TRAVEL NORTH - 9: TEESMOUTH TO THE ESK - Take The Coast Road From Teesside To Whitby Through Cook Country
Let's start at the South Gare on Tees Bay...
Starting from Teesmouth...
The Aengle (Angles) spread north and south from the mouth of the Humber, into Northumbria and Mercia. The northern Aengle spread along the coast and inland to the Roman city of Eboracum, which they named Eoferwic. We will follow southward from the Tees, the northern boundary of Deira, the southern half of the kingdom of Northumbria that became the Viking Kingdom of York and subsequently Yorkshire.
Before you set off along this trip you might like to know what the weather holds in store. Tap into the weatherman's chart for the area on www.weatheronline.co.uk If you don't have your own wheels, there's a bus travel site for Arriva. There are several routes that cover the coast routes between Redcar and Whitby, although none are through routes. But then you're going to stop several times along the way anyway, aren't you. Visit www.arriva.co.uk/traveline.info/
The Tees empties north-east of Middlesbrough, once the halfway stop for monks journeying between Durham and Whitby Abbey in the 7th Century. There was also a farm and an inn in the settlement known until the late middle ages as Middilburh, then Middelburg and finally from the mid-19th Century as Middlesbrough, initially the Middlesbrough Estate. The Pease family of Stockton & Darlington Railway fame founded Port Darlington, later renamed Newport, which in turn expanded as the Ironmasters' District. The core of the old town centred on a site north of the present (1877) railway station to the west of the Commercial hub of the new town. Finds of ironstone in the hills behind, south-eastward at Eston, by the Welsh ironmaster John Vaughan changed the place forever and Middlesbrough became the fastest-growing town in Europe in the 19th-20th Centuries. He and the German-born Henry Bolckow founded Bolckow Vaughan's steelworks - latterly Dorman Long - between the new towns of South Bank and Grangetown. Bolckow went on to become the town's first mayor and built himself a fine residence in what is now known as Stewart Park at Marton. The house burnt down, but what was found in the grounds nearby were the remains of the cottage in which James Cook was born on 27th October, 1728. This is now the site of the James Cook Birthplace Museum... opposite James Cook Hospital. Sounds familiar? We'll travel on a little way southward to Great Ayton - Canny Yatton in the local vernacular, there's several different kinds of 'canny', in this instance it means 'great' - where his father, James cook senior was employed by Squire Scottowe and was loaned a farm whilst he was Scottowe's bailiff, called Aireyholme Farm on the east of the village beneath Roseberry Topping and Easby Moor where a monument was erected in young Cook's memory. Any wiser yet?
No, well we'll go a bit further. James junior's education at the local school - now a museum at the back of the green where a bronze statue of him as a young lad was erected - was paid for by Squire Scottowe because of the promise he showed in maths. James left school in 1745, apprenticed to a William Sanderson, a shopkeeper in Staithes - Steeaz in the vernacular - and tramped from Ayton to the coast along an old footpath known to us as the Cleveland Way. Cleveland is a corruption of the old Danish Kliff Land, cliff land, due to the way the Cleveland Hills to the south rise up from the dale floor. He would have gone behind Guisborough, onceover land belonging to the de Brus family after the Conquest, one of whose descendants became king of Scotland, Robert the Bruce, Lord of Annandale. The present Lord Annandale still owns lands in the area between Guisborough and Skelton, but Skelton Castle is a ruin, as is Gisborough (Guisborough) Priory to the east of this picturesque market town, once capital of East Cleveland.
Next after Guisborough over the moor is Kildale, where the Monk's Trod joins the two communities. Kildale is a sleepy village with a church and a tearoom near the railway, and would have been even sleepier then. The church's greatest claim to fame is a hog's=back tombstone within, but you'd need to contact the vicar to see it. Further over the moor the trail leads to the coast above Saltburn, and old fisherman's hamlet in the lee of Huntcliff, and beneath the Victorian resort built by the Pease family as a dormitory town for urban workers. Old Saltburn, in Cook's time, was a haven for smugglers. A museum next to the Ship Inn shows how the smugglers operated from the old inn... and the smugglers' leader was a local JP (Justice of the Peace) who was eventually caught and taken to York Castle Jail for trial.
