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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.

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