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If you have been following my blog you will know that I recently completed a walk along the Cleveland Way national trail. As a newbie to long distance walking I put a lot of planning into the walk and, having successfully completed it, thought it might be useful to look back on the experience so as to encourage (or forewarn) other would-be trail walkers.

Let me first set the scene. As a reasonably fit but irregular day-walker the notion of a linear walk attracted me on a number of levels:

  Time in the great outdoors with a wide variety of scenery
  The opportunity to meet interesting people
  The freedom associated with ten days on the road
  A physical challenge beyond my normal boundaries but within my capabilities
Motivation

It is important to be clear about your objective. My primary recommendation for any potential trail walker would be to be clear about your motivations and decide what you want to get out of the walk. This will be helpful while planning and packing because when it comes to trade-offs (there are plenty: time, money, physical, etc) you should be able to make decisions that best support your aims.

Before I even began to make any plans I decided I wanted to be able to take in my surroundings each day and not feel rushed, nor to be overly focussed on chalking off miles (given my nagging history of lower body ailments I was worried about some part of me breaking en-route if I pushed myself too hard). I also wanted to have time each day to write a blog entry.

Planning

Here’s what I did
There are an increasing number of recognised long distance walks in the UK. I chose the Cleveland Way for several reasons:

  As a designated National Trail the route would be superbly maintained and sign-posted
  It is one of the easier National Trails – relatively short at 108 miles and forgiving terrain for the most part
  The equal split of moorland walking vs coastal path would provide variation and interest

I devised a relatively sedate 10 day walk schedule (some people do it in 7 days) plus two rest days for a little exploration and to allow my body time to recover from any strains.

On some of the National Trails organisations like Sherpa Van will ferry your bags between overnight stops for a fee. I considered this option but decided against it because you still have to lug a day-sack around with waterproofs, camera, lunch, water, etc. Instead I focussed intently on weight reduction

I decided not to camp in order to keep weight down. Most of my nights were spent in B&Bs with just a couple of hostels thrown in. All accommodation was booked in advance and I booked the small villages first because they had least choice of places to stay and so the dates of availability here would shape the schedule for the rest of the walk.

Large destinations like Whitby and Scarborough are likely to have plenty of rooms available most days of the year.

Before committing to the walk I went on a 2 day trial walk in Devon carrying my full rucksack in order to learn any lessons prior to the completion of planning.

I researched the route online (the National Trails website is a great resource) and purchased the official walk book which includes O/S maps for the entire route. Resources like these are invaluable for planning. For instance, the guide book recommended walking in late summer to see the best of the moorland heather in bloom.

I created a day-by-day walk planner logging actions/options for accommodation, food and cash. This might sound extreme but some places have nowhere to eat in the evening or no shop where you can stock up on lunch for the next days walk so you may have to obtain a lunch 2 days in advance. Also most B&Bs don’t take plastic nor are their cash tills in many villages so make sure you know where the ATMs are and withdraw all the cash you will need.

In case I couldn’t walk one day for any reason I downloaded bus timetables between my overnight stops onto my phone. My entire itinerary including B&B contact details was also saved online (I used TripIt) to negate the need for paper reservations.

While not by any means relying on google maps it is useful to have access to them for finding my accommodation at the end of each day. I pre-cached the North Yorkshire area on my tablet computer so that I would have access to the map even if no data connection was available. Also on my tablet I downloaded podcasts relating to the region as well recent radio programmes for listening on the way.

My thoughts after the event

  The Cleveland Way is a great choice for a first long distance walk as I had hoped
  If time allowed I wouldn’t walk more than 4 days without a day off for rest and exploration
  My thorough approach to planning paid off, allowing me to make the most of my time on the walk
  It’s just a shame that you can’t practically find accommodation as you go. You are compelled to book in advance which takes away some of the flexibility and spontaneity of travel from the pre-internet days.
Packing

Here’s what I packed
The following table lists my inventory. It goes without saying that everything was chosen to be as light as possible and that liquid volumes were based on need. In order to further reduce weight I only took 6 sets of clothes for 11 nights with laundry stop after the 5th night.

Category Item Notes
Travel  Rucksac  Treated with waterproofing spray
Travel  Super light day-sack  For evenings and days off
Travel  Rucksac waterproof cover  
Travel  Compass  
Travel  Plastic bags to line rucksac  Charity bags or bin liners
Travel  Sleeping bag liner  Instead of a sleeping bag at hostels
Travel  Sun cream  
Travel  Foam sitting mat  
Travel  Mini-LED torch  
Travel  Eye mask and ear plugs  In case of light or noisy hostel room
Travel  Transparent map case  For the guide book (not taking maps)
Information  Cleveland Way guide book  
Information  Booking information  On paper and online on TripIt
Information  Public transport info  Between overnight stops
Personal  Wallet & selected cards & stamps  I dumped all those superfluous cards!
Personal  Phone, charger & USB battery  
Personal  Cheque book  Some B&Bs are happy with a cheque
Personal  Glasses & wipes  
Personal  Sunglasses  
Leisure  Headphones  Light small ones
Leisure  Notepad and pen x 2  
Leisure  Camera, charger & small tripod  
Leisure  Tablet computer  Sharing the phone charger
Leisure  Charity shop book  Dump after reading
Food & Drink  Water bladder and tube  
Food & Drink  Tupperware & travel cutlery  For lunches
Food & Drink  Emergency nibbles  Dried fruit and nuts
Food & Drink  Bottle opener  
Food & Drink  Plastic 500ml water bottle  For filling water bladder
Food & Drink  Tea bags (green/ginger)  I get board of breakfast tea
Toiletries  Super-light travel towel  For hostels & mid-walk
Toiletries  Toiletries  In small containers
Domestic  Medical kit  Including complead plasters
Domestic  Utility card  Tiny wallet card with sharp knife
Clothes  Walking boots  
Clothes  Walking sandals  For evening use
Clothes  Waterproof jacket  
Clothes  Soft shell jacket  
Clothes  Walking socks x 6  
Clothes  Normal socks x 6  
Clothes  Underwear x 6  
Clothes  T-shirts x 6  
Clothes  Long sleeve T-shirt x 2  
Clothes  Walking trousers x 2  
Clothes  Shorts  
Clothes  Linen trousers  
Clothes  Pyjama shorts  Naked + hostel = arrest

A lot of deliberation went into this list! There’s no jumper – just a light jacket or long sleeved T-shirt if an extra layer is needed. My non-walking boots are sandals, but what if I’m wearing them in the evening and it rains? I get wet feet – better than taking heavier water-tight footwear. The only luxury in this list is my Nexus 7 tablet computer (weight 332g) as without this I can’t blog.

My thoughts after the event

We have all been on holiday and returned pondering all the unused-items we took with us. I nailed it this time – there were no unused items (!) apart from those for contingency or that weighed nothing.

