The Cleveland Way 1999

Author: George Tod

This walk is illustrated with photographs. Click on small photo to enlarge in situ, or click caption to enlarge into new window.
Part 3 - Kildale to Whitby

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Day 4 - Wednesday 30th June - 14.5 miles - Dinner, B&B 14

Kildale to Saltburn via Captain Cook Monument and Roseberry Topping

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The Park and Battersby Moor from Bankside Cottage
Battersby Moor from Kildale
Captain Cook Monument on Easby Moor towards Roseberry Topping
Captain Cook Monument

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Roseberry Topping from Great Ayton Moor
Roseberry Topping
Guisborough and Coast from Highcliff Nab
Guisborough and Coast

After a very nicely cooked English breakfast, I set off up the hill at 9:15 a.m. only to find that I had left my map behind. Fortunately, I had not gone very far, so it didn't take long to nip back down to retrieve it from the seat in front of the cottage. There is a steady climb up through the woods, with some glimpses of the moors to the left through the trees. After a mile or so, the path comes out onto the open moor with the Captain Cook monument right ahead and Roseberry Topping, now very much closer, over to the right. There was a stiff breeze blowing, so I didn't stop for long by the monument, but found some shelter a little further on. There was quite a lot of cloud, but there were a few clear patches of blue sky.

The monument to Captain Cook bears the following inscription:

In memory of the celebrated circumnavigator
Capt James Cook F.R.S.
A man of nautical knowledge inferior to none, in zeal prudence and energy, superior to most. Regardless of danger he opened an intercourse with the Friendly Isles and other parts of the Southern Hemisphere. He was born at Marton Oct 27th 1728 and massacred at Owythee Feb 14th 1779 to the inexpressible grief of his countrymen. While the art of navigation shall be cultivated among men, whilst the spirit of enterprise, commerce and philanthropy shall animate the sons of Britain, while it shall be deemed the honour of a Christian Nation to spread civilisation and the blessings of the Christian faith among pagan and savage tribes, so long will the name of Captain Cook stand out amongst the most celebrated and most admired benefactors of the human race.

As a token of respect for and admiration of that great man, this monument was erected by Robert Campion Esqs. of Whitby AD 1827.

By permission of the owner of Easby Estate J.J. Emerson Esqr. it was restored in 1895 by the readers of the North Eastern Daily Gazette.

The route then drops down through woods, to Gribdale and then up a short but steep path onto Great Ayton Moor. There were wide open moorland views over to the east, with Roseberry Topping looming up on the left, now only a mile or so away. Pathway repairs were in progress on the south side of Roseberry Topping, so a series of large white bags full of stone lined that path. In places where access over the ground is difficult, these bags are lowered by helicopter at great expense, as it the only viable way to get them there without causing too much damage. As this hill just invites everyone to climb it, there has been a lot of erosion around the paths. The main path from the east has already been repaired, but there are a few other paths with differing levels of damage.

As the route goes to Roseberry Topping and then back again, I left my rucksack before dropping down to Roseberry Common and climbing the 80 metres from there to the top. There were a few people at the top, one of them being a young lady who works at Osmotherley Youth Hostel. On her days off she likes to see as much of the area as she can by cycling and walking. She was about to cycle across to Hasty Bank and then walk up to the Wain Stones. She said that Osmotherley hostel is now a really nice place - she had heard talk of the 'Warden from Hell' who ran the place when I stayed there in 1992 on the Coast to Coast walk, but he left about four years ago. Several years ago she did the Coast to Coast walk herself, and was now thinking about doing the Lyke Wake Walk. After chatting for a while, I returned to my rucksack and had my lunch.

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Italian Garden in Valley Gardens, Saltburn
Valley Gardens, Saltburn
Saltburn Pier and Cliffs near Wansett Hill

From here on, the route heads eastwards towards the coast, initially crossing open moorland with views of the sea not many miles away, then passing through Guisborough Woods. On entering the woods, there is a rocky promontory, Highcliff Nab, which gives a very good view over Guisborough, to the coast. This area is very close to Teesside, so there is evidence of quite a lot of heavy industry, but in other directions there is unspoilt scenery. I stopped for a while to rest and admire the view before continuing through the woods for the next few miles, where the views are obscured by the trees. I did encounter a rather fine, solitary orchid by the track through the wood, but didn't see any more along the way until further along on the coastal section.

At the end of the woods, the way passes through an area that is used for motorcycle scrambling, with signs warning to look out for motorcycles, although there were none there as I walked through. On the way through the woods, I had picked up a few pieces of litter, thinking that I would be able to drop them in a bin somewhere. As I reached the A171 Whitby road, which is followed for about a quarter of a mile, I felt a little foolish carrying a handful of litter when the roadside verges were absolutely strewn with litter, but I wasn't going to just drop mine with the rest. I passed a bus shelter, but that had no litterbin, and I only managed to get rid of it in the dustbins behind a wayside pub, were I bumped into Ken and Jan again. They had missed out Roseberry Topping to cut down the day's mileage, so had passed me whilst I was over there.

