This was a walk of contrasts, as I headed out of the beautiful coast around the North Yorkshire moors and on towards the heavy industry of Teeside, though I stop just before that at Redcar (the bulk of the industry is beyond Redcar). On the way more evidence of former (and sometimes current) industry was also to be seen.
I was doing this walk from home. I booked a train ticket from London to Middlesbrough for the bargain price of £12 and a ticket back from Redcar to London also for £12, making it quite a bargain.
I took a train to London Waterloo, two tube trains to get to London Kings Cross. Then a train from London Kings Cross to Darlington and finally a local train from there to Middlesbrough. From there I had to walk for 10 minutes or so through the streets of Middlesbrough, a town I had also never been to in order to find the bus station for the bus onto Staithes (as the railway station in Staithes had closed in 1958). (I later found the bus actually went very close to the railway station, but this wasn’t mentioned in the timetable, so I didn’t know). Having found the bus station I took the planned bus onto Staithes. The bus only runs along the main road in Staithes, for reasons that would soon become apparent. It was a long bus journey, it took well over an hour and I was glad to get off the rattly bumpy bus.
I’m not writing these walks up in the order I did them, so whilst the previous walk I wrote up ended in Staithes I actually did it after this walk and so this was my first visit to Staithes. I knew nothing about it, other than it was a place marked on the map and it has buses going there! However it turned out to be gorgeous.
The first clue is that the bus only stops on the main road, the A174. The reason soon became apparent as I got my first glimpse of the village deep in the valley below.
It is a long way down, the road is steep, and this is why the bus does not come down here.
I was quickly realising this was a pretty place. As I got closer to the coast, so the views got better.
It turns out Staithes is packed full of character.
As pretty as Robin Hood’s Bay I thought, but much less visited it seems. It was a quite beautiful old village squeezed into this narrow valley with hilly and cobbled streets and lovely old buildings.
This was a real surprise to me and it was a real pleasure to find such a nice place.
Of course having descended into the valley there was only one way to go – up! For this walk I’m initially following the Cleveland Way again, which runs along most of the coast I will be following on this walk.
So initially I follow the road on the eastern side of the harbour to the bridge over it. This offers a lovely view back to the coast.
After crossing the bridge, I headed down to the harbour itself. Some of the houses are built right into the cliffs!
The harbour still has some working fishing boats, judging by all the fishing equipment piled up.
The path headed briefly along the road in Boulby and when the road turned inland the path continued on the cliff top.
I now headed back up the valley and road and out of Staithes, pausing for a look back at this lovely village.
The view upstream was also nice, though a bit difficult to photograph because I was looking directly into the sun.
As I climbed out of the village I got increasingly good views over it.
As I headed along the road out of the village I soon got my first view of the coast ahead.
It looked rather lovely.
The coast path out of Staithes initially follows the route of the old road. I think this was the old road that linked Boulby and Staithes. It has since been move inland and the path follows the old route of the road but parts of the path have had to be diverted off this old road too, as it is now beginning to collapse off the cliffs, due to erosion, as you can see.
Thankfully a parallel path had been created alongside, following the line of the fence.
The path soon began to climb out of Staithes, with views of Boulby and the high cliffs ahead.
The path climbed almost continually out of Staithes and so I soon had a good view back. Most of the village is now out of sight in the deep valley.
Soon I reached the small village of Boulby and briefly followed the minor road through it. Just inland here is the industry of Boulby Mine, where potash is mined. This mine is connected by train on what was once part of the passenger line to Whitby and Saltburn, which was closed as a through route in 1958, but this part was kept open for freight trains.
Beyond Boulby the path continued to climb steeply along the tops of the spectacular cliffs.
Boulby still has a working mine as I mentioned, but a bit inland from the village. However the map showed there were once extensive mines and quarries right along the coast too. They have all closed now and nature is now reclaiming them, but it meant here the path was slightly inland, to keep out of the old workings. I suspect these hills are piles of old waste material, now grassed over.
As I continued to climb the old mine workings became much more extensive. Now heather and gorse has grown over most of it.
The cliff tops too began to show evidence of quarrying.
Below me now, the mine workings were clearly quite extensive.
A sign informed me this was the site of the former Boulby Alum quarries. It looks like some of the land has been poisoned, where no vegetation has grown ever since. They were clearly once extensive works.
The path was now lined to my left with a dry stone wall as I began to descend a bit.