James would have climbed to the top of Huntcliff along the old path from behind where the present-day Ship Inn cap park slopes away from the back of the building, and headed south along the clifftop track below Carlin Howe, and past Skinngrove - the Shining Grove, an ash grove and place of worship for the Danes who lived here and venerated the old gods. Up onto Boulby Moor the track led, overlooking the sea - a large house used as a residence by the manager of the local ironstone mine along the old road was found to have a passage that led to the sea, used by more smugglers! From here James could see his destination and tramped steeply downhill, but you can follow the A173 in a car or bus if you want.
At Staithes, the fishing village road leaves the A173 past the newer community where the "off-comers" live - you would have to be born in the bottom village to be seen as Steeaz-born - and down the steep bank past old stone dwellings and chapels to the harbour where a huddle of old inns, cafe's, shops, artists' homes and fishermen's cottages fills the level ground to the east of Staithes Beck. Opposite is the equally steeply graded Cowbar road that leads down to the west side of the cliff. Here, at the bottom was where William Sanderson's shop sat precariously on a ledge beneath Cowbar Nab. I say was, as not many years after Cook was killed by a Hawaiian tribal club in February 1779 a freak storm split the end of the rock and what had been there was washed away in the maelstrom that accompanied hurricane winds and mountainous seas. William Sanderson's shop was no more (I don't know what happened to the man himself, but if he was sound asleep in bed as he should have been in the dead of night when the storm struck, then he would have gone with the shop and his eastern neighbours)!
Anyway, James had not been long in Staithes, listening to the old mariners and fishermen in the small harbour, when he got the bug. He wanted to go to sea. How to do that? Work for the owner of a local fleet of collier ships, Whitby Cats as they called them, wide-beamed, two-masted vessels of shallow draught that followed the coast from Newcastle-upon-Tyne's coal staiths to the new fledgling industries on the River Thames upriver of the Port of London. Some of the Cats conveyed alum shale for the dyers from coastal workings to north and south of Whitby and raw materials by return.
Known to the Angles as Streoneshealh, an abbey was founded here by a sister of King Oswiu/Oswy in the 7th Century. Saint Hilda's abbey was destroyed in the 9th Century by the Norsemen, and again in the 16th Century by order of Henry VIII - a Christian king in name only! Streoneshealh became Hviteby (the white town, possibly by virtue of its light-coloured stone abbey or the cliffs), and finally Whitby. Shipbuilding, fishing, alum-shale processing and commerce from the sea determined the character of this town nestled between the steep sides of the Esk dale, and by the time James Cook arrived in the employ of the Quaker ship-owner John Walker in 1746 Whitby was a bustling centre amid a cluster of satellite villages and hamlets such as Sandsend, Ruswarp, Sleights, Hawsker and Ugglebarnby, connected by steep roads such as to Lythe and Hinderwell up Lythe Bank and up to Bog Hall or West Cliff. In the 19th Century Whitby joined Scarborough - another Norse settlement, originally Skarthiburh - in its fame as a seaside resort.
James showed promise, by the age of 21 achieving his Mate's Ticket and another year or two later his Master's Ticket. Suddenly the east coast was too small. The Royal Navy soon beckoned, a lieutenancy and across the Atlantic a war with the French in Canada. Know yet who this is? One last try then. He had become known for the accuracy of his navigating - (remember Squire Scottowe saw promise and paid for his education?) On the upper reaches of the Saint Laurence River is Montreal. The heavier French land-based guns threatened to blow the English ships out of the water if the Navy got too close. So Cook was asked to furnish charts and soundings around Quebec's riverways so that General Wolfe - himself having once lived in Yorkshire, at the Black Swan on Stonebow in York,known locally as the 'Mucky Duck' - could lead an assault on General Montcalm's heavily fortified of Quebec City from the Heights of Abraham. Over the years James Cook's commission took him to Tahiti, New Zealand, Australia Antarctica, the west coast of Canada to find the fabled north-west passage, and finally Hawaii. Got it yet? Of course James Cook was Captain Cook, but only on his last voyage, in charge of two ships,Resolution and Discovery. One of his lieutenants was William Bligh, who ordered the ships to fire on the assembled Hawaiians after Cook was bludgeoned to death on the beach due to a sad misunderstanding.