This was the first part of the walk, apart from a couple of miles at the very start, which I had not already done as part of day walks in the area, so I was now on unfamiliar territory until Whitby. I said goodbye to Ken and Jan, as they were stopping for the night at Skelton, whereas I was going two miles further to Saltburn. The route climbs up onto Airy Hill, with views of Saltburn and the coast from time to time, but there is a distinct feeling here that it is just the transition stage to get from the high moorland section of the walk to the coastal section. It is pleasant enough, but would not exactly feature as the highlight of the walk.

After Skelton, the way follows Skelton Beck through woodland, passing under a huge railway viaduct and then emerges at the Valley Gardens at Saltburn, where the path leads up to the town and the seafront. I arrived at 5 p.m. and, seeing that there were some breaks in the cloud, waited for some sunshine to take a photograph. It took quite some time before the sun appeared where I wanted it, so it was about 6 p.m. before I booked into my bed and breakfast.

I was the only one staying there and the landlady had gone away for a few days leaving her daughter in charge. The daughter must have weighed about 20 stones, but she was very pleasant and helpful, recommending a pub called 'The Ship' down by the beach for a meal. She was most concerned, however, that it was a very long way (about half a mile) and thought that I might want to catch the bus back! This was the first evening of the walk with a pub within easy reach, so it was quite a luxury. In planning the earlier part of the walk, I had been more concerned about getting accommodation at suitable mileage intervals without having to drop right down from the moors, so I hadn't given much thought to the availability of pubs.

'The Ship' was a very pleasant pub, and I had pork spare ribs followed by caramel apple granny and a couple of pints of beer. The meal was very filling, so I had a stroll along the beach underneath the cliffs, as the weather had turned fine and sunny - the best it had been all day. Hundreds of seagulls were perching on ledges in the cliffs and swooping overhead. At one point some of the loose soil from the cliff came showering down, presumably dislodged by one of the gulls, so I turned back in case more was to follow and walked round the Valley Gardens that I had passed through on the way in. A miniature railway runs along the bottom of the valley for a way, although that was closed for the night. It was pleasant for an evening stroll, and the Italian garden, in particular, was very nice. On the way back to my bed and breakfast, I called in to the 'Victoria' for a pint of Magnet, as, by then, I did not feel quite so bloated.

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Day 5 - Thursday 1st July - 22 miles - Dinner, B&B 16.05

Saltburn to Whitby via Staithes and the Coast

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Metal sculpture on cliffs near Wansett Hill
Metal sculpture by cliffs
Skinningrove and Wansett Hill

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Skinningrove and Wansett Hill from The Warren
Wansett Hill from the Warren
Cliffs near Boulby 203 Metres (666 ft)
Cliffs near Boulby

After breakfast at 8 a.m., I set off at 8:45 a.m. It had rained overnight, but the forecast was for brighter weather later in the afternoon. I called at a shop for a few things for lunch and at the Barclays Bank cash machine, which was out of order. Fortunately, I had enough cash to last me for a while, so I didn't have to wait around for the bank to open, which was just as well, as I had a long walk down to Whitby.

Going out of town, I headed up unto the cliffs, where I had been last night. The weather was grey and overcast. There was a choice of walking up an overgrown path with wet grass, which wet the legs and feet, or walking on the bare muddy field beside it, which quickly resulted in carrying a large weight of mud on each boot. I chose the latter, as I didn't want to start the day off with wet feet. Surprise - surprise, after only a couple of miles the sun began to shine, which meant that, as well as the improvement brought about on the scenery, I could also hang my damp washing from the back of my rucksack with some hope that it might dry. I try to wash things out as I go along to avoid carrying too much spare clothing, but it is often a problem to get things dry by the morning.

Looking back on Saltburn, it is a pleasant little seaside town, not over-commercialised and still retaining its Victorian character. There is a backdrop of heavy industry up the coast, but it is far enough away not to spoil the town much. A goods railway runs by the cliff for a little way as it skirts around a hill, having crossed Skelton Beck on the big viaduct, and a train from Cleveland Potash passed by as I was walking along that section. Near the railway, there is an unusual monument made from the large metal rim of a wheel, with metal animals and other objects dangling inside it, rather like a giant charm bracelet. It has no inscription to say who made it or why it was there, but I presume it was just intended as a sculpture.

Rounding the headland, Skinningrove came into sight. Although there is British Steel plant here, the coastal scenery is very nice and the old crumbling jetty, part of its industrial past, tends to add to the view. Passing through on the coast, there are a lot of ramshackle allotment sheds and pidgeon huts, which do nothing to enhance the otherwise pleasant appearance of the small beach.