As I continued west I soon had a fine view over the valley ahead, with the harbour wall of Skinningrove now visible ahead.
Below me however was the remains of more mines and quarries. This was once an area of heavy industry, but nature is slowly taking over and removing many of the scars.
The path had begun to climb again and was beginning to become more a moorland walk as it climbed up through the heather covered cliffs, with beautiful views ahead (sadly though, it was now clouding over and the sun had gone).
The path soon began to descend from what had felt like open moorland to pasture below.
Looking back where I had come the evidence of the old mines and quarries is now behind the cliffs, so the view is now very natural and the scenery quite spectacular.
The path continued to descend and now followed right along the cliff tops. Below I could see the wall of the harbour at Skinningrove but most of the village itself was out of sight.
It was only when I began the last descent down into the village did I see it.
I was hoping for somewhere as pretty as Staithes, but I was to be disappointing. As I was to find out, this is a former mining town and so many of the buildings are terraces of Victorian houses (originally workers cottages presumably) and I suspect the more modern houses have been built on what was once industry.
The path continues to descend steeply down to reach a rather basic harbour, beside a pebble beach.
The harbour is backed by old fishing huts, looking somewhat derelict.
It had a run-down feel to it.
The village is in a deep valley and the path joins the road on the eastern edge, which crosses over the stream that has cut the valley.
There were remains of old buildings here and a sign soon confirmed what I had suspected. This was once a very industrial place. Known as the Valley of Iron, it tells me that in 1850, there is a thriving mining community here, mining iron ore. There are slag heaps beside the stream, which runs red with the pollution, poisoning all the fish and filling the air with the smell of sulphur (the stream is not exactly clear, now). It sounds something of a contrast and it is nice to see this area has been cleaned up so much. The iron ore mine closed in 1958 and is apparently now a museum. It wasn’t a topic that interested me much, so I continued with my walk and gave it a miss.
The path continued in front of some of the old workers cottages, with a little green in front of the coast.
Skinningrove. Most of the village is inland along this deep valley (though there is some industry to the west of the village), but because of the road bridge near the shore I don’t need to go inland to get around it.
The beach here was rather spoiled with the boulders and rubble that seemed to have been put here as coastal defence.
However looking west, things were much better, with a fine sandy beach.
The path now climbed through the dunes at the back of the beach to the top of the cliffs, which were pretty high again.
The height gained soon gave me a fine view over the lovely sandy beach of Cattersty Sands, to the west of the village.
The path now ran right along the cliffs right along the back of this lovely beach. Skinningrove had now largely disappeared from sight, with only the harbour wall visible (and a factory of some sort inland, which you can just see).
As I continued ahead, inland I was now approaching a railway line which briefly hugged the cliff tops, though no trains passed. This is the remnant of the line that used to link Saltburn and Whitby. When it was closed to passengers much of the line was kept open and is now used by freight trains serving Boulby Mine but sadly no longer passenger trains. As I approached this I came across a curious piece of artwork. A steel circle with various animal shapes cut out and suspended from it. I thought it was a bit odd. I’m not sure what it is meant to mean (though I’ll admit I don’t really “get” most modern art).
The railway line goes around the headland and the path the coastal side of it. Once around I had a fine view of the cliffs ahead, though the photos were now rather spoiled by the gloomy conditions.
Rounding the corner, I soon got a fine view of the next town. This is Saltburn-by-the-Sea. It has a pier and is clearly a resort. I hadn’t known what to expect really, but it looked quite nice.
The path now hugged the cliff tops as I gradually rounded the bay and began to descend towards the town. Sadly a sign for the Samaritans on the cliff top reminded me that not everyone comes up here to enjoy the view. The beach itself was lovely but I could now see the chimneys and towers of the heavy industry of Teeside in the distance, which I’d have to get around on my next walk.
The path soon joined a minor road and descended down to a small boat yard area and then across the Skelton Beck. This is a deep valley and most of Saltburn is the other side of it. Thankfully, the road crosses it right on the coast so I don’t have to head inland to get past it. However the Cleveland Way I had been following does now heads inland – to Helmsley . This meant I’d left the coastal part of this National Trail and would be back to making my own way again.
I descended down to the beach, as the tide was out and there was plenty of firm sand. Ahead I could see the end of the pier. It is not a long pier – the end was barely in the water at all! However it is quite nice and only has buildings at the landward end.
