Dragons were drawn on ancient maps to symbolise an unknown place or place to be explored. You may well be thinking there’s nowhere like that left in England, but you could be mistaken.
It was Easter and I took my teenage sons to North Yorkshire to spend some time bonding with the great outdoors. We stayed in Runswick Bay a few miles away from the delights of Whitby with its maritime heritage, tales of Captain Cook and 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 tracks or stepping over streams, admiring the masses of dancing daffodils and newly born lambs gambolling in the fields. We discovered sea urchins and lumps of jet on the beach and got soaked from the heavy sleeting showers then warmed ourselves with mugs of real hot chocolate along with heavily buttered toasted teacakes in a steamy little café in Staithes, before returning along the coastal path, the wind tangling our hair and blowing us backwards.
We set out each day armed with corned beef sandwiches and bottles of lemonade and cheese and onion crisps. 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 (where Cook glimpsed his first sight of the sea) we saw a rainbow. Not just any rainbow, this was a magnificent example, a 3D Technicolor 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 laughing still we reached our cosy cottage 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.