There is just one change I wish I had made to this packing list. I wish that one of my pairs of walking trousers had been made from breathable waterproof material so that on the wash-out day my feet and legs might have been better protected.

The Walk

This is the route that I took…

…and these are my trail stats according to my GPS gizmo

Daily Stats
Route  Helmsley to Filey
Distance  119 miles Speed  3.1 mph
Lowest  0ft Highest  1647ft
Ascent  7013ft Descent  7878ft

My daily pre-walk routine

  I found that wearing a pair of walking socks over a pair of everyday socks worked best for me
  Check the latest weather forecast. Prepare accordingly, including application of sun cream if appropriate
  Consult my Cleveland Way guide book to familiarise myself with the basic walk profile
  Fill water bladder prior to walk – 2L for longer day, 1.5L for shorter
  Perform some calf/achilles stretches prior to donning my rucksack
  Start the Endomondo android app on my tablet PC to log the days walk via GPS

During the walk

  Proactively act on any foot soreness by applying breathable tape or Complead plasters to stop rubbing
  Keep an eye on any strains and take ibuprofen if really necessary
  Keep hydrated

Immediately after the walk

  Stop the Endomondo application
  Take a shower on arrival but use cold water on calves and feet
  Perform post-walk foot-care as appropriate
  Dry boots if wet. Remove insoles and laces for quicker drying

In the evening

  Refer to my day guide to ensure I obtain any money or food required for coming days
  Repack as much as possible with attention to weight distribution and general accessibility
  Check twitter for any comments relating to tonight’s destination and tomorrow’s route. I found accounts like @NationalTrails, @ClevelandWayNT and @NorthYorkMoors to be a regular source of interesting and useful tweets.
Blogging

Preparation
I wanted to try and blog each day, subject to time and connectivity. What I didn’t want to do was spend my evenings just staring at a screen so I did everything possible to prepare prior to starting the walk so that the act of blogging became as simple as possible.

  I developed a generic blog template which would consist of three sections; words and pictures for the day, walking statistics (from Endomondo) and a google map of the days route
  The google map for each days walking was created in advance
  I created a WordPress draft blog entry for each days walk based on the generic template with the correct map pre-inserted
  With no guarantee of internet access I installed Evernote as a primitive text entry application and Photoshop Express for offline photo manipulation.

Composing each blog entry

My motivation for blogging comes from inspiration in the day’s events. By allowing plenty of time each day for not walking I was able to stop and explore things or spend more time talking to people I met without worrying about the schedule. Whenever I stopped for a break I would take out my little notepad and record the events that had caught my attention, before my notoriously poor memory let them slip.

Also I tried to take more photos than I would normally do so just for myself. On a 10 day walk it would be easy to take hundreds of path and landscape photos which is going to get boring in a blog. Any feature, detail or macro subject helps to provide visual variety and interest to a walking blog. It’s also surprisingly easy later in the walk to get into a rhythm where you forget to take any photos.

Publishing each blog

I tended to find myself in a pub most evenings – a conducive environment for publishing plus the potential for high speed WiFi Generally speaking I typed entries from my notebook into Evernote, refined them and then copied the text into my pre-prepared draft blog for that day in WordPress. Then I would review my photos for the day, choose the ones I wanted to include and perform any basic post-production editing in Photoshop Express.

For the most part I scaled down the resolution in order to decrease file sizes as high resolution photos on a web page look no better than lo-res but for a few panoramic shots I retained the large files so that the images could be clicked upon for a larger display.

Then there’s the business of uploading the photos and placement into the narrative. I try to ensure that photos support the surrounding text but sometimes I realised I had an image I wanted to share that did not chime with any text. In these instances I would add supporting text to assist with the incorporation of the image and retain the narrative flow.

In an ideal world you finish writing your blog and review it several times before sleeping on it and reviewing it again in the morning. My schedule didn’t allow for this final step and I tried to go live with a blog on the day of writing where possible.

Finally I published links to my blog on Facebook and Twitter. I am grateful for all the retweets I received that brought my blogs to a wider audience who were generous with their comments. That’s one of the joys of twitter – instant feedback on what you are doing laced with suggestions and advice from lovely people you have never met.

How well did all of this work?
My 7 inch tablet PC is not ideal for blogging over such a long time. I installed a Swype keyboard to speed up typing but it’s no substitute for a proper keyboard and mouse. I had researched this prior to the walk and other bloggers said it was doable. It was doable (I did it) but it was much slower than normal and altogether messier. The Android WordPress app is slick but lacks some of the features I rely upon so I found myself battling with the web GUI which was a real struggle on the small screen.

On some days you have the time and energy to produce a blog and others you don’t. I chose to progressively fall 5 days behind rather than slog on which would have meant missing out on the “real world” and producing what would no doubt have been poor(er) writing.

I learnt this lesson after committing to blog every day of the 2010 world cup which was totally overwhelming and exhausting even though it was huge fun and produced some of my best writing. Not again!

The walk stats I published came from the Endomondo GPS application which captured distance, speed, altitudes and ascent/descent. Using this was no more than an experiment really which is just as well and I’m not entirely convinced in its altitude accuracy. How for instance can it be right in saying the lowest point in a day was 120ft above sea level when I walked along the beach for half a mile? Hmmm…

Cleveland Way Recommendations

So I have written in some detail about the pragmatics of long distance walking but I haven’t really touched on my thoughts on the Cleveland Way itself. I thoroughly enjoyed the experience and would recommend it to any walker regardless of experience. All you have to do is plan thoroughly and then take that first step.

Here are some personal recommendations although you should take them with a pinch of salt because travel should be about making our own “discoveries” and not copying somebody elses…

Accommodation

Helmsley The Youth Hostel really is first rate and less than a 5 minute stroll to the market square
Osmotherley Anne runs her modest B&B at 4 Belle Vue Cottages (01609-883435) without the aid of a website or even email. However, it’s a snip at £25 and Anne is the most caring host with an formidable knowledge of distance walks.
Chop Gate Forge House solves the thorny problem of sleeping near Clay Bank. Host Robin is worth the fee alone and breakfast may well be your best meal of the walk. The fine pub is yards away, there’s a lift back up to the trail in the morning and you may get to ride Nellie the cow if you are lucky 😉
Kildale The camping barn at Park Farm is great value considering the facilities and you are right on the trail. The views here are stunning and my stay here will last long in the mind.
Robin Hoods Bay Fern Leigh Guest House is just one of many in RHB but I mention it because it’s a lovely old period house and I really liked the engaging landlady who served many home made items at breakfast. Just when I was getting tired of B&Bs Fern Leigh restored my faith in them!

