2016 Walk 5 – Whitby to Robin Hood’s Bay

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The Footpath Diversion Welcoming Committee

It was a quiet morning at the Goathland bus shelter with the majority of traffic consisting of ewes and their lambs going about their business. This included lying in the middle of the road, fertilizing the common and staring incredulously at the humans standing in the bus queue. The staring matching finally ended when the 840 Coastliner double-decker arrived and whisked us (the humans that is) away to Whitby.

Over the years I’ve walked all of the coastal portion of the Cleveland Way from Staithes in the north to Scarborough in the south. Today I was walking one of my favourites sections, a 7-mile stretch from Whitby to Robin Hood’s Bay. I planned to visit Whitby later today and so I immediately crossed the bridge, headed through the old town and made my way up the 199 steps to Whitby Abbey, famous in its own right but all the more so when it became the setting for Bram Stoker‘s most famous novel, “Dracula”.

Confined to Barracks

Confined to Barracks

The Cleveland Way follows the cliff face and provides plenty of spectacular views of the rolling coastline. The only blight on the landscape is encountered one mile south of Whitby at the large caravan park at Saltwick Bay. I last walked this stretch in 1998 and I remember it then however it has grown a great deal since my last visit. The RV section is definitely new and there are many more static caravans than before. I’ve never understood the attraction of holidaying in the great outdoors when you’re crammed together in rows of buildings resembling barracks in a 21st century Prisoner of War camp. That being said there wouldn’t be so many of them if they weren’t popular so what do I know.

The footpath between Whitby and Saltwick Bay was fairly busy but the foot traffic tapered off considerably after that and I likely passed no more than a dozen walkers on my three hour walk to Robin Hoods Bay. The views were as stunning as ever and the walk was very pleasant on this overcast, mild and extremely calm day.

One fact that won’t escape anyone’s attention is the how erosion is effecting the coastline, the footpath and the farms that border it. I saw signs of several recent landslips including one about two-thirds of the way along that required a diversion through a field. Unfortunately for the lady and her dog walking ahead of me the field in question was full of very curious steers. She was forced to take a longer detour but I managed to talk the cattle into moving back a foot or two so that I could climb over the stile. They then followed me down to the other stile where I rejoined the Cleveland Way. The diversion was obviously the most interesting thing to happen to these bovines in quite some time.

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Coastlines invariably involve some ups and downs

The route includes it’s share of ups and downs, often involving stone stairs, but it’s gentler than I remember. Perhaps this is because I now have the South West Coast Path as a reference point. The fields and hedges included a lot of wildflowers and as I neared Robin Hoods Bay the skies began to clear. The sun was shining properly when I began the very steep descent into Robin Hoods Bay.

It was the Friday afternoon before the bank holiday weekend and so visitors were beginning to stream into the village, towing caravans or emptying car loads of supplies into their holiday cottages. I enjoyed a pint at the Ye Dolphin pub and the landlord mentioned they were expecting the onslaught to begin in earnest around supper time.

I had a brief nose around the village and then climbed back up the village to catch my bus back to Whitby. The 5-mile journey took ten minutes and cost £4.20 which I thought was a bit pricey. I’ve taken a lot of buses on this trip and this was by far the most expensive considering the distance travelled. For example my 20-minute “school bus” rail journey yesterday cost £3.50 while my return ticket from Whitby to Goathland cost £6.90 (and a few days later I spent £11.80 on a 3-hour bus journey from Goathland to Leeds).

I spent a couple of hours exploring Whitby and enjoying some chips from the Magpie Cafe. The sunny breakwater was the perfect place to sit and stare up at the Abbey ruins while watching the boats come and go out of the busy harbour.

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2016 Walk 4 – Goathland to Whitby

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One of many painted bikes I encountered in Eskdale

When I awoke on my second day in Goathland I had yet to decide where today’s walk would be although I had several routes in mind. Initially I’d thought of revisiting the Roman road atop Wheeldale moor however the low clouds and mist prompted me to choose a lower route. After consulting my 20-year old Ordnance Survey maps I decided to walk to Sleights and then return along Eskdale to Grosmont and back to Goathland.

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NYMR steam train heading to Grosmont

I headed out on the quiet road to Darnholme where I descended, crossed a ford and then climbed up onto the moor. As I reached the top I heard the whistle from a North York Moors Railway steam train on its way to Grosmont and was just in time to snap a photo. I carried on across the moor which was fairly boggy in spots from yesterday’s rain. The rights of way on my old maps seemed slightly out of date but I managed to find my way using more permanent landmarks such as farms and roads.

After half a mile I crossed the road heading down to Beck Hole and carried on along a track which skirted Arundel Hill and led to Greenlands Farm. The valley views were excellent but required a steep descent down a slippery slope where I crossed a beck and then headed straight back up the other side. A distinct footpath was difficult to find but there were at least a dozen sheep trails to choose from and so up I went. I stayed close to the drystone wall and eventually spotted a track where a local farmer in a Range Rover was tending to his flock.

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Whitby and Whitby Abbey on the horizon

I carried on up the track where I was rewarded with my first distant views of Whitby and the North Sea coast. I crossed a road and continued on past a working quarry. I knew I had to begin my descent into Eskdale and was walking along the fence looking for a gate when I heard the disheartening sound of Gortex Paclite ripping apart. In the space of one week I had broken my $200+ shoes and torn my $200 jacket on a piece of barbed wire. I soon found the way through the fence and began a very steep descent littered with muddy patches and carefully chosen expletives. The combination of mud, the angle of descent and a field of curious young steers soon had me concentrating on the task at hand and not on my rapidly deteriorating kit. I soon emerged onto a minor road that led to the main road into Sleights.

While munching on a Cheese and Onion roll I decided to alter my route and walk to Whitby where I could find something to repair my jacket with. Whitby was only four miles away and so I would have plenty of time to complete the walk, sort out my jacket and find a way back to Goathland. The path out of Sleights started near the railway station and then climbed up and along the southern edge of Eskdale. Prior to arriving in Ruswarp the footpath descended to cross the railway track and carried on along lanes, a road and finally a bridge.

A sign-posted flagged path led from the village through an alley towards Whitby a mile away. My troublesome knee had been behaving itself all day but locked up on the final climb and descent into town. The knee soon sorted itself out and after investigating my options for returning to Goathland I began my search for a means of repairing my jacket. In the end, in true Red Green style, I settled for black duct tape and it seems to have done the trick.

I decided to take the train back to Grosmont and unknowingly opted for the late afternoon service which doubled as a school bus. I needn’t have bought a ticket because the driver and conductor locked themselves away and let the students run riot. They occupied most of the seats in both cars, that is of course when they actually sat down. Most of the time they moved about socializing, playing jokes on each other and eating. One girl had brought a tin of biscuits which was quickly emptied by the steady stream of kids walking past. It was a noisy journey but very entertaining.

Once deposited in Grosmont I followed the rail trail for two miles past the train sheds and on to Beck Hole. Not surprisingly the Birch Hall Inn reeled me in without much of a struggle but after a pint I carried on to Goathland and called it a day.