Category Archives: York

The Shambles

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As our two adventurers began to make their way away from the York Minister and towards the busy streets of the town centre, Croc began to crane his neck to watch the Minister disappear behind a mass of smaller buildings and busy people. Everyone seems to know exactly where they are going, thought Croc. Croc thought that the people rushing past him looked like bees buzzing around in their own worlds seemingly oblivious to everything and everyone else around them.

Bertie had saved the best for last. As they were making their way back to the car Bertie took Croc down a narrow street. The houses here were higgledy piggledy, lopsided, and so close together Croc could hardly see the sky. It gave the whole lane a sense of darkness and spooky gloom.

This is The Shambles, explained Bertie. It is one of the most famous streets in York. It is said to be the best preserved medieval street in the world. Historically, The Shambles was a street of 26 butchers shops and houses. The paths beside the narrow road are raised up to create a channel which would have allowed the butchers to wash away the blood and offal. Croc felt slightly sick.

Bertie also pointed out how the fifteen century buildings lean into the middle of the cobbled street which would have meant that the roofs would have nearly touched. This was a problem in London and allowed the historic Great Fire of London to spread quickly from house to house.

Croc felt a cold shiver. Growing up in the Northern Territory he had never seen so many houses squashed into one place. There is so much history here, thought Croc as he continued to peep out of the pocket as they made their way down The Shambles. He was relieved to be going back to the car for a rest as his little Crocodile brain felt much like the street he was walking down…..busy and ready to burst with such an overload of information.

The Shambles

All images and text copyright of Samantha Key 2016



Gargoyles and zebras

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Waving goodbye to their new found friends in the Toy Shop window Bertie lead Croc towards the large, towering structure in front of them. Croc was too excited about his new friends to at first to look up, until Bertie gave him a little nudge and pointed towards the sky.

Croc’s jaw fell open revealing a very impressive set of teeth. The building in front of him was like nothing he had ever seen before. Croc was looking at the impressive York Minister. Bertie instantly went into tour guide mode explaining, to a rather overwhelmed Croc, that the stone York Minister was badly damaged in a fire during an uprising in 1068 and the Normans built a new minster in around 1080. This was the basis of the present impressive Minister he was looking at today.

It was indeed impressive, thought Croc. He felt slightly dizzy looking up at the tall spires on the Minister. The gargoyles looking back down at him and Bertie made Croc do a little shiver and he sank a little deeper into the pocket he was in. Soon he had forgotten the stony stares and had become immersed in the ornate detail everywhere he looked. As they walked around the side of the building, Croc also noticed the impressive towering windows. Where Croc was from this building would not have survived this long as a cyclone would have destroyed it by now he thought as he posed happily and proudly for a photograph in front of the entrance. Bertie smiled to himself noting Croc’s new found confidence in having his photograph taken.

Bertie took Croc all the way around the outside of the Minister, allowing him to take in all the details of the huge building. He then pointed to a smaller building which was in front of them. Peeling his eyes away from the impressive shadow of the Minister Croc saw the most unusual building he had ever seen. It looked like an architectural zebra!

Bertie laughed at Croc’s description and told Croc that it was a classic tutor building from around the 16th to 18th Century. As the walked along admiring the architecture, Bertie knew exactly where to take Croc next…..

The only time Croc took his eyes away from the Minister!
The only time Croc took his eyes away from the Minister!

Photographs and content copyright of Samantha Key

The Toy Shop

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When Bertie was just an untravelled bear he was quite introverted and was extremely cautious about other toys. What did they want? Why were they being nice to him? He would often think as a rouge bear would try to start a polite conversation with him. In fact, Bertie had become so introverted that he had buried himself at the bottom of the toy bin in the hope that everyone would just leave him alone.

How different Bertie felt about life now!

Bertie had begun to notice that his friend Croc had similar characteristics to young Bertie. He would often hide in the bottom of the coat pocket and when Bertie first met Croc he was hiding at the back of the bunk bed in the dark. Croc had started to grow more and more confident within his own stuffing and Bertie had begun to feel a sense of pride at being able to help him on his journey to discover the inner Croc. After all, thought Bertie, what good is all this knowledge and experience if it is not shared and used to help others?