Food

Helmsley Auntie Anne’s Castlegate Bakery at the start of the walk provides a great place to stock up on freshly baked goodies!
Sutton Bank The Hambleton Inn cooks fresh food using local ingredients and I had a great meal here. Just be sure it’s open before you go
Chop Gate The Buck Inn serves fresh local food plus German specialities. I would avoid the pasta however on the basis that this is neither from Yorkshire or the landlady’s homeland
Whitby This is a cheat. I didn’t actually visit Fortune’s Kippers but having been before a visit/purchase from this legendary smokehouse is a must if you have the chance!
Robin Hoods Bay Wayfarers Bistro is renown for quality seafood and I had a very good meal here. It’s a little more expensive than pub prices but decent value for the quality so I considered this a treat. Booking advisable.

Drink

Chop Gate The Buck Inn serves great beer as well as food and the old stone building is loaded with character.
Saltburn Oh this torments me. There’s a heavenly tea room next to the train station close by Sainsburies but I can’t remember the name and it’s off limits to google maps being in the pedestrianised precinct. Seek it out for loose leaf tea in assorted old china tea pots with an assortment of the best home made cake. Yes – this is tea and not beer but it’s still a drink!
Whitby The Duke Of York stocks some decent ales but my recommendation is based on the view over the harbour. Grab a bay window seat at this wooden beamed pub and it almost feels like you are aboard some sailing vessel.
Robin Hoods Bay Another cheat because I didn’t drink here this time but Wainwright’s Bar in the Bay Hotel is akin to a pirate’s den decked out in wood and stone with the sea just a walls width away. Marking the end of the C2C it’s also a great place to meet jubilant walkers and down a top Yorkshire ale.
Scarborough North Riding Brew Pub hasn’t won town pub of the year for the last 5 years for nothing. Fabulous range and quality of ales, some brewed on the premises, plus unpretentious ambiance make this my top tipple of the tour

Places

I started to make a list of places I was enthused about and realised I had just catalogued most of the Cleveland Way! Here then are a few possible less obvious points of interest…

Rievaulx Abbey Even if you don’t pay to go in it’s worth the minor detour to see the remains of this imposing structure
Sutton Bank Visitor Centre A trip to this impressive facility will heighten your appreciation of the walk along Sutton Bank to Osmotherley
Saltburn Pier Walk to the end, turn around 360 degrees and take in the scene. Your first taste of the sea at the half way stage of the trail.
Sandsend Beach Approach Whitby along this endless sandy beach if the tide allows
Ravenscar Explore the exposed cliff-top site of the abortive town-that-never-was
The Spa A Scarborough icon and great for people-watching over a cuppa
Filey Coble Landing Evocative slipway from which fishing vessels are still launched. Also gateway to an extensive promenade with panoramic views of Filey Bay

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Following a day off in sunny Scarborough I am feeling refreshed and ready to complete my first ever National Trail. Yesterday I did little more than potter around like a tourist. Perhaps the highlight of my rest day was walking past Scarborough cricket ground, realising the gates were open and popping in to watch the last 10 overs between two talented youth teams.

Inevitably any vitamin D accumulated under yesterday’s skies is now crawling out of my pores with the return of my own personal rain god, although for the time being I’m being treated only to a fine mizzle. This suits me fine as according to my much-abused Cleveland Way guide book it isn’t considered cheating to catch an open top tourist bus from the North Bay to the Spa in the South Bay.

On the buses

On the buses

I hop into the 109 bus and eagerly take my place on the top deck like some young boy on a school trip. Instead of heading down the sea-front and around the headland as expected the bus takes off up the hill through town where I get a birds-eye view of bedroom windows and offices, before eventually rejoining the promenade in South Bay. Embarrassing.

Right bus, wrong direction

Right bus, wrong direction

I love the ambience of the grand old Spa, especially the inappropriately named Sun Court. Elderly couples sip tea silently looking out to sea, or perhaps only as far as the rain drops sliding down the windows, as they contemplate an afternoon performance watching Howard Beaumont play “light classics”. The thought of this alone is enough to propel me with some vigour into the damp horizon.

Rain Court

Rain Court

The path sticks to the shoreline at first, barely out of reach of the highest tide which licks against my feet at one point. Not for the first time I imagine returning here to watch the sea when it is angry!

No danger today

No danger today

On this final day my rucksack feels almost weightless on the first climb up to higher ground. This may be partly due to the reduced water load following yesterdays leakage fiasco but there is no doubt that your body gets used to the strains put upon it over time.

My rucksack feels weightless. Hang on, where is it?

My rucksack feels weightless. Hang on, where is it?

The cliffs south of Scarborough exhibit plenty of signs of slippage. Will all of this rain accelerate the erosion? Perhaps on some hypothetical return journey I would find some short sections of the walk to have been redirected inland. Damp hay bales peer through the haze when only days ago their woven strands of gold sparkled brightly.

Soggy harvest

Soggy harvest

The paths here are muddier than they have been so far on the coastal leg and caution is needed to avoid any slips. Sometimes the visibility clears momentarily to reveal the rough cliff face all the way down to the sea. There must be plenty of interest here for geologists.

Now thats what you call a cliff

Now thats what you call a cliff

Despite the drizzle there is no wind and it doesn’t feel cold. The landscape though keeps dropping hints that it can get very rough up here.

Surfs really up

Surfs really up

So easy is the walk that the miles are flying by. The walking feels different today – less isolated – as houses are visible at many points and then a golf course keeps me me company over the distance of a few holes. Golfers in purple clad waterproofs take it in turns to hit their tee shots into the same fairway bunker, presumably unintentionally.

Cliff-top home, for now...

Cliff-top home, for now…

For the first time on the Cleveland Way I come across a large walking party of perhaps 30 people, also heading towards Filey. The path has momentarily joined a road and I storm pass in order to get ahead of them before it narrows back into the undergrowth. Only when I look over my shoulder and don’t see them do I realise I have missed the turn-off in my haste. Not only do I have to sheepishly retrace my steps and excuse my way past them all but they know I missed the turn. Embarrassing. Again.

It’s quiet from here with barely a soul on the trail. I’m wrapped up in idle thought – distance walking is good for that – when out of the haze I see a shape that I recognise. It’s a carved stone that looks similar to the one I saw in Helmsley at the start of the walk. It is inscribed with the words Cleveland Way. This must be Filey Brigg! I’m here – the walk is over!

Done it!

Done it!

And that’s it. There are no fireworks – it is just me, and my immediate thought is “what now?”. It feels like an anticlimax, probably because due to the limited visibility the end just snuck up on me.

We don't need good weather for the beach. We're British!

We don’t need good weather for the beach. We’re British!

Filey Brigg is a long finger of cliff that extends out to sea to form the northern end of the bay. I continue my walk south down to the beach with the intention of continuing to the end of the finger (the fingernail?) but the tide is too high, so I continue a few hundred yards to Filey and up a cobblestone slipway. The slipway is a parking lot for fishing boats once again lending evidence to my optimistic theory that small fishing businesses are at least surviving if not thriving.

Working boat

Working boat

There may be no marching band to herald the completion of my walk but I’m determined to immerse myself in the essence of Filey (talcum powder as it turns out) and treat my arrival as a celebration. The worst overnight accommodation of my trip (camping barn included) awaits me at a pub – a cold room where the en-suite has a bath but no shower – but once again there’s a warm welcome.

