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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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!
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.