Up the steep climb to the cliffs from Skinningrove, I saw a lone walker following me up, so I waited a while to find that he was from Holland and doing the Cleveland Way. He also was heading for Whitby for the night. The weather along the coast was now beautiful, although there was still plenty of cloud inland. It is a characteristic of this coast that it tends to have a microclimate of its own. Sometimes it can be to its advantage, like today, but other times can result in sea frets, when mist rolls in from the sea, making it cold and damp, when it may be warm and sunny inland. The views up and down the coast are magnificent, especially up on the headland where the 203-metre cliff is the highest point on the East Coast. There is not a sheer drop down these cliffs, there being a ledge part of the way down formed by extensive alum quarrying from up to 350 years ago, but they are nevertheless very impressive.

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Staithes from near Boulby
Staithes from near Boulby
Boulby from Cowbar Lane, Staithes
Boulby from Cowbar Lane

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Staithes Harbour and Cowbar Nab
Staithes Harbour
Old Nab, Staithes
Old Nab, Staithes

The descent from these high cliffs, which do not seem to have a name on the map, gives rise to more lovely views towards Cowbar Nab at Staithes. Cowbar Nab, home to thousands of seabirds, is owned by the National Trust, as are many of the beauty spots down the coast. The road down to Staithes gives a marvellous view of the harbour, looking at its very best in the beautiful weather. It was lunchtime, so I called for a pint at the 'Cod and Lobster' overlooking the harbour. The Cameron's bitter was very good, so I had another pint before setting off on the steady climb up to the next section of cliffs. The Dutchman went on ahead of me when I stopped in Staithes and I didn't see any more of him after that.

There was plenty more lovely coastal scenery down to Runswick Bay. However, when I reached there, I was met with some workmen pointing out a temporary diversion to the route whilst work on the sea defences was undertaken in the bay. The diversion involved a walk down the road as far as an old railway track, which was overgrown with nettles and other undergrowth at first. The track surface then improved, but was still very tedious because there were very limited views from there. After what seemed like an eternity, I emerged back on the coastal path again overlooking Runswick Bay. From there I could see that the work only involved less than 100 yards of the bay, but I had been on a tedious two and a half mile detour adding nearly one and a half miles of walking. My planned day's walk was already twenty and a half miles and this brought it up to twenty-two miles.

I had a short rest stop and checked on my progress, only to discover that I had seven and a half miles to go and it was already after half past three. I decided that I had better press on and try to make some good progress if I wanted to get to Whitby Youth Hostel in reasonable time. The weather had now turned dull, so the scenery, though still very good, lost some of its splendour. After a couple of miles of brisk walking, four female students armed with a camcorder accosted me. They were doing a survey on the flora and fauna on the Cleveland Way, but when they discovered that I was walking the Cleveland Way, they decided not to detain me. Normally, I would have been quite happy to stop for a chat, but I didn't want to add any more delay just then, so I pressed on. I continued without any stops, other than for photographs, and arrived at the Youth Hostel at 5.55 p.m., albeit with feet aching from the continuous fast walking. It was just as well that I had arrived in reasonable time as dinner had been moved from 7 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. for the school party, who were the only ones having dinner apart from me.

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Kettleness from near Port Mulgrave
Whalebone arch framing Whitby Abbey
Whalebone arch, Whitby

I just had time for a quick shower and a change before dinner. As I was on my own, I got preferential treatment from the staff, having my food served to me before the school party started getting theirs from the hatch. I had soup, chicken supreme and treacle pudding with lots of cups of tea from a large pot. During dinner, a chap and two young ladies arrived. They were walking the Cleveland Way and I had passed them at Sandsend, where they had stopped for a rest. Only one of them, one of the ladies had actually walked all the way so far, despite having set off the day before me. They walked all the way to Osmotherley on the first day, which was too much for them, so two of them did some bits of the route by bus and taxi, whilst the other one kept to the schedule. This just illustrates how important it is to match a schedule to the capabilities of those who are walking, whereas some people embark on long walks without having done much walking before, and misjudge the difficulty of walking day after day. It did give me a little satisfaction to think that I was probably twice their age and had little difficulty in covering the same distance in one day less.

After dinner, I walked down into town, as I wanted to find out where I could buy another slide film in the morning. I also called at a cash machine to top up my wallet. Whitby is a popular tourist attraction with its busy harbour, quaint streets, whalebone arch, Captain Cook monument as well as the ruined abbey up on the hill next to the youth hostel. It retains much of its charm and character despite the busy tourist industry and is still a thriving port. I located 'Boots' the chemists in town and, after wandering around town for a while, called in the 'Duke of York' for a drink. The pub has large windows overlooking the harbour, so I sat there watching the sunset whilst drinking a couple of pints of 'Whitby Black Dog' beer. It just remained to climb back up the famous 200 steps from the pub to the abbey and off to bed. An unfortunate sign of the times at the hostel is that the door is locked in the evening for security reasons, and it is necessary to ring the bell for access.

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