You’d think that after all the drama of getting to Helmsley, getting away would be easy. It should have been, because we started working on it even before we were shown to our room. In fact, after the very helpful woman at reception had spent the best part of the evening trying to figure it all out, it appeared to be sorted. We had an early morning bus that would get us to Haxby, and from there there would be a couple of local buses that would get us to York in time for our 9.45 departure on Wednesday morning.
Thus reassured, we went our merry way on Tuesday. Helmsley was far and away the loveliest place I stayed in during the entire time I was in England. It was a pretty little place, too large and comfortable to be a village in Indian vocabulary, but perhaps a village for the English. The YHA youth hostel there was absolutely wonderful. It was a warm and cozy little place, prettily furnished, with a spacious and well endowed kitchen for guests, a bright and lively dining room, a TV room for the football fans, toys and books for kids, books for adults, and of course dorms, toilets and showers. Everything was sparkling clean and extremely welcoming. It was so cheerful and warm that you really couldn’t help making friends with the other occupants and I think we chatted with almost everyone else who was staying there.
Helmsley a single road kind of place. One road, one square, one church. There were a few restaurants, all of which seemed to close at 5 p.m, except for an Indian restaurant run by a Bangladeshi that was still open at 8, when we went looking for dinner the first evening. He was quite amazed to see us two Indian women there and wanted to know what we were doing there. At any rate, he served us our first and last Indian meal of this trip and fairly mediocre it was, too.
The next morning, while we were wondering aloud what to do for the day, we got not one but two separate offers to drive us up to Riveaux. This is a ruined Abbey about 4.5 km away and there is no bus that runs in that direction. I thought it was a bit far to do the round trip on foot, but a one way trip was definitely doable. So we jumped at the first offer, and by 10.15 a.m we were at Riveaux Terrace. The Terrace entry fee was about 6£ and it would open only at 11, two very good reasons to give it a miss. We took the forest footpath down to the village and followed the road on to the Abbey. The village itself was impossibly idyllic, the Abbey no less so. One part of the ruins is visible from outside. You could pay the entry fee and examine the rest of the ruins, but we just walked around the outside and took lots of photos for free. And then we followed the neatly signposted footpath for 3 miles until it led us back to Helmsley, just in time for lunch.
We had a quiet lunch back in the youth hostel, which was quite deserted. It was 4 p.m before I decided to venture out again, looking for the castle. It occurred to me that I should check the bus stand in the square to verify that the bus to Haxby would indeed leave at 7 a.m. But naturally, I went to the castle first.
So it was past 5 p.m when I finally discovered to my shock and horror that there was no such bus at all. It had been discontinued.
The next couple of hours whizzed by as we considered our options. Finally it turned out that the only sensible thing to do would be to take a taxi to the nearest railway station, Malton, and from there get on a train to York. Our youth hostel had no wifi, so all the arrangements had to be done by the woman at the desk, who got through it all with unflappable patience, while also handling her other duties.
As always, these little obstacles caused inordinate amount of stress and hassle. Would National Express change our tickets to a later departure from York? Well, they would, but it would cost 47£. Should we take the 5.45 bus out of Helmsley this evening, throwing all our stuff into our sacks and running to the bus stand in 15 minutes flat? Well, we could, but then what would we do overnight in York without a booking? Should we take a taxi to Easingwold instead of Malton, and then wait for a bus to York? Or should we take a taxi directly to York? What would it cost? How far away was everything? Could we walk?
As we pondered all these things, a man entered the lobby. He must have been over sixty, lean, dressed in running or cycling clothes, and panting slightly. He had cycled to Helmsley in two and a half hours, he said. From York, of course.
Well, that wasn’t much help. We didn’t have our cycles with us. If we had, we would have cycled too. Of course.
At any rate, the next day, all went as per plan. Our taxi arrived only 5 minutes late and the ticket counter was in fact manned and we got our tickets and got on board the right train and got off at the right place and even managed to walk in to town and grab a delicious hot breakfast of jacket potato and coffee before getting on the bus to London.