Total Pageviews

Sunday, 29 April 2012

Walk 65 The Headland, Hartlepool to Seaham

Walk 65          The Headland, Hartlepool to Seaham (following the Heritage Trail)

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

Map: L/R 93 and 88
Distance: about 14 miles
Difficulty:  Moderate 
Terrain: footpaths and pavement
Access: Parking in Seaham and The Headland at Hartlepool
Public transport: Rail connections from Seaham. The No 7 bus goes regularly Mon-Sat from Hartlepool bus station (next to rail station) to The Headland.

Walk to the Heugh Gun Battery near the lighthouse on The Headland. The lighthouse was built in 1927 on the sight of an older one. Heugh Gun Battery (which can be visited at certain times) defended the Port of Hartlepool for more than 100 years (1859-1956). They are the only coastal guns to be fired in anger during this time. A plaque near here states that this is where the first British soldier was killed on home soil during World War 1 – he was hit by a German battleship.

Further round the Headland are the North sands with a view to the pier and up the coast. The walk continues along the road past the industrial site then along a path which crosses a golf course. There is a further walk to Crimdon Park. This was once a popular holiday resort which declined in the 1970s and 1980s although the caravan and camping site is still there.

About two miles further up are Blackhall Rocks and Blackhall Colliery. The beach at Blackhall featured in the 1971 film Get Carter starring Michael Caine. It was mainly black with coal then but has since been cleaned up after the closing of nearby Blackhall Colliery in 1981. The ‘rocks’ was a minor holiday resort in the mid 19th century and the village had a station closed by Beeching in the 1960s. There was a hotel here until the 1970s. 

The next feature on the walk is Dene Mouth with the prominent Castle Eden Viaduct. The area is a national nature reserve managed by Natural England. Saltmarshes which were prominent before mining in the area are slowly returning. Sea-coaling was popular in the past - coal washed up on to beaches was collected for domestic use or sold. Evidently, it was a common site to see men with sacks of coal slung over their bikes.

Nearby is Horden village and Horden Beach. Black coal sand is still evident here as the Horden Colliery which closed in 1987 was nearby. Half a million tons of material have been removed so that the area can be reclaimed for leisure and light industry.

A few miles north of this point is Easington Colliery. The colliery extended for over 5 miles into the sea; in May 1951 81 men died following an underground explosion. You will see a cage like structure on the hill – take a diversion to have a look at this. If you’re lucky you may meet an ex-miner (as I did) who will tell you all about it. If you are a Thatcher fan (I am definitely not!) it would be wise not to mention this here - the devastating effect of the mine closures in the 1980s and the aftermath are still strongly felt.  The pit cage, which contains a time capsule, was erected to form a landmark and lasting reminder of an industry that once shaped the coast. Every household in Easington Colliery was invited to store a millennium message in the chambers.

Hawthorn, a couple of miles or so north of Easington, reflects a contrasting life style.  There was once a private station here where members of the Pemberton Family at Hawthorn Hall could stop any train passing. The hall was a 30 room mansion which was demolished in 1969. The whole of this area has been designated as one of special scientific interest because of its range of wild flowers, trees, shrubs ferns and orchids.

About a mile south of Seaham is Noses Point and Blast Beach. The point does actually look like a series of noses! An artificial beach was created here by the daily dumping of slurry and slag. This stopped in 1991 and since then the area has been transformed with cleaner water etc. The Dawdon Colliery, one of the most productive in the country, was closest to here. The name of Blast Beach is thought to have come from the ironworks here in the 19th century or from ballast dumped from merchant ships.

Pictures show: Castle Eden viaduct; looking to the Headland at Hartlepool.

Monday, 16 April 2012

Walk 64 Middlesbrough to Hartlepool

Walk 64          Middlesbrough and North Gare Sands to Hartlepool (Durham)

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

Map: L/R 93
Distance: about 2 miles then 5/6 miles (depending if you go by car or train)
Difficulty:  Easy.  
Terrain: footpaths and pavement 
Access: Parking in Middlesbrough and Hartlepool and car park near Gare Sands
Public transport: Rail connections every day from Hartlepool, Middlesbrough and Seaton Carew (nearest station to Gare Sands).

