201. Saltburn-by-the Sea to Whitby

Still waiting on a reasonable weather window for Scotland and now in range for a long day trip to the North East. My daughter Nicola, relieved of Pharmacy duties for this week, joined me for this walk, which would be predominantly along the Cleveland Way National Trail.

We set off at 5:30 am for the 200 mile trip to Whitby, where we parked and caught the Stagecoach X4 bus to Saltburn-by-the-Sea. The bus route follows the coast, albeit about a mile inland.

We arrived in Saltburn and immediately made for a cafe to get stocked up with coffee. For a Sunday morning there were a surprisingly large number of people out and about, which probably had something to do with the weather, which was sunny, dry with a very light breeze.

The first job was to ascend a rather steep and muddy path up onto the cliff edge. We could make out Redcar in the distance and many industrial chimneys from Teeside. We passed by the site of a Roman signalling station, one of possibly 5 along this stretch of the coast, built to warn of Pictish invaders from north of the Wall. Nothing remains of the station , other than a notice board telling us of its previous existence. At a large charm bracelet sculpture the path runs alongside a railway. This part of the track once formed part the Whitby to Redcar railway; a railway that hugged the coastline and reminders of which we would see later in the day. Virtually all of the track was pulled up many years ago. However, the site of the nearby Boulby potash mine enabled this section to be preserved and used to haul the potash onto the national rail network.

We dropped steeply down to the small hamlet of Skinningrove and climbed again up steep slopes to gain the cliff edge. For virtually, the whole of the rest of the walk, evidence of mining and quarrying could be seen on the steep cliffs. The primary material sought in this quarrying was the extraction of Alum, a substance that required careful preparation and processing. The process involved  extracting, then burning huge piles of shale for 9 months. The material was then transferred to a leaching pit to extract a aluminium sulphate liquor. This liquor was then channelled to the alum works where human urine was added – a lot of it – 200 tonnes of it each year! By the mid to late 19th century, cheaper and better alternatives to Alum were found.

We passed over Rockhole Hill and began the descent down towards the village of Staithes. Staithes attracts many visitors due to its location, set almost entirely within a steep-sided ravine which Staithes Beck had cut through the soft rock and clay. The tight cobbled streets reminded me a great deal of some of the small Cornish fishing villages. We found a bench outside of the Cod and Lobster pub looking out onto the small harbour. I knew there was some connection between the village and Captain Cook. On later checking I found that Cook spent time in the village as a young lad working in a shop. We left Staithes by following the steep path up and out of the village .

Looking back at Saltburn-by-the -Sea
Charm bracelet sculpture, with railway line behind
The route ahead
Looking down at Skinningrove
Above the Alum quarries near Hummersea
Descending off Rockhope Hill towards Staithes
Entering Staithes

We walked onto Port Mulgrave and then onto Runswick Bay, where we descended again down onto the beach. There were many people on the beach, mainly walking their dogs. We knew we had to climb steeply again to get up and onto the cliffs. At Hob Holes we followed the path up a stream with steps cut into the side of the stream, after again ascending many steps we emerged onto the plateau of level walking. We continued onto Kettleness and immediately became aware of a railway station there, it then became obvious that this part was part of the old Whitby – Redcar railway. After steeply descending into Over Dale, we also saw the entrance to an old railway tunnel which we later found out went on towards Kettleness. As we approached Sandsend, we passed large excavations and spoil tips as a result of the Alum extraction. At Sandsend, we joined the main road and continued along it into Whitby.

A tough days walking especially with the amount of ascent and descent involved, but a rewarding one, with great views of the cliffs and an industrial past that has shaped the landscape.

Walking along Runswick Bay beach
Heading up a stream gulley at Hob Holes
Kettleness railway station
Old railway tunnel in Over Dale
Alum quarries with large spoil heaps near Sandsend
Heading towards Sandsend

Distance today = 19 miles
Total distance = 3,577 miles



200. Middlesbrough to Saltburn-by-the-Sea


I had a very comfortable night in my B&B in Redcar and set off very early the following morning for the short drive east to Saltburn-by-the-Sea. I found a very convenient parking spot just by the train station and caught one of the regular trains heading into Middlesbrough. Today was going to be another day of predominantly walking through the industrial area of Teeside.

From Middlesbrough  railway station I walked the half-mile or so out to the Transporter Bridge. I could see that the bridge was back in operation today, now that the winds had subsided. Today was sunny, but breezy, with the odd sleety shower thrown in. I walked around Middlesbrough Dock, because the bridge over the dock gates was being repaired. It was only a minor diversion and I was soon walking alongside the impressive Riverside Stadium, home to Middlesbrough FC football club. After a half a mile I crossed the railway line at the Navigation Inn and joined a footpath that I would be on for the next 6 or 7 miles. This footpath would run alongside the railway through the industrial landscape almost all the way to Redcar. The footpath was the route of the Teesdale way as well as the ECP. Although there would few views on offer today, the footpath was much preferable to walking along pavements next to busy roads.

