Cleveland Way #6 – Skelton to Staithes

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…

Cleveland Way – Rest day in Saltburn

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.

Cleveland Way #5 – Kildale to Skelton

Rain was forecast and sure enough a tinkling on the barn roof greets my awakening. It felt cold last night but I just about got by using a super-light sleeping bag liner.

Soggy stables
Soggy stables

One bowl of porridge later (courtesy of the microwave in my barn-suite) I go to pay a ridiculous £8 to the farmer who has a day of interior decoration lined up. It’s the Kildale show tomorrow and he is judging the ferrets. There’s also going to be sheep-dog trials and I wish I could be there.

Me, thinking I'm ready for the storm...
Me, thinking I’m ready for the storm…

Rain is expected all day and this is already lined up to be the toughest section of walk but I’m determined to complete it. Besides there is no public transport alternative. As I rejoin the Cleveland Way the rain steps up a gear from steady to strong forcing me to reconsider my decision not to pack my waterproof trousers or gaiters. This decision was based on a fine long-range forecast and the desire to save weight, plus my falling-out with waterproof trousers as you only end up sweating and getting wet regardless. An hour into the walk and my feet are soaked due to water ingress through my socks. Hmmm, gaiters…

Odd to erect a monument to a sea captain on land
Odd to erect a monument to a sea captain on land

There is no let-up and by the time I reach the Cook Monument I am as wet as if I had fallen in a river. That’s no surprise given that the path is now a river, which has the solitary plus that I can just plough through it without a second thought.

This is the path
This is the path

It’s telling that yesterday I had a better view of the Cook Monument from 2 miles away than I have now from 50 yards. Photos are nigh on impossible and with my new camera hermetically sealed in a dry box the few snaps I reel off from my phone are as damp and pathetic as I feel.

I have read that you can often see the sea from the top of Roseberry Topping (a dominant hill) but I’m at the foot of it and I can’t even see the hill let alone anything beyond. Impossibly the rain switches from strong to intense and it’s obvious that this walk will be about survival rather than enjoyment, with 10 miles to go and no prospect of any shelter.

A watered down version of Tim
A watered down version of Tim

What a grim, joyless march of attrition! On one hand I’m laughing at the absurdness of my predicament and placating myself that thousands of fleeing Syrian refugees would gladly swap their plight for this ordeal, but it’s not funny.

Although I can’t see them I know my feet are suffering. Can you get trench foot in 4 hours? Soaked trousers have led to chaffing of the unmentionables. My hands are so cold that it is a struggle to use them and while my legs are fine I need food to sustain my energy levels. When a tree finally offers a little shelter I struggle to eat because my jaw is stiff with cold. Then, my lowest point when I take a wrong turn and have to resort to using my compass.

Not today!
Not today!

In almost 5 hours I don’t see another walker which is unsurprising. Water is streaming off the fields and forming rivers that will cause flooding downstream as I am to later learn.

Drowned rat
Drowned rat

My eventual arrival at the Wharton Arms is a MASSIVE relief. People at the bar are taken aback by my drowned rat appearance. I should be celebrating reaching the half-way stage but I can’t envisage completing the walk the way I feel now.

After a hot shower, dry clothes and 3 hot drinks to raise my core temperature I’m able to eat. Landlady Pat can’t help enough. I planned to take my laundry to a Saltburn laundry tomorrow but she lets me use her washer and dryer.

The local news is full of flood stories. Saltburn 2 miles down the road has been hit badly – all the roads in have been cut off. And to think I almost booked a night there. I’ve no energy to go out and make anything of the evening. I’m totally exhausted.  Sleep is all I … zzzzz


Here’s today’s walk in point form…

In a nutshell
Utterly miserable sub aquatic slog – my worst ever day walking

High point
Arrival at the Wharton Arms – dry, warm & safe

Low point
Realising I had taken a wrong turn while at my lowest ebb

Looking ahead
Thankfully a day off as I couldn’t walk again. I am going to REST

Daily Stats
Stage  5 – Kildale to Skelton
Distance  14.7 miles Speed  3.2 mph
Lowest  525ft Highest  1220ft
Ascent  1182ft Descent  1171ft

…and the route taken…