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Friday, 30 March 2012

Walk 62 Whitby to Staithes

Walk 62          Whitby to Staithes (Yorks)

(First leg of English coastal walk – Broadstairs in Kent to Berwick at the border with Scotland).

Map: L/R 94
Distance: about 10 miles
Difficulty:  moderate overall with some challenging cliff descents/ascents
Terrain: mainly cliff paths
Access: Parking at both ends – car park at top end of Staithes – no vehicle access to village.
Public transport: Bus X5 goes both ways from the main road at the top of Staithes to Whitby Bus station, every half hour Mon/Sat and every hour on Sundays

The walk starts on the Cleveland Way overlooking Whitby Sands. The path cuts inland at Upgang Beach for a bit of pavement walking before dropping back down to Sandsend. This is a quiet and very attractive village with a long sandy beach looking out to a bay. I understand it has been mentioned favourably by Wordsworth and Dickens in their writings. The rugged cliffs to the north side include Sandsend Ness well known for its alum quarrying from the early 17th century. Alum was used for leather tanning and wool dyeing; the excavations have helped to alter the shape of this stretch of coastline.

Evidence of quarrying can be seen on the next part of the walk as well as an abandoned railway tunnel which is part of the dismantled railway shown on the OS map.

A few miles further along are views of the picturesque Runswick Bay. The path descends on to Runswick Sands. It may have been recently improved but if it is still the same it may need some care. Stepping stones stick out from bottom of the cliff and a stream runs into the sea - if it is raining this route could prove precarious. Looking at the map there may well be an inland route via a minor road.

The village of Runswick Bay is very attractive with its red roofed cottages overlooking a crescent shaped bay. It was originally a thriving fishing area with smugglers around as well. In 1682 most of the village was washed away and in 1858 a huge storm washed away an ironworks. Cracks have been appearing in the cottages over the years and in 1970 a sea wall was put in place. However, to me, the village still looks quite vulnerable to the elements. The beach is great for fossil hunters and there is a small sailing club.

The cliff path winds its way alongside the stunning scenery to Port Mulgrave. At one time this now quiet area would have looked completely different. Little remains of the ironstone industry that thrived here exporting iron ore to Jarrow. Mining began here in 1855 and the area would have had sounds of machines and miners. A pier was used to collect iron from a railway which ran out on it. The mine was closed when the ironstone was used up but the harbour was still used until 1917 when iron was transported from a new mine 3 miles away.

The finish of the walk is at Staithes. Long term parking is not allowed in the attractive old fishing village. It is called by some the ‘Clovelly of the north’. It was here that James Cook (born in Middlesborough) had his first job in a grocer’s shop. The Staithes Heritage Centre tells the story. In the 19th century the village was a favourite haunt of artists known as the Northern Impressionists – one of their members included Dame Laura Knight. If they were seen painting on a Sunday they risked being pelted with fish heads! I ended in a rather quirky pub called The Captain Cook opposite the car park at the top of the hill.

The photos show: Whitby Sands, Runswick Bay Village, Runswick Bay, Port Mulgrave and Staithes.

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Walk 61 Ravenscar to Whitby

Walk 61    Ravenscar to Whitby  (Yorks)

(First leg of English coastal walk – Broadstairs in Kent to Berwick at the border with Scotland).

Map: L/R 94
Distance: about 10 miles
Difficulty: Moderate. Energetic cliff walking – a few steep climbs.
Terrain: mainly cliff paths, some pavements
Access: parking at both ends
Public transport: a few buses involving a change at Cloughton to Whitby from Ravenscar, or bus as last walk, Scarborough to Ravenscar. Check using Traveline website.

Leave Ravenscar following the Cleveland Way. There is a Coastal Centre to visit in the village and this is clearly marked if you wish to visit it. A little way along the path are good views of Robin Hood’s Bay. The bay has been severely eroded and is receding at the rate of about 20 feet every 100 years. Some of the large boulders that can be seen on the shore have come from as far away as Scandinavia during past ice ages. Fossils in the cliff are up to 150 million years old. One of the many legends concerning the name of the bay suggests that Robin Hood found refuge here disguised as a fisherman.

The walk passes Stoupe Beck Sands and Boggle Hole. Near here there were alum mines between the 17th and 19th centuries. The alum was used in the tanning and dyeing industries. Robin Hood’s Bay Village is a quaint attractive place. The area was known for smuggling in the 17th and 18th centuries and tunnels below some of the houses were used for getting contraband ashore secretly. Fishing has always been an important occupation here. Look out for the strange sculpture as you walk out of the village.

About a mile or so north of Robin Hood’s Bay Village is Ness Point or North Cheek. An information board near here gives details of how rescues were carried out by a rocket fired out to vessels in distress. This carried a thin rope (the whip) which was attached to the vessel in trouble and a thicker rope (a hawser) was then sent along the whip. A breeches buoy was then attached to the hawser and sent to the ship – the individual then sat in this and was hauled back to land. The layered rock formations revealed by the erosion are particularly interesting to look at along this stretch – an especially good view of them is at Saltwick Nab to the south of Whitby. Look out for the lighthouse at Black Nab near Saltwick Bay.

