In a bid to get away from the strains of modern life, Bernard Ginns allows himself to get lost for a while in a forest.
IN the day-to-day grind of modern life, there are very few places left where you are truly out of the reach of modern communications. The smart phone, for all its benefits in terms of instant connectivity, has turned many of us into slaves of the information age.
So it was a pleasant surprise to learn that there was no mobile signal, and hence no work-related emails, when we arrived at Cropton Forest, our home for five days.
Instead, we were surrounded by lush green grass and the tall dark forests of North Yorkshire and not much in the way of distraction beyond bird song and the faint sound of wind through the trees.
I should add that our hosts, Forest Holidays, do offer wi-fi, but that was not something I wanted to take up.
Our wood cabin was generous in size and featured two comfortable bedrooms, a pair of bathrooms, an expansive living room with floor-to-ceiling windows and a kitchen area, which led outside to a veranda and hot tub.
We came prepared for the self-catering break; we are creatures of habit and don’t like to be without home comforts. The kitchen was very well equipped – as advertised – and allowed us to cook everything we wanted and store everything we needed in the fridge.
At the site office, a friendly team of people manage the reception and shop, which is stocked with a selection of useful items, including milk, cakes, wine and some bottled beers from the nearby brewery. No newspapers.
The site is surrounded by miles and miles of forest. That lent the place an air of calm and solitude. A number of footpaths and cycle tracks led invitingly off into the woodland.
On Monday, we went for an amble into the woods and enjoyed looking at the wild flowers and listening out for the hidden wildlife. Every so often, we would mount a hill and be blessed with a long view looking out over the treetops the occasional point of a church spire in the distance the only real sign of human existence.
After a fairly relentless six months of work, it was a relaxing and pleasant way to leave the stresses behind, being almost entirely away from civilisation in North Yorkshire. That is a feeling seldom experienced on a crowded island in the 21st-century.
Back at the cabin, our hot tub was a welcome extra and got lots of use, both first thing in the morning and at the end of the day. Soaking in hot water under open skies, even when it is raining, was a rather decadent but no less enjoyable pleasure.
The uncomplicated feel of our holiday continued with some day trips. One day we made the short drive to Pickering to explore this bustling little town, visit its flea market and pick up some supplies from the local butcher and supermarket. Another day we drove the 24 miles to Scarborough for a day out at the seaside.
We had a lovely time, walking around the shops and particularly enjoyed the cobbled and classy Bar Street with its lively independent retailers like It’s In Your Jeans. We also took a ride on the central tramway down to the beach.
After lunch, we took a long walk along the beach to look at the old town beneath the castle, exploring the little alleyways behind the sea front and seeing the centuries-old house where Richard III reputedly stayed. We had a look around the lifeboat station, a cross between a museum and operational centre, which has been saving lives at sea since 1801.
Our luck with the sun ran out by Thursday morning and after some debate we decided to head back to Scarborough to visit Sea Life.
I had been a little sceptical in advance, expecting to see nothing more than a few sickly-looking fish. But my expectations were swept away by the sheer diversity of marine life on display: including some big sharks, giant turtles, octopuses, rays, seals, penguins and jellyfish.
We were able to get up close too, thanks to the intelligent design of the aquarium. It cost less than £50 for our tickets. Fair value, I felt, for a few hours’ good entertainment on a rainy day.
Back at Cropton, we dropped into the local pub, The New Inn, to pick up some locally brewed beers. Folklore has it that the village has been brewing beer since the early 17th-century, while the Cropton Brewery has been in business since 1984. My favourite was Blackout, a smooth, rich and strong porter ale made with a recipe from the 1930s. It went down a treat.
Our last day and again it was raining. We stayed inside and slowly started packing, without realising that checkout was 10am as opposed to midday. I’m usually much more organised. Take that as a sign of me feeling relaxed. That’s the achievement of Forest Holidays at Cropton.
So if you want to feel like getting away from it all, without having to travel to another continent or even another county, I would recommend a visit. Now, I need to reply to some emails...
Bernard Ginns stayed at Cropton Forest as a guest of Forest Holidays. For more information, please call 0845 130 8223 or visit www.forestholidays.co.uk