As far as I can make out there is no walk possible between Redcar (the last point on the walk) and Middlesbrough - the whole area is (or was) industrial land. However, it is worth spending an hour or so walking part of the Teeside Way in Middlesbrough.

Start off by walking from the station towards the Transporter bridge. Near the end of the road is a pub called The James Cook with a picture of the man himself displayed alongside one of the windows. He was born in Marton, a southern suburb of the town. Other famous residents include: Brian Clough, Don Revie, Roy ‘Chubby’ Brown, Paul Daniels and Chris Rea. To the east Middlesbrough FC can be seen and near large amounts of derelict land reflecting the industrial decline in the area.

The settlement of Middlesbrough goes back a long way although in 1801 only 25 people lived here. The second part of the 18th century saw great expansion and it became known as Ironopolis because of the dominant iron and steel trade; the parts for the Sydney Harbour Bridge were made here. Middlesbrough was the first major town to be bombed in World War 2.

At the end of the road is the iconic Transporter Bridge. This is the only working example of this type of bridge in the UK and one of the largest in the world. It was built in 1911 and is 260 metres wide and 69 metres high. The ‘car’ or ‘gondola’ is suspended from the bridge and carries 200 people or 9 cars. The bridge was built to ensure people got to work on time without having to wait for a ferry and was designed so as not to interfere with shipping on the river.

Follow the walk westwards, first along an industrial estate, then cut though some woodland on The Ironmasters Trail with its dinosaur sculptures. Various information boards explain life on this part of the river in days gone by. I walked about a mile along the river to the west before retracing my steps. It is pleasant enough even though industry is evident, especially on the opposite bank.

Leave Middlesbrough by car or train and walk south from Seaton Carew Station or the car park to Gare Sands. Looking south there is a good view across the dunes to the mouth of the River Tees. A power station is prominent inland. The path cuts back to the main road across a golf course or you could try walking along the sands. Whichever way you will see the expanse of coastal grassland (drained salt marsh) near Seaton Carew which is known locally as The Snooks. The area (which was once home to a salt industry) is a site of special scientific interest because of the wildlife present. I understand grey seals can sometimes be spotted especially near the estuary of The Tees.

The beach at Seaton Carew has been the site of finds of Roman artefacts mainly washed up from the many shipwrecks. The wealthy Quaker community of nearby Darlington adopted the town as their particular seaside resort. The opening of the railway in 1841 increased the popularity of the area for holidaymakers. As you walk along the promenade you will notice a long elegant white building which was a large bus shelter that catered for the many visitors. In 2007 the town was in the news because of the notorious case of John Darwin ‘the canoe man’ who had a property near the seafront. He hid here whilst the fiction was spread by his wife that he was dead – the idea being to make a large claim from an insurance company. Both were caught after being pictured in South America and subsequently jailed.

The walk continues along the road into Hartlepool. St Hilda (the same one famous in Whitby) was once abbess at Hartlepool where a monastery catered for both nuns and monks. She is best remembered for the 12th century church which can be seen to the north on the headland. This will be seen closer up on the next walk.

Hartlepool is named after the wild Harts that roamed the forests nearby – there has been a settlement here since 1640. The quayside is an attractive and historic area. HMS Trincomalee is a prominent feature. The ship was built in India in 1867 and is made from teak. It is the oldest fighting ship afloat in Europe. The nearby museum brings to life the sights and sounds of the area over the years and is well worth a visit. Severe industrial decline in the 1990s has meant that the area is one of high unemployment. However, a number of quay side developments have helped to improve matters. Hartlepool FC are sometimes known as the ‘Monkey Hangers’ – this refers to a local legend that a monkey was put on trial and hanged for being a French spy in the Napoleonic Wars. Wayne Sleep the ballet dancer and the politician Peter Mandelson (local MP for a number of years) have strong connections with the area. Andy Capp the cartoon character in the Daily Mirror is deemed to be from Hartlepool – I understand there is a statue of him somewhere in the town.
Photos are: The Transporter Bridge in Middlesbrough, a dinosuar on The Ironmasters Trail in Middlesbrough, Seaton Carew beach with through some driftwood and HMS Trincomalee in Hartlepool harbour behind the museum.