The first sign of Whitby is the harbour wall and entrance. It was the country’s leading whale port until in 1837 when the trade stopped. Captain William Scoresby who captured 533 whales and invented the crow’s nest is very famous in the town. Since then Whitby has become better known for its black jet usually worn as jewellery although it was once burnt by the Romans who believed its smoke relieved hysteria. The jet is the compressed remains of wood from 20 million years ago. It is for sale in several Whitby shops.

The path through Whitby enters via the churchyard with the abbey on your left. It is well worth a walk up to the ruins of the abbey founded by St Hilda in 657. This is where Brother Caedmon is credited with writing the first English hymns. The building was destroyed during the dissolution of the monasteries in 1539. Whitby is a bustling busy place with plenty to do and see. It was named as best holiday resort in 2006 by the magazine ‘Which’.

Further into the town is a swing bridge over the River Esk. This was built in 1908 to replace an earlier version in 1832 which in turn replaced an earlier one dating back before the 1400s. Bram Stoker set some of his famous story ‘Dracula’ in Whitby and there are conventions here to celebrate this. (You may wonder why there are people dressed as vampires!) Captain Cook went to sea for the first time from Whitby in 1746 as an apprentice seaman. Ten years later he joined the Royal Navy embarking on many voyages before meeting his end in Hawaii. Whitby was the 7th largest port in England when Cook first went to sea in 1746.

Photos show: a view from Ravenscar, Robin Hoods Bay, the sculpture at Robin Hoods Bay Village and Whitby Abbey

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Walk 60 Scarborough (North Bay) to Ravenscar

Walk 60 Scarborough (North Bay) to Ravenscar (Yorks)

(First leg of English coastal walk – Broadstairs in Kent to Berwick at the border with Scotland).

Map: L/R 101 and 94
Distance: about 10 miles
Difficulty: Moderate. Energetic cliff walking – a few steep climbs.
Terrain: mainly cliff paths, some pavements
Access: parking at both ends
Public transport: train at Scarborough and 115 bus runs Scarborough to Ravenscar – check the times - only about 3 a day each way.

Before leaving Scarborough I would like to mention the theatre and cricket. The Stephen Joseph theatre, opposite the railway station, is well worth a visit if you have the time. It is strongly connected with the renowned playwright Alan Ayckbourn who lives in the town. His plays are regularly premiered here (should you be lucky enough to catch one). The theatre, named after a much revered director, is ‘in the round’. We saw a  very enjoyable production of The Mikado set against a background of cricket (the Scarborough cricket festival being a very popular event featuring the county team).

Re-join the walk at the North Bay of Scarborough. One of the features that impressed me about the resort was the care taken to make the frontage look clean and attractive. The town dates back to the mid tenth century. It suffered from many Viking raids and was burnt down prior to the Norman invasion, only recovering in the reign of Edward 11. In the middle ages the famous Scarborough Fair lasted for six weeks and people flocked here from all over Europe.

As you walk along the front look out for the train that runs along the edge of the sands and what appears to be a defunct ‘ski lift’ type contraption to the cliff tops. At the end of the bay is the Sea Life Centre – follow the path up the cliff. The walk continues along the cliff tops following the Cleveland Way. The attractive coast includes Scalby Ness Rocks and the ominous sounding Sailors’ Grave! At Long Nab there is a coastguard station built in 1927 and a mine shelter erected in 1939. The latter was to protect the coastguards during World War 2; its main function was to look for mines and torpedoes. During the Cold War it was linked to the Nuclear Warning System.

Continuing north, the walk passes through the peaceful areas of Cloughton Wyke and Hayburn Wyke. A ‘wyke’ is a Yorkshire word for a small sheltered bay. At Hayburn Wyke the cliffs give the wooded glen a lot of shelter. Ash, hazel, hawthorn and various mosses and ferns abound in this area which is managed by the National Trust. Along this stretch you will notice a lookout and some grey buildings set up on the hill behind some barbed wire. During the Second World War this site helped detect invading German ships and aircraft. It was built in 1940 and was one of many around the coast. The radar building, generator and transmitter have been preserved as ancient monuments. It was staffed by up to 30 people who had overnight accommodation in basic huts – I think it is these that you can see at the top of the field.

At Ravenscar there is a gap where you can walk to some good tearooms - these were once part of a hotel. The name of Ravenscar may have come from invading Danes in the 3rd century who had images of ravens on their standards. Prior to this the Romans had built a signal station on the headland. At the beginning of the twentieth century developers tried to build a resort here, however few people bought the plots of land and the plans failed. Even plans to build a rail link failed to attract. The winter weather was thought to put people off – it was called ‘the place that never was'.

The photos show: A view of the north bay of Scarborough from the path leaving northwards, the coastguard station and mine shelter at Long Nab and Hayburn Wyke.