Never was a street so aptly named

Never was a street so aptly named

And so to a pub to make something of the evening. It’s a Friday evening and everywhere is quiet it seems except for the Imperial Vaults where a live band is setting up. I grab the only free table and prepare to be entertained, but my entertainment when it arrives is not from the band.

Sue and Frank ask if they can share the table and we end up chatting all evening. Sue is an established expert in marine biology. She exudes boundless energy and enthusiasm for her field and tells me how she is out on the exposed Brigg in all weathers collecting samples. It is wonderful when somebody has so clearly found their vocation and she is funny to boot. Frank is a well travelled session musician who seems to have played with everybody. He speaks modestly about his musical career but I’m in awe of this guy who has struck out and done so much.

We discuss all sorts of topics with shared enthusiasm but I’m captivated by a tale of treasure! John Paul Jones (no, not that one) is commonly thought of as the father of the US navy. His ship, the legendary Bonhomme Richard, was sank off these shores in 1779 and has never been found. Frank tells me about a diver here called John Adams (probably drinking in The Grapes right now) who claims to have located the wreck after decades of investigation. While all of this may be of passing interest in the UK the ship has the stature of the Mary Rose in the US and heavily funded US search teams have been trying to trace the vessel also. A National Geographic article on the subject makes compulsive reading.

An evening with Sue and Frank caps my day and it is only a shame when we have to go our separate ways. I head to my cave/room with a head full of nautical adventure and the feeling of satisfaction of a completed walk

When I planned the walk I didn’t actually book anywhere at Filey but come Saturday morning I’m glad I did. The sun is out and the skies are clear at last so this is an opportunity to take a proper look at the sea-front.

Just perfect

Just perfect

Filey Bay is huge! I hadn’t appreciated this yesterday but it must be 5 miles wide. There are no amusements here, nor indeed much at all along the front beyond a few basic hot drink stalls and a crazy golf course from the 70s. I lose myself in the moment – an endless strip of pebble dashed sand, the hypnotic rise and fall of breaking waves providing an unchallenged soundtrack, sunlight dazzling off the infinite horizon. This is sublime.

Part of the landscape

Part of the landscape

Back on the cobblestone slipway the boats are lined up following their early morning rounds. I’m too late to see the action but would love to know if this tractor still actually works. Surely not…

Rust bucket

Rust bucket

I’ve a bus to catch to Scarborough and then onto Helmsley where I hope my car is still parked. There’s just time to wonder around the streets and get a feel for Filey, and I have to say – it’s joyous! I sometimes lament modern life and pine for at least some aspects of the “old days” but at Filey the old days live on – hilariously so! It’s as if father time arrived at the town boundary and said – Nah.

Town of the future

Town of the future

Several people have actually apologised to me about the time-warp that they call home. God knows I wouldn’t want to live here but I’m so glad that it exists! Everyone is ancient. Where are all the young people? OMG – what have they done with the young people?! When I do finally see a young boy and girl they are throwing a brick into a gravel patch. This place has nothing for them.

Hot wheels

Hot wheels

Every other shop seems to sell or hire mobility scooters. A menswear shop has me laughing out loud with its window display – a trilby hat, thermal underwear, grey cardigan and a plastic duck – which for some reason just works! I am thrilled at the thought that the the town of Filey must consistently top a sales graph at the headquarters of Izal. But I love the sense of community and the fact that, in repelling almost all of the high street chains, the streets are packed full of small family businesses. Yes!

Filey has after all served up a memorable end to a walk that has been rich in memories. And with that I board the bus to Scarborough. And boy, you should see the bus station…

Here’s today’s walk in point form…

In a nutshell
The final day and completion of my Cleveland Way walk!

High point
Sharing my evening with Sue and Frank (plus finishing the walk of course)

Low point
Checking into a cold pub room with no shower and little hot water.

Daily Stats
Stage  10 – Scarborough to Filey
Distance  11.2 miles Speed  3.5 mph
Lowest  121ft Highest  459ft
Ascent  636ft Descent  587ft

…and the route taken…


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The finish line may be in sight but the question is whether I can stay motived to complete the walk. Overnights like Fern Leigh B&B present a challenge to my mental stamina because they are so very comfortable. Breakfast in the panelled dining room is a massive treat as my host makes her own bread, preserves and yoghurt. It is getting increasingly hard to rouse myself from this comfort, to leave for a half day walk in mixed weather while carrying a rucksack up and down the hills.

I’m starting to come down with a cold which may explain any lethargy. Lucky that today’s walk to Scarborough starts off with an easy roll down the hill to the foot of Robin Hoods Bay. My problems come quickly to the fore this morning. The damp feeling on my back hasn’t been a trick of my imagination as I realise the cheap water bladder bought off eBay prior to the walk is leaking. I suspected as much a couple of days ago but what had started off with dampness has now progressed to a portable waterfall.

Lack of bladder control

Lack of bladder control

Abandoning my water supply is not an option but I only have a half litre bottle in which I could decant the water, which would be too little for five hours on the hills. I take the decision to attach the bladder to the rear of my rucksack with the acceptance that this 2.5l weight will throw out my balance. So long as I walk carefully things should be fine…

Within 90 seconds I slip backwards while walking down some wet stairs, the leveraged weight pulling me off balance. I get up gingerly and take stock – it’s OK, nobody saw me.

I'm about to slip down the wooden stairs...

I’m about to slip down the wooden stairs…

The path follows some steps and then levels off before descending again down to the delightfully named Boggle Hole which appears to be nothing more than a minor inlet where a stream meets the sea. The only construction I can see here is a Youth Hostel which I imagine must be very popular with coastal walkers.

After another brief encounter with an inlet at Stoupe Beck the path heads off up again through the trees, emerging on the cliff edge from which I would apparently be able to make out Scarborough Castle and even Filey Brigg were it not for a slight sea haze that is limiting the horizon and flattening my photos.

Good views in the right conditions

Good views in the right conditions

One feature that does loom large from a distance is Ravenscar, a village set high on a cliff-top that I already know about having seen it featured on BBC’s Coast programme.

Ravenscar, the resort that never was

Ravenscar, the resort that never was

In the late 19th century plans were drawn up to construct a holiday resort to attract visitors away from existing resorts like Scarborough via the new railway line. A road system was constructed and basic amenities provisioned but the scheme was prematurely brought to an end through bankruptcy. A handful of houses were built but you have to wonder how popular the destination would have been high on a hill, exposed to strong winds and with no access to the sea shore.

Curbed ambitions

Curbed ambitions

I had hoped to spend awhile here exploring the remnants of this ghost town but cold nagging rain put paid to my enthusiasm. An original street curb is all that I can make out as the Cleveland Way path returns to the cliff edge. It is cliff walking all the way from here and while I never tire of the rugged beauty of this coastline it does feel increasingly like Autumn is on the way.