Thursday, 5 April 2012

Walk 63 Staithes to Redcar

Walk 63          Staithes to Redcar (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 with some challenging cliff descents/ascents particularly on the Staithes to Skinningrove section
Terrain: cliff paths, footpaths, roads
Access: Parking at both ends – car park at top end of Staithes – no vehicle access to village.
Public transport: It is possible to get from Staithes to Redcar and return using X4 and X5 buses changing at Loftus. Check Traveline website.

Take the path out of Staithes - it cuts inland for stretches but the views are generally good. The path descends quite steeply into Skinningrove.

On the beach is a boat with a ‘model’ fisherman looking out to sea. This is a memorial to those who lost their lives near ‘the grove’. The boat is a ‘repus’- a traditional fishing coble that was found in bad repair and restored. It once belonged to a local fisherman.

The name Skinningrove is thought to be of Viking origin meaning Skinner’s grove or pit. It was mainly an area for agriculture, fishing and ironstone mining which began in the 1800s. The railway came when smelting was introduced in 1865. The jetty (still visible) was built in 1880 to help heavy cargoes to be loaded on to ships. Mining continued until 1958 and the steel works closed in 1970. If you walk a little way back into the village the Tom Leonard Mining Museum celebrates this heritage.

Take care when rejoining the Cleveland Way - follow the concrete promenade north westwards until there is a clear path marked up the side of the cliff. I was advised by a local that the path was nearer to the village and found out half way up it was not the path and had to crawl the rest on hands and knees trying not to look back down at the steep cliff side. Not to be recommended! Once at the top be sure to stick to the most inland path – the original Cleveland Way has disappeared in parts due to erosion.

A couple of miles further along near Warsett Hill there is an interesting building preserved as an ancient monument. It was part of the Huntcliffe ironstone mine that operated here between 1872 and 1906 and met the demands of the rail and ship building industries. A fan was located in the building to remove stale air from the mines. Look out for the iron sculptures near the path.

A couple of miles further along is Saltburn by the Sea. The Ship Inn is now a heritage centre - useful to find out more about the area. This was once a remote area and an ideal place for smuggling. In 1839, Henry Pease the son of the founder of the Stockton to Darlington Railway was staying with his brother at nearby Marske. In a walk to Old Saltburn he experienced a vision of a town turned into a lovely garden and so founded Saltburn giving the streets fairy tale names such as ruby, emerald and pearl.

The attractive non-commercial pier at Saltburn was built by a local hotelier in 1868. It was a great success and was served by steamers from Scarborough. It was much longer in those days and had a theatre. In 1875 a ferocious gale did damage to the end, a ship struck it in 1924 and a storm hit in 1974 - all combined to reduce its length by a half. The oldest UK example of a funicular railway runs up the cliff behind the pier. On the top promenade at Saltburn is an ornamental garden made by a local artist working with school children.

The walk continues to Marske by the Sea. The cliffs around here are red, emphasising the iron that is in the rock. The walk flattens out at Marske (comes from Mersc meaning marshy land). William the Conqueror came up here to defeat an uprising by Edgar the Atheling. In more recent times there was an aerodrome here. In 1918 Captain W E Johns was posted to Marske – a commanding officer was called ‘Gimlet’ a name he later used in his Biggles books.

Redcar has flat sands and allows a view back to the more strenuous walking over the hills. The name means ‘place by the red marsh’. Its real expansion began in Victorian times with the discovery of iron ore and the construction of the Redcar railway. It became a resort for the Teeside towns. The Museum of Shipping and Fishing houses ‘The Zetland’ which is the world’s oldest surviving lifeboat; built in 1800 and saved 502 lives whilst in service.

Near the end of the promenade is the cinema which stands on the old pier. This has a few odd sculptures on the side including a ‘man’ hanging from the wall. Perhaps the most memorable sculpture is that of Laurel and Hardy standing on the promenade and looking out to sea. I was probably unlucky in my choice of pub here as it wasn’t exactly welcoming. It was the nearest I could find to the station while I waited for a train. I asked for some Newcastle Brown the request was received in silence and the barmaid poked a bottle across the counter. I asked for a glass only to be told it comes in a bottle! A survey of the clientele restrained me from arguing……

The photos show Skinningrove from the cliffs with the jetty in view, the memorial at Skinningrove, the pier at Saltburn and the Laurel and Hardy figures at Redcar.