Cake? The North York Moors? Slowly? It's A Yes From Me

"Qu'ils mangent de la brioche" - Bake-Off's David Atherton and his excellent new North York Moors Capital of Cake slow travel film series
September 30, 2022

TV baking star and author David Atherton is fronting a series of new ‘travelogue’ films showcasing how visitors can take the slow travel option to reach those tearooms and bakeries that epitomise the character and culture of the North York Moors National Park.  

David, who won Channel 4’s Great British Bake Off series in 2019, originally hails from Ruswarp near Whitby. This summer he returned to his roots and ‘slow travelled’ the length and breadth of the North York Moors by boat, bus, train, foot and bicycle to explore why the National Park merits its Capital of Cake status.

The first of the four films*, where David explores Helmsley and the Cleveland Way, went live this week (27 September) on the North York Moors National Park’s website and YouTube channel. The other films, featuring Malton, Pickering and Lockton; the Esk Valley; and the coast will then be released over the following three weeks.

In each of the films David interviews some of the owners of the tearooms and bakeries which he says, define what makes, not just a good, but a really great place to have a slice of cake.

As he explains: “Apart from the obvious requisite of having lovely cakes for sale, the truly great places are those that have real soul and are grounded in personality rather than simply being one of those identikit hipster eateries that are two-a-penny across Britain. 

“Take for instance Lockton Tea Rooms, where the walls double as the art gallery for the village’s residing artists and the owners have planted a raised bed of edibles that are free for people to help themselves.

“Or there’s Bob and Bev’s Brew Organic Tea Garden at Glaisdale which was an absolute delight as the couple share their passion for gardening with visitors who can sit and enjoy the landscaped surroundings and even purchase a plant or two.

Bob and Bev's Brew Organic Tea Garden

“There were some really lovely surprises throughout my journey but it was also great to know that some things just haven’t changed since I was growing up here, particularly the Whitby legend that is Botham’s. I was especially proud of my efforts to ice the Whitby lemon bun and be reminded of the correct way that the locals eat one!” 

In the final episode, David heads to his parents’ home at Ruswarp to create his own North York Moors birthday bake, as a special treat to mark the National Park’s 70th anniversary.

His recipe includes rosewater in a nod both to Yorkshire’s emblem the White Rose and to the tearoom gardens that David visited, lemon in recognition of the Botham’s Whitby bun and locally-produced honey.

The National Park first proclaimed itself to be the Capital of Cake back in 2015 in recognition of the huge array of cafés, bakeries and tearooms that contribute so much to people’s experience when they visit the North York Moors.

Now more than 70 businesses are participating in the campaign and are marked on the National Park’s Capital of Cake map, which has had more than 30,000 views on the website.

When asked what place cake has in today’s world when people are being urged to adopt healthier diets, David is adamant: “Of course it’s ok to have a slice of cake as a special treat. It’s one of life’s simple pleasures and can add to the whole community spirit when people meet friends and chat while tucking into cake; plus baking can be a meditative process which is really calming.

“The other aspect I loved as I toured across the North York Moors was showing how many ways people can ditch their cars and use alternative modes of transport that enable them to appreciate the journey to a café much more – whether it’s renting a bike and pedalling through quiet scenic countryside between Malton and Pickering or hopping on a boat at Whitby to see the coast in all its glory before diving into a tearoom!”

Header Image: Vinehouse Café, Helmsley Walled Garden