I continued on the beach getting nearer the pier.
As I did so, I headed further out onto the beach, towards the end of the pier, getting some reflections of the pier in the wet sand beneath it.
Looking back where I had come the view was quite impressive, with the high cliffs marked with vertical lines. I was not clear what forces had caused these lines.
I was pleased to find the pier was open and in good condition so took a walk along to the end of it. It is a simple structure, with the only buildings on it being at the landward end.
Behind it, a cliff lift takes you up to the cliff top, where most of the town is located.
The view north from the pier was of a fine beach backed by grassy cliffs, but the industry of the Tees estuary now getting slightly nearer.
I liked the simple lines of the pier, without any buildings to get in the way.
Beside the pier, surfers were riding the waves (or at least, attempting to), something else I had not expected to find here.
The town itself was mostly behind the grassy cliffs and out of sight, but what I did see looked rather nice.
Having walked to the end of the pier I returned and headed back down to the beach. Ahead the geology was changing. Behind me the cliffs were high and rocky. Ahead, they were lower and sandy, though looked quite stable as the cliff faeces were mostly covered in vegetation rather than bare earth as I have often seen.
I was glad the tide was out, as I could just continue along the beach, with the pier soon receding into the distance.
Note that since doing this walk the England Coast path has opened on this part of the coast, so there is now a proper path along the cliff tops too.
The cliffs were now getting lower with nothing visible on top of them.
As I headed north, Saltburn had largely disappeared from sight.
I was now passing the town of Marske-by-the-Sea. However most of this was invisible from the cliffs and only a few buildings at the west of the town were visible.
The one on the end looked rather grand, though I don’t know what it was built for.
The beach was now getting a mixture of shingle and rock in places but at least there was some soft sand at the back of the beach if the going became to hard here.
I soon began to see the first buildings of Redcar on the tops of the low cliffs.
The beach had returned to soft sand clear of pebbles though so I walked way out near the breaking waves (the tide was still well out).
Soon the low cliffs ended entirely and the houses were now just right behind the beach.
Soon the beach was split up with wooden groynes, to aid coastal defence, but at least I could get over them without much difficulty.
The sun was getting low now and it felt as if the cloud was beginning to lift, making for some nice reflections in the pools of water on the beach. There was not much sand at high tide though it seemed.
In places, lines of rocks went out from the beach and I wondered what caused these. Remains of old cliffs perhaps?
Either way they made for some nice foreground interest for my photos!
I continued a short distance on the beach and then looking at the map I worked out I was now inline with the road leading to the station, so I had reached my end point.
So it was time to leave the beach and head to the station. I followed the road to the station to reach the station in time for my train home. The train when it did arrive was a horrible old train from the 1980s with a bus interior of hard bench seats and it was also slow, noisy, draughty and bumpy. Redcar had been nicer than I expected. However the train journey was any eye opener.
We passed though miles and miles and miles of heavy industry. Steel works. Oil refineries. Chemical works. Sewage works. Gas works. Power stations. There were chimneys with smoke, flames and dirt visible all around and it went on for so many miles. I’d have to walk through all of this industry as best I could on my next walk, and I was not looking forward to it at all. The North Yorkshire coast so far had been wonderful, but it was clear that that was about to change. I knew before that the Tees estuary was very industrial, but I had not realised quite the extent of it all, now I was up close.
I continued on the train to Middlesbrough where the industry reduced and finally the last part to Darlington over open country, the industry now behind. I changed at Darlington for a train back to London, then the tube and another train home.
This had been quite a varied walk. The first part through Staithes and the coast from there to Saltburn had been stunning, with high cliffs giving wonderful views and a couple of pretty villages. However Skinningrove was not very pretty. Beyond it I was pleased to find a nice beach and follow this all the way to Redcar, which was nicer than I had expected. However the heavy industry of the Tees was now looming over me, and I knew the next walk would not be good.
Here are details of the public transport needed for this walk :-
Arriva bus route X4 : Whitby – Sandsend – Runswick Bay – Staithes – Loftus – Carlin How – Brotton – Saltburn – Marske – Redcar – Coatham – Middlesbrough. Twice an hour Monday – Saturday. Hourly on winter Sundays and twice an hour on Summer Sundays. It takes around 1 hour to travel between Staithes and Redcar (what a shame the railway closed, I’m sure it would have been far quicker!).