My itchy feet got the better of me. In my constant craving for adventure, I took the plunge in hiring a car (thank you Thrifty!) to enable me to get further afield than my aching legs could carry me. I decided to embark on a road trip which would take me ‘up North’ to my homestead and in doing so, I was able to visit the extended members of the Nomadic Family Unit as well as the friends that I had missed in the last couple of years whilst away on our travels. My trusty steed turned out to be a grey stone coloured dynamic Mini Cooper hereinafter to be known as Greystoke. She was a joy to drive, a small but nippy machine capable of zipping in and out of the traffic without too much effort.
The road trip was lengthy and took me through numerous counties as I slowly travelled the extensive motorway network on my way ‘up North.’ Upon leaving Wiltshire, the journey took me through Hampshire, West Berkshire, Oxfordshire, skirting around Warwickshire up through Northamptonshire, Leicestershire,Nottinghamshire, South Yorkshire, North Yorkshire, into the old county of Cleveland and whilst the journey terminated in North Yorkshire, I did in fact, venture fleetingly into County Durham. My vehicle covered approximately 300 miles in around 5 hours, including a quick pit stop to refresh myself.
So I arrived home in Thornaby on Tees. The town can be found some 2 miles (3.2 kilometres) south east of Stockton on Tees and 4 miles (6.4 kilometres) south west of Middlesbrough. It rests on the banks of the River Tees and is in a region called Teesside.
It can be found in the former borough of North Yorkshire, historically part of the North Riding of Yorkshire and has a population of around 24,741. In 1974, Thornaby was part of the county of Cleveland but this was abolished in 1996. It was replaced with the single tier unitary authorities of Middlesbrough, Stockton on Tees, Redcar and Cleveland and Hartlepool. The former areas of Cleveland were returned to their original counties for ceremonial purposes with Stockton on Tees becoming the only local authority in the entire country to be split into two counties – Durham to the north of the river, and Yorkshire to the south.
The county of North Yorkshire is considered to be ‘God’s own Country’ and is the largest county in England by area. There is diverse countryside in this vast county and is home to the enchanting North York moors, the sprawling Yorkshire Dales, the rolling Cleveland hills, sweeping coast lines and is breathtakingly beautiful with stunning scenery. There are charming market towns, picturesque villages and also large urban conurbations.
Upon my arrival home, I was warmly welcomed by Mr Nomad’s sister Becca Boo, her partner and a new furry friend called Holly the Chihuahua. They have been occupying the Nomadic Family Unit home since we have been away on our travels and although the property has now become their home, it felt wonderful to slot back into familiar territory. They also made delightful hosts and it was emotional to return and be treated with extra special care in light of the very fact that I had returned home without Mr Nomad in tow. Holly became my new furry companion and her presence was therapeutic although it did make me miss my furry children all the more.
The name Thornaby originates from as early as 800AD when land was given by Halfdene (Halfdan Ragnarsson) King of the Danes to Thormod, a nobleman, hence the name ‘Thormods-by.’ The suffix -by originally meant farmstead, but evolved to mean village. Neighbouring villages are Danby, Faceby, Ingleby, Maltby, Ormesby all seemingly having a link to Vikings.
During the Battle of Hastings in 1066, William the Conqueror gave those lands within Cleveland to one of his noblemen, Robert 1 de Brus to control including Thornaby and Middlesbrough. Thornaby is mentioned in the Doomsday Book (1086) some 5 times and is also mentioned in a poem by Tennyson entitled “The Northern Farmer.” The town arose around St Peter’s Church or to correctly title it ‘St Peter ad Vincula’ which is derived from the ancient Basilica of San Pieto in Vincoli, Rome and this is a 12th century church although there was a place of worship found in this location at the time of the Doomsday Book in 1086.
The church is small and quaint but charming all the same and when I visited, there were remnants of old gravestones still standing, although shrinking into the hedgerows bordering the village green. I did not wish to appear disrespectful to the dead so didn’t loiter too long but one of the oldest headstones recorded a death from as long ago as 1730.
An interesting monument and focal point within Thornaby is the Five Lamps. Robert de Thormodbi wounded in the Crusades swore to create a shrine to the Virgin Mary if he survived his wounds. He did, so he lit five sanctuary lamps which were placed in St Peters Church. A Victorian gas lit Five Lamps was erected in 1874 to commemorate this legend. In 2010, replica lamps were renovated and relocated to where they stand now on the junction of numerous roads and over the years, have become a gathering point for local residents, and have been the site of public meetings and political rallies. It has colloquially become known as the ‘Beacon of Free Speech’ and people still gather there to this day.
In the late 1920’s, an airfield was constructed in Thornaby and the second permanent aerodrome in Yorkshire was opened on 29th December 1929. Thornaby became incredibly important during the Second World War and was used by the Royal Air Force to carry out numerous tasks such as attacks on Europe, anti-submarine patrols, training, air strikes on ships, leaflet dropping and air sea rescue operations. The last aircraft left Thornaby on 1st October 1958 and thereafter, the area was extensively developed throughout the 1960’s and 1970’s. It is now a thriving town on the banks of the River Tees.
There are many throwbacks to Thornaby’s aeronautical past with many roads, streets, buildings and pubs having RAF connected names. In 2007, a full size replica Spitfire was erected on a roundabout in the centre of the town. In all its splendour, it is an incredible reminder of the important role in the war effort that Thornaby once had. Under the very same roundabout lies the hidden remains on one of the runways used by the mighty air force.
Whilst in Thornaby and throughout the entire duration of my stay, I maintained my fitness achieved through the incessant running around Larkhill and I continued to go out jogging most days. Despite the greyness of imposing concrete towers and urban sprawl, there are many scenic areas within the town and it was most pleasurable to be out in the fresh air, once again on my ramblings and although this time I found myself in a somewhat built up and well populated town, there are many lush green parks to enjoy.
During the lock down, many of the hedgerows and grass verges have not been trimmed or cut back making for much greenery and our little street has become awash with overgrown grasses and wild flowers which adds charm to an otherwise uniform area. I also managed to get my new little mate, Holly, out and about and despite her legs being rather shorter than mine, I think she enjoyed our wanderings.
It was a wonderful feeling to be home albeit without Mr Nomad and the furry children but with the assistance of Greystoke, I was able to now visit our nearest and dearest to ensure that they have come out of the global pandemic unscathed. It was a breath of fresh air to be liberated from the tedium of Larkhill. Onwards!