The Riverside Stadium, home of Middlesbrough Football Club
On the Teesdale Way
Looking north from South Bank station

I gradually left Middlesbrough moving from offshore industrial plants to the much larger, but now deserted, steel plants occupying vast areas. I think after the main closure of the plants in 2015, only a small site is still involved in steel production. I rejoined the main road and soon headed off north towards the coast, crossing the railway via a small footbridge. After crossing a golf course I followed the dunes into Redcar itself. The town was really busy today and I find a Greggs to get myself a coffee. The High street in Redcar is very wide and quite strung-out. I pass the ‘Spoons where I ate last night, called The Plimsoll Line, it is named after Samuel Plimsoll who once lived in the town and gave his name to lines painted onto the sides of ships denoting the weight of their cargo. I emerge back on the sea-front and walk along the promenade past Marske-by-the-Sea and then onto to beach to Saltburn-by-the-Sea. The small seaside town is also very busy and there are many walking along the prom and beach. The Cliff ‘Lift’ is currently being repaired, but the steps up to the town are not too steep. I have now joined another National Trail, the Cleveland Way, which would soon see me into North Yorkshire.

Deserted steel production plant
Heading North East
A sea of pipelines
Looking towards Redcar
Penguins in Redcar
Redcar High Street
On the beach heading towards Saltburn-by-the Sea
Looking east from Saltburn-by-the-Sea

Distance today =  15 miles
Total distance = 3,558 miles


199. Crimdon to Middlesbrough

As my next couple of walks in Scotland would require a couple of difficult river crossings, weather would be a key part of when I could undertake these walks. Unfortunately, the weather in Scotland was currently dreadful with heavy snow falling in most parts; so it was back to the North East coast of England. I drove to and parked in Port Clarence close to the Transporter Bridge just outside of Middlesbrough. I then caught the #1 bus to Hartlepool and then the connecting #23 bus which would take me the short distance to Crimdon.

There had been a severe frost overnight and the path I was walking on had many icy patches. I was following the England Coast Path again, which ran along the cliff edge. I decided to divert down onto the beach, as the tide was out and the sand was frozen which made for easy and speedy progress. I passed the old pier from the Steetley Magnesium works, now demolished and replaced by housing. The works were built in 1937 to extract magnesium from seawater, the plant finally closed down in 2005. I had made an effort to climb back up the cliffs to take a look at the Old cemetery, also known as the Spion Kop cemetery, which sits high on the dunes and has now  become a local nature reserve.

As I approached the Headland of Hartlepool, the wind, as forecast began to get up. By the time I had passed the Heugh Shore battery the gusts had reached 30+mph! I rounded the Headland and continued around the port of Hartlepool. The eye was drawn to the tall masts of  the Frigate HMS Trincomalee, built in 1812 and now renovated, it is the star attraction of the adjacent Royal Navy Museum.

I joined the main promenade as it made its way out of Hartlepool and continued the short distance to Seaton Carew. Not really a great deal to see in Seaton Carew, so I just continued along the promenade further south. The promenade continued for about a mile before stopping at the start of a large dune area. The ECP signs had long since disappeared so I made my way through the myriad of paths through the dunes. I was heading for a car park on the RSPB site, which I eventually found after crossing a couple of golf fairways.

Looking south to Hartlepool from Crimdon
The Steetley Pier at the old Magnesium works site at Hartlepool
The Spion Kop cemetery
Looking south to Teeside from the Headland
The masts of HMS Trincomalee at the Royal Navy Museum Hartlepool
Decommissioning underway of the Brent Delta drilling / production Platform

The road to the car park met up with the A178 which I continued south along for the next 4 miles. Although quite busy there was a reasonable verge for most of the way. A few small sections of the road had a recently built footpath, I suspect for the ECP, which unfortunately where not open yet. It became very tough walking on the verge down the road, especially with a very strong headwind and the rain.

As I progressed down the road, the view southwards had become increasingly industrial with the large plants of Teeside getting  ever closer. I get a rather good view of the Brent Delta – drilling & production platform which is currently being decommissioned after its 24,000 tonnes was brough back from Shell’s Brent oilfield in the North Sea. Eventually I reached Port Clarence where I had parked my car. However, the plan was now to walk to the first bridging point across the River Tees, the Newport bridge. I could have used The Transporter Bridge, however, unlike the similar bridge in Newport, South Wales you cannot walk over the bridge, so it was to be the Newport Bridge for me 3 miles upstream. My plan was to walk to the first bridging point and then walk along the opposite bank of the Tees back to the Transporter Bridge on the Middlesbrough side. However, I had not counted on the effect of the strong winds on the suspended gondola, which was rather a surprise when I reached the end of the walk to find the Transporter Bridge CLOSED! With my car now on the opposite bank of the river I had to find the bus station and get a bus out to Port Clarence, which I managed to do without much fuss.

I must admit I don’t mind walking past and around industrial areas which are certainly expansive across Teeside. The smells and noise coming from these industries pervades the air. It had certainly been an interesting walk, with the gloom and light disappearing fast I was tired with the 7 hour slog. Now it just required me to get into the car and drive around to Redcar to my B&B for the night.

Parking can be a problem in Middlesbrough!
The Newport Bridge across the River Tees
Metal sculptures at the Teesaurus Park
The Transporter Bridge (closed!) at Middlesbrough

Distance today = 24 miles
Total distance = 3,543 miles