A path for all seasons

A path for all seasons

A curious huddle of buildings in a field south of Ravenscar arouses my curiosity and a sign next to a small brick Coastguard lookout shelter by the path explains that they formed part of a radar station during the war. Constructed in late 1940 as part of a chain of coastal stations a radar dish was mounted on top of the barrel shaped building (left) while staff occupied a building further up the hill. These unlikely shells are now listed as Ancient Monuments and afforded protection as such. My photo is rubbish but some photos by Rich Cooper are much more illuminating.

Former radar station near Ravenscar

Former radar station near Ravenscar

The path remains high except for a dip down to Hayburn Wyke which makes an attractive rocky stopping off point. It’s very peaceful here, just the hypnotic sounds of the waves crashing against the shoreline punctuated by bird calls carried on the wind. It’s here that I finally give up on my badly suspended water bladder which has been throwing me off balance, and decant what I can into a hand-held water bottle.

Dramatic cliffs

Dramatic cliffs

Further down the coast there is yet more evidence of the never-ending battle between land and sea. Of course, the sea always wins in the end, but not before generations of sea-birds have exploited the crags and crannies of the rock face for breeding and shelter.

The sea always wins in the end

The sea always wins in the end

I’m not far north of Scarborough when I draw near to a flock of bird-watchers (what is the collective term for bird-watchers? flock, gaggle, brood, nerd?). They are pointing an array of optical devices towards a spot in the gorse overlooking the sea – there must be something dramatic or exotic to see! Taking care not to make any sudden moves or create a noise I whisper in reverence to a woolly hatted bearded twitcher (common garden variety), asking what they have in their sights. “Oh, nothing special today – mostly gulls and plovers”. Oh, right then.

Northern approaches to Scarborough - click to expand

Northern approaches to Scarborough – click to expand

Underwhelmed by this news I listen to a podcast for the next few easy miles until Scarborough castle materialises and before long the entire North Bay opens up over a headland. It has been years since I visited Scarborough and so, despite being close to the end of the Cleveland Way, I have booked an extra night here to allow some exploration and rest.

My pleasant B&B is easy to locate on the cliff above this bay and I turn myself around before heading out again to make the most of the days remaining light. There are so many Hotels and B&Bs here which makes for competitive rates but also for struggling businesses according to my landlady.

View from the Castle Road - click to expand

View from the Castle Road – click to expand

The high coastal road leading towards the castle is lined with imposing B&Bs that hark back to a time when “architecture” wasn’t some optional extra on new-builds. They exude a faded grandeur, some optimistically clinging onto the label of Hotel like some English Sunset Boulevard. And what names – The Malborough, Balmoral, Belmont – yet with plastic signs, flaking paint and I imagine wall-to-wall faded carpet imbued with the lingering essence of full English Breakfast. Yet these businesses persist and there is a genuine warmth about them that I’m so fond of.

Beyond the castle the path winds down to the old harbour. In these times of hardship for traditional industries I have been heartened to come across seemingly successful fishing businesses operating from harbours like Staithes, Runswick Bay, Whitby and Robin Hoods Bay so it’s pleasing to see plenty of signs of life also here in Scarborough.

Still farming the seas

Still farming the seas

The harbour is crowded with vessels of all types and purpose, from crab and fishing boats to sailing boats and sea cruise vessels. A school party is rumbustiously boarding an ageing tour boat, the strains of Celine Dion’s Titanic theme tune drifting out of the PA in an attempt at humour the kids will probably be too young to get.

Salty old sea dog

Salty old sea dog

There’s a lot here to see and enjoy, a view that that plenty of benched chip-consuming onlookers agree with. I particularly like the swimmer statue facing south across the bay. It has not just grace but humour, unlike the over-hyped Damien Hirst statue I saw in Ilfracombe recently that reminded me of Terminator.

Ready for a dip

Ready for a dip

Considering the long embedded status of Scarborough as a tourist resort it is refreshing to find that the sea-front has not been allowed to be gobbled up by amusement arcades. Of course there are a few but this is not some Blackpool of the North East. There has to be a balance between tack and taste, new and old in order to keep a place like this alive without destroying its heritage. I note a side-road from a different age and wonder which direction it will pushed in. For me it is an asset to be retained.

Old harbour warehouses

Old harbour warehouses

There’s just about time for a stroll down the South Bay before evening plans take precedence. How wonderful to sea traditional donkey rides on the beach! Despite the gusty weather a few little people are lifted onto the mules by their parents and they totally love it! If only I were less than 13 years old and no more than 7 stone…

Your games console is no match for this

Your games console is no match for this

My tour of the south bay ends shy of the famous Spa which I will visit tomorrow on my day off. Just time to catch the moment before heading off for sustenance.

Birds eye view of the old harbour

Birds eye view of the old harbour

One of the huge benefits of the Cleveland Way as opposed to some other long distance walks is that at the end of a most days walking you get to spend time in inspiring places like Scarborough. I intend to explore more thoroughly on my day off.

In a fair and just world there would be a fabulous pub just yards away from my digs. Just yards away from my digs I come across a fabulous pub. The North Riding Brew Pub is an old hotel that has been re-purposed as a brewery/pub. They keep it so simple and traditional here with no frills, just divine ales. The world is a fair and just place for me tonight.

Here’s today’s walk in point form…

In a nutshell
A blowy walk over high cliffs interspersed with points of historical interest

High point
A tough call, but Scarborough old harbour takes some beating

Low point
Battling with my failed water bladder

Looking ahead
A day of leisure in Scarborough and then the final days walk to Filey!

Daily Stats
Stage  9 – Robin Hoods Bay to Scarborough
Distance  14.4 miles Speed  2.7 mph
Lowest  154ft Highest  791ft
Ascent  764ft Descent  1017ft

…and the route taken…

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The sound I least want to hear when I surface in the morning before a walk is that of rain drops. Oh well. They were forecast for later on in the day and my plan was to leave early and complete a good section of the walk before the weather turned, but now there is no longer any hurry.

Front door view of the morning mizzle

Front door view of the morning mizzle

So far most of my breakfast experiences have been quiet ones with few if any other guests in the room. Not so today with 12 other guests, all non-walkers. One couple are visitors from Australia and the landlord engages them in banter which starts with a playful (but by now probably thinly worn) ribbing of the Aussie cricket team before heading off into a diatribe against whatever he read in the Daily Mail recently.

I almost choke on my toast when being forced to listen to “All these foreigners are benefit scroungers and due to them we have the highest population in Europe“. This from a man who was formerly in the building trade so probably benefited from foreign tradesmen prepared to the jobs some British people don’t want to do at lower wages. This from a self confessed property baron who doubtless rents out houses at an inflated rate knowing that the tax payer will pick up his tab via the housing benefits that some of his tenants will be forced to claim. One advantage of having to sit through a loud public bout of bigotry is that heading out into the rain becomes an attractive option.

