Slow trains, jet, and torpedo scads

On a warm, sunny Friday with a visitor for the weekend, we decided it was time we took a journey on the North Yorkshire Moors Railway.  Friends had told us it was excellent, and in such glorious weather it seemed the perfect way to travel to Whitby.

Whitby Abbey

So we hopped into the car and drove to Pickering, where the NYMR begins.  The platform was crowded with passengers waiting to board the noon-day train for the coast, so we coughed up £22.50 per person for a Day Rover ticket to Whitby, and joined the queue.

When the train arrived, we decided to chance our arm and headed for the first-class carriage and our own private booth.  This didn't quite work, as two ladies from Derby soon joined us, but it was still a lovely way to begin our journey (especially when it transpired it wasn't actually a first-class compartment, and we therefore didn't have to pay the surcharge).

Soon we were wending our way out across the green and rolling countryside.

The North York Moors Railway heads for Whitby.

With so many modern trains barely being worthy of the name, it was lovely to be on a proper old machine, steaming across the moors.  However, we couldn't avoid Network Rail completely, and after sailing serenely through Levisham and Goathland, a problem with the signals on the mainline meant we waited rather a while at Grosmont.  Still, we provided our own entertainment:

Leaning out of windows on trains: NOT PERMITTED.

And when we finally moved off towards Whitby, our route took us along the Esk and beneath the Larpool Viaduct, which is jolly impressive.

The Esk Valley Viaduct, built in the 1880s, and now a cycle track.

Once in Whitby, and in need of some lunch, there was only one thing to find, and that was fish and chips.  I've eaten rather a lot of Whitbian battered cod in recent times, so decided it was time for something different.  I remembered that Mister Chips offered exactly that, so we headed there.

Based on the signage (and the novelty), we decided to choose the 'sustainable' options.  Hen went for hake and chips, whilst Alex and I plumped for something we'd never even heard of: panga.  We walked down to the harbour and tucked in to our servings.  Panga tasted alright, though I think the hake was preferable.

Searching online for panga later, I found this link, suggesting the fish we'd had was Pterogymnus laniarus, and that it was also known as 'torpedo scad'.  Eating such fish in a town famous for jet seemed quite appropriate.  Then it transpired I'd probably been viewing the wrong panga.  Ours was more likely to have been the 'iridescent shark' Pangasius (or Pangasianodon) hypophthalmus, a catfish from Vietnam that can grow to the size of a large child.

Would you like this with chips?

Known also as 'striped catfish', 'Vietnamese river cobbler' and 'basa', P. hypophthalmus seems to be a fish of many names.  Its green credentials are also a matter of debate.  One study noted that flying Asian fish halfway round the world to replace local cod or haddock is hardly the epitome of sustainability.  Another article raised questions about its cleanliness, based on the pollution it experiences in its native Mekong.

It should be noted that the WWF are working with Vietnamese suppliers to get certification for the fish, but if we're looking to farmed fish to ease the pressure on marine stocks, perhaps this is a better alternative.

Anyhow, back in Whitby, having eaten our fried fish, we went for a wander along the beach.  We hoped to find dinosaur footprints in the fallen blocks of sandstone east of the harbour wall, but didn't succeed.  Woody fragments and ripple cross-bedded sandstones were as good as it got.

We did not find any of this (dinoturbation, Cloughton Wyke)

Back in town, we searched for ice cream (for dessert), seaside sweets (for toddlers) and jet jewellery (for presents), and found the former two.  Then we walked along the harbour wall and watched a pseudo-pirate ship chug its way into port, before finally heading to the west side of Whitby.  There, a large river channel can be admired in the sandstone cliffs, so we admired it.

And then we walked back to the station and waited for the last train back to Pickering, and discovered that the toddler confectionery had been crushed:

Oh no! My lollipop is broken!

But as the train chugged gently back across the moors, the evening sun slanting in across the half-empty carriages, even such calamities could be overlooked.  It had been a lovely day out.


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