social life of this part of West Yorkshire pretty well sorted) and Batley play hosts at Fox’s Biscuits Stadium. But, in sponsorship terms, this season’s big news has been the arrival on the rugby league scene of food giant Batchelors Peas. To quote the press launch:
“Star players from each team went head-to-head at the Super League launch earlier this week in the ‘Leaning Tower of Peas-a’ challenge… As well as building towers of cans, the players enjoyed a portion of fish, chips and mushy peas, and took a trip down memory lane to relive their childhood experiences of eating one of the country’s best loved meals. The great and good of the sport will be working with Batchelors Peas on a host of exciting activities over the course of the season.
We’ve started as we mean to go on! The season launch was a huge success and it was great to see the players getting involved and sampling Batchelors peas – the perfect matchday must-have to accompany fish and chips. We’re looking forward to involving players and fans in more mushy pea fun as the season progresses.”
From Castleford along the Aire and Calder Navigation and the River Aire to Snaith and thence to Goole, and the end of stage four of my walk. I plan to be back in Goole in August for stage five.
Many thanks again for your sponsorship in aid of the British Heart Foundation, now approaching £1200. Here’s the link:
Just in case you thought I was going soft this week on those who voted “Leave” in the EU referendum – what with them already coping with the awful realisation that everything that the Remain camp said turned out to be true (and then some), while leaders of the Leave faction queued up to claim that they hadn’t intended to give the impression that immigration was actually likely to reduce… If we’re all going to have to live in our freshly created, homemade economic, social and environmental mess, you’re not going to get off that lightly.
How about this for the fourteen most chilling words in the English language spoken since the referendum, from Nigel Lawson, former Chancellor of the Exchequer and paid climate change denier:
“Leaving the EU is an ‘historic opportunity’ to finish the job Margaret Thatcher started”
Now, if we’d only known that the day before the vote…