A damp Whitby harbour

A damp Whitby harbour

If rain “suits” a place then Whitby is that place. The walk down to the harbour provides a visual feast in all weather. A party of school kids bearing clip-boards are supposed to be questioning people on the streets for some project but most of them are too shy to stop anyone until the teacher almost physically shoves them towards passers-by. I pick up some brazil nuts for the journey and set about tackling the famous 199 steps that lead up to the infamous Whitby Abbey, immortalised by Bram Stoker as a setting for Dracula. The steps have always bothered me, not because of the number but because they are spaced just a bit too close together to walk them one at a time but a bit too far to make two a comfortable proposition.

Those steps

Those steps

At the top a strong gusty wind is blowing the rain all over the place. Tourists are sheltering in the porch of gothic St Marys church apart from one delightful older couple serenely gazing out over the town below licking ice cream, oblivious to the squall. I salute them!

View from the Abbey

View from the Abbey

Amongst the sheltering mortals I bask in a misplaced sense of superiority as I march nonchalantly out of the Church with my rucksack into a storm that holds no fears for me. Fortunately I am out of sight of their admiring gaze when the wind catches my rucksack and slams me embarrassingly into a stone wall. This rucksack makes quite an effective sail, unfortunately. Another pit-stop to remove the flapping waterproof cover which I fear will be rendered ineffective in the north sea.

Whitby lighthouse and holiday lets

Whitby lighthouse and holiday lets

This will be my shortest walk of the trail and it’s one I’m familiar with. The wind is whipping the sea into a frothy soup on the rocks below. None of the cliff dwelling birds are venturing out in these conditions but a few fellow walkers cross my path. Whitby Lighthouse was built in 1858 and isn’t in operation today although I believe it is still active via an automated system. Some of the buildings are leased out as holiday rentals. This would make a fabulous place to stay, just so long as the fog horn on the roof is no longer in use.

Some sections of path are running out of time

Some sections of path are running out of time

The exposed cliff path winds along some slippery muddy sections, through a caravan site and then by farm land. It’s here that I realise that my glasses are no longer in the pocket I put them in. I check all of my other pockets, plus my face which is normally where they turn up, but to no avail. I don’t need them all of the time but the realisation that there’s an England match on TV tonight sends a chill down my spine. The chances of finding them seem slim but they must have fallen out when I took my camera out of the same pocket to take a photo.

Will far-distant descendants be chipping fossilised cars out of the Whitby cliffs?

Will far-distant descendants be chipping fossilised cars out of the Whitby cliffs?

With a resigned air of inevitability I retrace my steps a quarter of a mile to the static caravan site where I last stopped to take a photo. I know exactly where I stood but the chances of finding my glasses are … 100%. There they are – what a stroke of luck! Tired of glasses I went for a contact lens fitting a few years ago but 45 minutes spent fruitlessly trying to fish them out of my eyes was enough to persuade my optician that they weren’t for me.

The picture that almost cost my glasses

The picture that almost cost my glasses

Back along the path and arable land gives way to pasture fields. On this trip I have developed a great deal of respect for cows. Whatever the weather there they are munching away without a moo of complaint. Even on Fridays subaquatic test of survival I staggered past cows floating in fields next to my path/river that exuded this air of calmness at odds with their ordeal. A lesson for the non-bovine amongst us…

Enjoying the bracing walk

Enjoying the bracing walk

Before I know it Robin Hoods Bay is upon me and it is only 1pm. What a grand building I am staying in tonight! This 19th century lodge was hewn out of stone for a sea-captain. A decorative tiled entrance porch leads through an original stained glassed door into a formal hallway with high ceiling, wood panelled walls and a grandfather clock. A heavy wooden staircase leads up to my room, known as the “Vicars Study” – though my unholy presence will doubtless cancel things out.

I do like my landlady – she is a lot of fun! We talk for quite some time and she shares various tales with me. My favourite concerns an influx of American tourists who turned up in numbers after the area was promoted by The Smithsonian as being good walking country. It seems that many of these visitors arrived lugging six suitcases and suspiciously brand-new unworn walking boots. These city types were expecting relatively level paved walking trails and when faced with miles of undulating muddy path took to catching taxis between their overnight stops, sometimes even leaving their once-used boots behind. All a far cry from the savvy and capable North Americans I have met so far this week.

The charm of Robin Hoods Bay

The charm of Robin Hoods Bay

Following the usual routine of shower, clean clothes and a cup of tea I head down the notoriously steep hill that leads to the bay. It’s hard to describe Robin Hoods Bay if you aren’t familiar with it but it is charming and charismatic in equal measure. The main road is lined with old stone buildings while quaint alleyways wind away past shoe-horned cottages, mostly available as holiday rentals.

Ultimate destination for C2C walkers

Ultimate destination for C2C walkers

The Bay Hotel overlooking the sea at the bottom of the hill bears a plaque marking the end of the Coast-to-Coast walk. This place is legendary amongst C2C walkers who will pose for photos with a pint at the end of their travails. Unfortunately the atmospheric lower bar is shut this afternoon while the upper bay is packed full of people, many of whom don’t appeared to have walked further than from the car park at the top of the hill.

Snug at the Laurel Inn

Snug at the Laurel Inn

What I really crave for is a seat and a cup of tea so it’s only with partial success that I find myself half way up the hill at the Laurel Inn nursing a beer. This pub, like so many stone buildings in Robin Hoods Bay looks like it has been carved out of the rocky hillside. There could be no more snug hideaway on a grizzly day, thick walls keeping out the elements, timber beamed ceiling, an open fire and sturdy ales. Refreshed by the “cup of tea” my early evening appointment is with the much vaunted Wayfarer Bistro which just about lives up to its hype. Halibut with crab, smoked haddock and samphire sauce is just great. My only complaint – a playlist of James Blunt, Coldplay and Phil Collins. Drone strikes have been ordered for less.

Back at the ranch I have time to reflect on my progress. Perhaps I was spoilt by the first 4 days that were so warm and dry. Friday’s wake-up call has left me wary of rain forecasts but there are just 2 remaining days of this adventure, whatever the heavens send. Enough reflection – I settle in for the evening and consume copious amounts of earl grey while watching an England performance that makes me wish I hadn’t found my glasses.

Here’s today’s walk in point form…

In a nutshell
A bracing but easy walk that perfectly typified the North Yorkshire coastline from start to finish.

High point
A gusty wind blowing salty rain into your face while the sea boils far below – can’t beat it!

Low point
The temporary loss of my visual apparatus

Looking ahead
The walk to Scarborough should be full of interest. I’m looking forward to seeing Ravenscar – the resort that never was.

Daily Stats
Stage  8 – Whitby to Robin Hoods Bay
Distance  7.5 miles Speed  3.2 mph
Lowest  295ft Highest  476ft
Ascent  138ft Descent  217ft

…and the route taken…

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I’m beginning to feel like Mr Benn. Every day I wake up in a different room and it takes a second to work out where I am and remember what I’m doing. Today I’m a sailor. At least I’m in a nautically themed bedroom in a harbour cottage built by a sea captain and seagulls are making a racket outside.