Today Bertie took Croc to meet some new friends, just to see how Croc would react. They emerged from the narrow pathway which lead to Barley Hall into the hustle and bustle of the busy streets of York again. There were so many people, thought Croc, unable to get his head around where they had all come from. The streets were so small and the buildings so close together Croc felt if he turned sideways he would cause several people to trip up over him.

Bertie grabbed Croc and dragged him out of the safety of the pocket, much to Croc’s protesting. He settled with Croc on a  windowsill of an old shop. Croc got such a fright when there was a tap on the window behind him. Turning around slowly, half expecting to see a ghost bear, Croc saw a large green Crocodile-like toy much like himself but stood upright waving at him! Croc looked on in shock as his brain processed the expanse of toys in front of him…..there were hundreds, all smiling and waving and there was no where for Croc to hide. He could either throw himself into the crowds of people or stay where he was and socialise.

Taking a deep breath, Croc did a small nod towards the other toys who responded with great joy at the acknowledgement he gave them. Looking over at Bertie Croc could see him grinning widely from underneath his small, blue, winter wooly hat and he felt instantly reassured. He was amongst friends for the first time in his short Crocodile life and it felt great.


Words and photographs copyright of Samantha Key 2016

Barley Hall, medieval medicines and ghosts

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After a relaxing time in Molly’s Tea Shop Bertie and Croc resumed their exploration of the historic city of York.

As they jiggled along inside the coat pocket they were hiding in Croc took up his now habitual position on top of a wad of tissues and peeped out at the street scenes which were floating past. There was so much to see, so much going on, his Crocodile brain could hardly process it all as quickly as it was happening. Croc had never seen so many people in one place and he clung on very tightly to the inside edge of the pocket with his claws to ensure he did not take a tumble from the pocket and get lost.

The buildings here were so strange. They were small, close together and made out of wood! Croc was use to detached buildings which stood alone with tin roofs and cyclone proof stilts to allow the breeze to blow around them. These buildings felt almost claustrophobic.

Suddenly they turned away from the hustle and bustle of the street and the strange golden man posing as still as a statue for photographs in the street. The sounds faded away and they were down a little back alley with a cobbled pathway, then suddenly blinded by a beam of sunlight.

Bertie had noticed Croc’s growing interest in historic buildings and decided to show Croc Barley Hall, a reconstructed medieval townhouse which is hidden in the centre of the city of York. The building was originally built around 1360 by the monks from Nostell Priory in Wakefield, it was later extended in the 15th century but then left, like many historic buildings, to go to ruin. Thankfully Barley Hall was rescued and restored by York Archaeology Trust in 1987 and turned into an awesome museum with attractions such as medieval medicines.

As Bertie continued to get carried away telling Croc about the ghost stories of Barley Hall Croc was beginning to feel quite overwhelmed. He decided he didn’t like the idea of ghosts and when it came to posing for a photograph he refused to come out of the pocket so Bertie had to brave this one on his own! Can you see where Bertie is posing in the photographs?


Story and photograph copyright of Samantha Key 2016

Bertie and Croc meet Molly


Bertie and Croc had been on quite a whirlwind of adventures so far and they still had many more to go. Croc had gained more and more enthusiasm and confidence as the journey had continued and Bertie felt very proud to be helping him along his journey of croc-discovery. Croc was learning lots of things. Not just about this strange new place he was visiting which was making his crocodile claws turn blue with cold but also about himself.

Today Croc was to learn a very important lesson about the travelling lifestyle. It was one which Bertie felt was very important to pass on to him. It was the lesson of taking time out and to enjoy being still.

Bertie, being an experienced traveller, knew all about travel fatigue. He had also learn how to help combat it. Today he took Croc to his favourite historical city. The city of York. York has so many places to explore and see, with buildings and architecture older than Croc had ever realised could be possible.

The first place Bertie took Croc was Molly’s tea rooms. A small tea room above several levels of an antique shop. As they passed the rows and rows of cabinets filled with ancient goodies Croc was keen to start looking but Bertie was adamant that they stopped for a cup of tea and a scone. The cabinets soon gave way to cake filled displays and Croc was so thankful he had listened to Bertie.

The scone was perfect and Croc soon relaxed in the comfortable atmosphere sitting as close as he could to the tea pot so it warmed his crocodile scales like the Northern Territory sun. Soon Bertie and him were in their own little world, chatting happily about the adventures they had been on and taking some much needed time out for them.