Back to Yorkshire. When his father had retired, 'young' James Cook often visited him at his first home near the River Leven bridge. Cook Senior later moved to the then peaceful Marske-by-the-Sea and was buried in the churchyard of Saint Germaine's overlooking the North Sea. Like Saltburn, Marske has a new town on the plateau with an older fishing village in a vee-shaped valley below that opens out onto the soft sandy beach between low clay-stone sea cliffs. To the north is the relatively level Redcar and south is the hilly Saltburn. (The Sea-front of Redcar doubled as Dunkirk for the film 'Atonement' with a little judicial 'tweaking' of the scenery).
Not far along the coast south of Saltburn and Staithes is Runswick, another fishing village-turned-seaside resort in a quiet fashion. The visitors come in the summer months only, and like Staithes there is a newer settlement on the plain above an older fishing village that nestles against a steep hillside. A promontory divides Runswick from Staithes, in the shadow of which is a small white-painted cottage which was used by Alf Wight (James Herriot) for part of his honeymoon in the late 1930s.
South again Hinderwell lies inland a little way from Kettleness on the coast, a small cove not big enough to warrant seaside development, and then Lythe with its solid church and collection of cottages and public houses on the Whitby-Loftus road, the A173. At the foot of a tortuously bendy road on a gradient of 1-in-4 is Sandsend, where a row of old cottages leads away from the main road by the side of a beck. One of the cottages has a blue plaque on the wall. This is where James Cook lived at some time during his employ with John Walker.
At Whitby, below the abbey in Saltwick Bay is where Count Dracula is supposed to have come ashore in the guise of a wolf - according to the Irish writer Bram Stoker. A Dracula festival is still held annually at Whitby, where folk of an artistic disposition dress up. This is where the 'Goths' hang out in the autumn. But if your tastes don't run to blood, there's a massive choice of public houses and inns in the harbour area on either side of the river. Look around the town before you take to the choice of brewer products, though. There is the beach that stretches from the north side of Whitby's famous twin-piered harbour. Anglers use the lower 'deck' of the east pier, but not in winter (unless they're roped to the rails)! Heavy swells - not well-dressed fat men - can carry off a fully-grown man at this time of the year. There's a well-patronised selection of cafes near the turntable bridge for teetotallers, including one fish and chip restaurant that attracts customers from far and wide and you's have to queue for hours to get a table! The abbey is owned by English Heritage, along with the Cholmley manor house nearby. The Cholmley's were well-connected to the royal family and supplied processed alum shale to the dyeing trade. They owned most of the alum quarries on the coast around Whitby, the alum shale bing used as a chemical to make the dyes fast on clothing. Previously alum shale had been imported from Italy, but with the idiosyncrasies of war and polical machinations worthy of Macchiavelli the supply was unreliable, hence the search was begun in the sixteenth century for a local source.
So there you have it. A coastal wandering, moving inland a little along some of the best coastal scenery in England - if not Britain - and a chunk of history thrown in! With luck I'll have whetted your appetite for a trip worth remembering. Visit the North Yorkshire Tourist Board on their web site www.discovernorthyorkshire.co.uk for an accommodation guide, maps and general directions, Enjoy your holiday!
Busy Teesmouth, a world away from life along the coast to Whitby
Take a car from the South Gare (it's a fair old walk from here to where the buses stop at Coatham and Redcar), and follow the coast road to Marske. The road bends inland and turns left for Saltburn. Take some time and look around here in the upper Victorian town that overlooks the older fishing hamlet down by the beck that empties into the North Sea close by the Ship Inn.
The Quaker Edward Pease of Stockton & Darlington Railway (S&DR) fame built this dormitory town that spans the plateau with its white-brick built station and the Zetland Hotel (now apartments). Take the zig-zag road down to the lower car park by the beck that flows reddish from moorland ironstone deposits and wander about along the foreshore. Walk along the pier, sample some of the catering at the snack bar or enter the Ship Inn for something more substantial. Why not follow the path through the Italian Gardens, maybe take the train inland (garden railway you can ride on) to Riftswood and look up at the tall, brick viaduct that carries the real railway from Teesside to Boulby Mine past Loftus along the coast.