With another huge cooked breakfast under (and indeed over) my belt my landlady asks about today’s walk and when I tell her I’m off to Whitby she asks me whether the tide will allow me to traverse Runswick Bay. If only I had actually read my soggy guide book – it does actually say that you can’t complete this section of the walk if the tide is in. Fortunately it’s going to be out, but that’s just pure chance.

Victim of the elements on Friday's walk of misery

Victim of the elements on Friday’s walk of misery

During check-out the landlady once again stands passively by and watches her cat rub moulting hair all over my rucksack and attempting to lick my water supply mouthpiece, before I whip it out of kitty’s unhygienic grasp. She is a cat obsessive to the point that not only does she let them do what they want but they know that they are more important than her or any of her guests.

It can't be - or can it?

It can’t be – or can it?

Staithes harbour detains me for some more photos, not only of the natural scenery but also of the BBC camera unit filming Old Jacks Boat. What’s this? – CRIBBINS AHOY!!

Cribbins!

Cribbins!

Bernard Cribbins – the great old man himself – is there mulling around in the lead role of Old Jack. This is a man who has featured in Carry On films, worked with Alfred Hitchcock, appeared in a Bond film, narrated the Wombles and almost landed the Dr Who role ahead of Tom Baker.

Salty the dog

Salty the dog

From what I overheard last night in the Cod And Lobster he secured the Old Jack role ahead of Sir Ian McKellan, while his wage demands forced them to drop Angelina Jolie and Morgan Freeman from the original supporting cast. Just rumours mind. Apparently I’m not able to talk to him as he is “in character” but I do get to stroke Salty the dog – the real star of the show.

The REAL work still goes on in Staithes

The REAL work still goes on in Staithes

All of this is obviously a time-wasting scheme to delay my first hill of the day. In fact the hills are getting easier as is the walk itself.

Former quarrying site Port Mulgrave is soon upon me. A perplexed looking man asks me if there is a way down to the sea. I passed a sign to the cove just 30 yards back and I can see another sign ahead – he can’t have looked very hard. It’s only a tiny inlet and there won’t be much down there but since he pulled up in a Range Rover he probably just has a body to dump.

The top catch from Bully's prize board

The top catch from Bully’s prize board

Runswick Bay 40 minutes later is an altogether more impressive affair. A rotund fisherman dressed for all-weather action sits in his fishing vessel as a tractor tows it to the sea. Incongruously he sips tea from a dainty cup while his vessel is not some crusty old wooden junk but a flash speedboat. Maybe he’s just some amateur carp fisherman who won the star prize on Bullseye.

Low tide at Runswick Bay

Low tide at Runswick Bay

The panoramic bay is sandy until it meets the cliffs which explains why the walk cannot be completed at high tide. Time to write a post card and read the Cleveland Way guide book – something I haven’t been doing since it was borrowed by Davy Crockett. It says that there are caves in the cliffs known as Hob Holes and that according to legend whooping cough can be cured by the hob-goblins that live in them. I could be mistaken but I’m sure I heard this quoted somewhere before, perhaps from Gillian McKeith.

Into the valley of confusion

Into the valley of confusion

Did the hob goblins sense my scepticism and seek to punish me? All I know is that after passing the caves and entering a signposted gully I managed to miss the turn-off for the trail and continue walking up a steep path for some considerable distance, through a strange assortment of grouse enclosures littered with shotgun cartridges. The mistake cost me an hour and robbed me of my sanity. On the plus side I saw an otter that I would otherwise have missed, in a hillbilly valley that was just one banjo short of “Deliverence”.

From now on I will double check the signs

From now on I will double check the signs

Once normality is restored the journey to Sandsend is easy and rapid. The precipitous cliff path offers some dramatic views down to the sea with the horizon broken only by the odd container ship. There’s a hive of farming activity on the landside as purposeful growling machines plough and harvest. I envy the farm-hand that gets to drive the Claus Dominator. Their workload must diminish a little each year as landside succumbs to landslide.

A chance to put my feet up

A chance to put my feet up

Eventually I round the headland into Sandsend where I camp myself at a cafe overlooking the beach and order a coffee. There’s plenty to keep me entertained. Four cute ducks waddle in line across the sand until they reach a freshwater stream that feeds the sea. An ADHD kid runs around the sandy expanse shouting to nobody like a lunatic (I’m just jealous). Best of all, a flash-mob style gathering of people picking through the piles of storm blown driftwood for any samples that can be passed off as art or interior decoration. Habitat is dead. Long live Habitat.

Driftwood but no whisky

Driftwood but no whisky

There is just enough time to complete the walk to Whitby via the long sandy beach before the rising tide closes my window of opportunity.

Barely a soul on the beach

Barely a soul on the beach

I know Whitby well and my B&B on East Terrace is of classic build and in a great location.

View from outside my lodgings across the harbour to Whitby Abbey

View from outside my lodgings across the harbour to Whitby Abbey

I learn that it was built as a home for Captain Cook’s wife who presumably had the run of the place most of the time, what with Jimmy always swanning around places like Hawaii discovering new cocktails.

Bram Stokers Whitby - Goths, Ghouls and creatures that go Bite in the night

Bram Stokers Whitby – Goths, Ghouls and creatures that go Bite in the night

A light evening squall deposits just enough rain to clear the streets of casual tourists leaving silent Whitby at its most dramatic, as dusk approaches and the Abbey falls into shadow over the east cliff. I steal a window seat in the Duke Of York at the foot of those steps nursing a pint while watching the harbour lights flicker into life as the rain beats down. Whitby’s still got it.

Here’s today’s walk in point form…

In a nutshell
A day full of drama: a film set in Staithes, a personal melodrama in Runswick Bay, the setting of a literary classic in Whitby

High point
Meeting Salty the dog

Low point
Getting lost in redneck country

Looking ahead
A short walk to Robin Hoods Bay – another very special place

Daily Stats
Stage  7 – Staithes to Whitby
Distance  13.2 miles Speed  2.6 mph
Lowest  125ft Highest  512ft
Ascent  558ft Descent  794ft

…and the route taken…

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Back on the road again! There are no other guests at breakfast this morning so landlady Pat comes over for a chin wag. She is hosting an annual charity event at the pub in aid of the rescue helicopter and confides that she was once rescued herself after injuring herself on a nearby cliff path. In fact the path I will be taking today…

By the time I’m packed and leaving cakes and garden produce have materialised on the tables downstairs. Most exciting is the appearance of huge cardboard cheques to be held up in publicity photographs once the amount raised is known. It turns out you can just walk into a bank and they will give these to you!