All content copyright of Samantha Key 2016

Historic Knaresborough

IMG_2298 Knaresborough

While sorting through some photographs I had a trip down memory lane when I came across these photographs taken in Knaresborough in North Yorkshire, UK. North Yorkshire has some pretty famous, historical and beautiful places. If you like history or walking (and don’t mind the rain) then it is definitely worth a visit!

Just past York lies Harrogate and Knaresborough. Knaresborough is a beautiful historic town with plenty to see. Look out for the painted windows when you walk through the city streets. There are also local walks which take you past some beautiful craved wooden sculptures.

One thing that draws a lot of attention is the water front. You can hire a boat and paddle down the River Nidd or simply kick back and relax in one of the many river side cafes.

There is also the amazing view from the top of the castle which is definitely worth a visit.

Times to visit:

Knaresborough hosts the annual Bed Race, held on the second Saturday of June. The event was first staged in 1966!

An annual town centre arts summer festival, FEVA (Festival of Entertainment and Visual Arts), has run since 2001

Random Knaresborough fact: There is still someone employed to look after the Queens Ravens at the castle!

How to get there:

Knaresborough has it’s own railway station and trains run regularly between Leeds and York. The town is four miles from junction 47 of the A1 (M) Motorway (Great North Road), and on the A59 for those who prefer a more scenic route.

Amazing wood cravings hidden on a local walk
Amazing wood cravings hidden on a local walk
Boating on the river
Boating on the river

Why visit…York?

IMG_0368 copyright Key Image Photographers I am lucky enough to have lived in some pretty amazing places in my life so far.

When I was at University I lived beside a period mansion in the beautiful grounds with a lake, woodland and farmland all on my doorstep. It was the ideal place to complete an art degree! I also lived in York for a while and I loved it!

York is well known for its history and medieval architecture. There is something charismatic about the place. I have always felt calm here and there is so much to do. The land around York is surprisingly flat, which explains why it floods so much when the River Ouse bursts its banks on a nearly annual basis! The layout of the land also makes for perfect cycling. If you were to spend some time here I would definitely recommend hiring a bicycle.

There is plenty to do and see in York.

You can visit the towering Minister, which is where I had my graduation ceremony. It was a pretty awesome place to graduate, unfortunately I had the worst cold ever and the acoustics of the building made my sneezing echo embarrassingly loudly throughout the ceremony.

I have also been lucky enough to photograph a few weddings in York…its history makes for a fabulous backdrop (see photograph above)!

York Dungeon is a pretty awesome place to visit. The Dungeon depicts the history of the dungeon using actor led shows, special effects and displays of models and objects. It showcases factual events through history, such as a Torture Chamber, The Gunpowder Plot, Dick Turpin, and the Courtroom. In 2003 a Witch Trials section was added detailing the witch trials in York through the use of a detailed set and animatronics. I wouldn’t recommended if you are claustrophobic but the historical aspect of the experience is worth it.

If you are interested in history the Jovick Viking Centre also needs to be on your list of attractions to visit.  It recently won the Tourist Award for 2015. More information can be found here: The site of the centre is actually where archaeological finds of the remains of Viking village was found.

The Shambles is one of my favourite places in York. As a photographer I spent a lot of time here photographing at night in the rain. Unfortunately, my work was all on slides and is back in the UK so I will have to post these photographs another day.

By day, The Shambles is a brilliant place to shop and wander around. You can even visit the most haunted house in York. The Shambles has over hanging timber framed buildings with some of them dating to the fourteenth century!

There is also the castle walls and Clifford’s Tower which are easy to find and make for fantastic photographic opportunities.

Photo credit: hills-by-philxthomasdotcom-flickr-cliffords-tower
Photo credit: hills-by-philxthomasdotcom-flickr-cliffords-tower

I did a river cruise whilst I was living here and I would highly recommend it. Several of the buildings have metal black cats on the roofs which are easy to see from the river boat. There is also a piece of land where it is still legal for an Englishman to shoot a Scotsman although it can only be with a bow and arrow.

I hope I have inspired you to add York to your list of places next time you visit the UK. If you have already visited York and would like to add to my list please feel free to leave a comment below.