Then continue your journey, uphill first to Brotton then turn left onto the coast road. Lots of pleasant surprises ahead!
A few extra images from Saltburn w/e 21st September, 2014
I travelled north last year and took the pictures below of Staithes, as well as those above at Saltburn credited to me. The weather was pleasant for autumn, mellow sunsets and light evening mists, drinks by the fire in the hotel near the hilltop car park before heading on to Whitby along the coast road via Sandsend for a look around. You have to agree the images are atmospheric, the light still agreeable.
You can have an enjoyable time down by the sea when the tide is out. Roads are undulating, no motorways but interesting vistas between the two former smuggling centres on the Yorkshire coast. Quiet coves cut into the coastline allow a driver a broad view on the road from Loftus to Staithes past Boulby before a sharp turn downhill and left into the upper part of Staithes where the 'off-comers' live (local fisherfolk can trace their kin back a long way beyond when smuggling became a secondary wage supplement, 'Off-comers' are outsiders, to be treated civilly, no more than that. Publicans and shopkeepers are more forthcoming).
Staithes, where James Cook learned to love the sea
Runswick Bay to Sandsend
This is not for the faint-hearted:
At around 9.30 - 10 pm on a mid-summer's evening, walk up from town along Church Street (across the swing bridge, left at the top). There are a few pubs doing good business not far from the old town hall and market place. Look in the jet shop windows, admire the workmanship, progressing to the bottom of the 999 steps and start climbing. Stop to look over the roofs, towards West Cliff and the whalebone arch. Look downward, right to the harbour entrance where the two piers turn toward one another in a wide curve, like a tall cruet set, beacons winking to welcome and guide those on their way in. The clouds will be reflected in the still water. You might even see the half-size replica of Cook's ship 'Endeavour' returning from its last coastal trip.
Turn back to the steps. At the top you get an enhanced view of the harbour and town behind you. Ahead is the abbey ruin against the darkening eastern sky. To your right is the Cholmondely (pron. 'Chumly') hall, also part of the English Heritage site that you can visit in the daytime (entry up to around 4.30-5 pm). Walk past the ruined abbey, established in the 7th Century by Oswy for his sister (Saint) Hilda. The abbey was destroyed first by the Danes in the 9th Century, rebuilt and destroyed on the orders of Henry VIII in the mid-16th Century. Keep going. Somewhere around here is the site of a Roman signal station to warn against Frisian and other raiders. Take an amble to the edge of the site, to the cliff that lets you overlook Saltwick Bay. This is the site where, in Bram Stoker's 'Dracula' the count's ship ran aground on the rocks in a storm. Depending on the tide, you might see the skeletons of wrecked ships with the moon's reflection on the wet sand of the bay.
To the south-east you might see the tops of Robin Hood's Bay and Fyling Thorpe beyond Bay Town (Bramblewick), pinpricks of light against the darkening sky. Look west and see a glorious sunset beyond Whitby. To the south-west the tidal River Esk meets the weir at Ruswarp (pron. 'Russup'), more pinpricks of light seen through the pillars of Larpool Viaduct. And then the light goes, slowly at first. Use this time to pass the abbey (on the right), to the car park. Follow the road out of the car park and turn right where a footpath takes you down. Pass Cholmondeley Hall with the wall to your right, back down into town.to a welcome nightcap in town (last orders 10.50 pm) at any one of over a dozen public houses back across the swing bridge, or at a riverside pub where you can watch the fishermen setting out in their trawlers (WY)
On a more friendly note, you might remember seeing a reference to Caedmon on the pictures above. Caedmon looked after the livestock for the abbey of St Hilda (sister of King Oswy and his brother King Oswald). The Brothers of the abbey usually had a sing-song after their evening meal and each present was expected to add a verse. When it came to Caedmon's turn he ran out to the animal shed and hid there. An angel appeared to him, who asked why he hid. Caedmon sobbed that he was not as clever as the others. He could not think of a verse to add. On hearing this the angel answered that he could sing of the creation, 'Go back there now and show them your love for your God'. Caedmon did so, and with that earned himself a corner in Whitby's history. ..
Caedmon's Cross, Whitby Abbey
Whitby's other claim to fame...
Next - 7: West to East over the Moors