Saltburn Pier near the start of the walk

Saltburn Pier near the start of the walk

Departure from the Wharton Arms feels somewhat strange. I arrived out of a storm an exhausted drowned rat but depart refreshed into clear blue sunny skies to the chimes of Sunday church bells. What a difference two days make, as the unimaginative B-side to a song once went.

The wooden footpath to Saltburn is littered with debris from Fridays flooding plus a few residual puddles. After a brief detour to pick up some lunch my abused “back” legs haul me up yet another hill, this time to Hunt Cliff with panoramic views south over Saltburn.

My face in the way of a good view

My face in the way of a good view

I have been looking forward to the coastal path and it was worth the wait, with endless sea to my left, perfect golden fields to my right and a gently undulating footpath in between.

Olympic funded art on the coastal trail

Olympic funded art on the coastal trail

It’s a surprise to see a railway track so close to the cliff edge and my Cleveland Way guide book explains that this belongs to a mining company. Iron stone has long been extracted here but now it is an unattractive steel works that dominated the landscape at Skinningrove. There have been far more walkers on this stretch than I have seen so far, plus a flick of bird watchers for good measure.

Iron-rich stone

Iron-rich stone

Skinningrove itself seems to be a Mecca for dog walkers with the beach alive with happy hairing hounds who are making the most of this giant play area.

Old boat at Skinningrove

Old boat at Skinningrove

A mile after lunch tiredness kicks in and a bench on the headland tempts me into a lie down under the cloudless blue sky. Without realising it I nod off and awake from a loud snoring doze just as some walkers pass by.

Alum heritage

Alum heritage

The following 4 miles to Staithes are characterised by former alum quarries and coastal erosion, as witnessed when my road simply ran out.

Road to nowhere

Road to nowhere

I have heard that Staithes is very quaint and so it proves to be, reminding me of a Cornish fishing village with its narrow quirky alleyways and old stone buildings. Finding my B&B is easy. My landlady tells me this is the newest cottages in old Staithes harbour, which still makes it over 100 years old. It’s a lovely cosy B&B with a nautical theme and a random low ceilinged layout as quirky as Staithes itself.

Staithes - click to enlarge

Staithes – click to enlarge

Out into Staithes for a few pictures before the light fails. There’s a film crew recording the CBBC kids programme Old Jack’s Boat. The producer and crew pile into the pub I’m in – the Cod And Lobster – to wind down and plan tomorrows filming schedule. It’s only after a while that I realise I’m drinking an ale called Old Jack’s Tipple. According to the producer there are other tie-ins around the village. It’s reminiscent of Balamory/Tobermory.

Bay at high tide - click to enlarge

Bay at high tide – click to enlarge

Tis a perishing cold night as I crawl back up the hill to my lodgings. Staithes has captured my imagination and I plan to take a more thorough look in daylight.

Here’s today’s walk in point form…

In a nutshell
After 5 days on the moors comes the coastal section of the walk

High point
Lovely Staithes living up to it’s reputation

Low point
Absolutely none

Looking ahead
Whitby – one of my favourite places

Daily Stats
Stage  6 – Skelton to Staithes
Distance  12.2 miles Speed  2.6 mph
Lowest  138ft Highest  843ft
Ascent  823ft Descent  1207ft

…and the route taken…

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Boy do I feel better! Last night I slept the sleep of Pharaohs. Sun beams thorough the window and yesterday’s waterlogged test of endurance could be the product of a bad dream were it not for my still-soaking boots. Drying them before my walk resumes will be a priority but the good news is that today is a rest day.

The sun is back!

The sun is back!

Over breakfast I meet a couple who checked in unexpectedly last night after road flooding prevented their escape. They share a wonderful story about a deceased relative who, having emigrated to New Zealand, bequeathed a narwhal tusk to a museum in Whitby. They brought it over on a commercial flight some years ago and this week have been to see it at the museum. It seems they narwhal tusks are not considered to be offensive weapons by air carriers.

This is my first opportunity to size up the Wharton Arms. It is a large traditional pub serving beer but not food. Landlady Pat says she had many loyal regulars, some who have been coming here for 30+ years – during which the decor had not changed

This sign tells you everything you need to know about the Wharton Arms

This sign tells you everything you need to know about the Wharton Arms

When I mention that I’m off to Saltburn she insists on diving me there, mostly because of her innate kindness but also I imagine because she wants to see the flood damage. Both of the roads from Skelton to Saltburn are blocked with “road closed” signs. She ignores the latter and pledges to get me as close as possible. We pass under a stone railway bridge that I recognise from a twitter picture in which a canoeist is rowing under it. What is it about floods and canoeists? The waters have receded overnight leaving a few inches that we can drive through.

Derailed

Derailed

We make it all the way to Saltburn, where the carnage becomes apparent. The miniature railway line has been hit particularly badly. JCBs have cleared the roads of debris and uprooted trees lie on the verges. Amongst the onlookers a couple of Environmental Agency staff are manfully attempting to get on top of things.

Logjam

Logjam

They aren’t able to tell me much except that two cars have been washed down the swollen beck. A suited reporter with a serious camera is filming a piece for the regional news, the innocent blue skies mischievously casting doubt on the efficacy of his story.

Ocean stroll

Ocean stroll

Saltburn developed into a working class holiday destination in the 19th century. The pier was once 1500ft long but has been progressively truncated by a series of storms and one messy ship collision, leaving it at just the perfect length for a short stroll while still offering fine views back to the town.

Quaint sea front

Quaint sea front

There’s a funicular, miles of good castling sand and sight of the impressive cliffs I’ll be walking along tomorrow as I embark on the coastal half of the route. How could I not want to carry on with the walk now?

Tomorrows walk

Tomorrows walk

Onto the pressing business of rest. It’s surprising how much time one can burn pottering around shops and drinking Earl Grey. To cap this off I fall asleep on a bench listening to music. Only once I’m minded to return to Skelton do I find out that the bus service has been cancelled due to the crumbling road surface. My phone is dead but local gent Tony kindly rings for a taxi. Then, a huge unexpected bonus: he is a poet and recites a humorous and poignant poem about growing up with a tin bath in a working class family. What a talented man – I’m enthralled!

Sunset in Skelton

Sunset in Skelton

Back in Skelton the Royal George is the only pub to serve food. Shame that they stopped serving ten minutes prior to my arrival. No matter, I’ll do some blogging over a pint. Except they don’t have WiFi. My difficulties are amusing bar companion Phil who is at pains to stress just how magnificent the food is here. We agree that this is a small community that has no need for fancy “eating out” or communication with “outsiders”.

Phil is sharing the evening with Darren and Wendy who he only met tonight. Darren offers to get the drinks in and meanwhile Wendy finds out that I’m single and tries to set me up on a date with her sister in Newcastle. The next 2 hours are a blur of laughter and ridiculousness. When I eventually return to the Wharton Arms my stomach reminds me I that I never did get around to feeding it. Not to worry – on a walk like this you are never more than a few hours away from the next full English breakfast.

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