203. Scarborough to Flamborough

I was a bit sore after yesterdays exertions, but my knees and legs felt good. I knew that todays distance may or may not be achievable, as it was quite a distance to get back to Bridlington station where I had parked my car rom Scarborough.

I caught the 7:41 train to Scarborough which  was a delight in the early morning spring sunshine. First port of call in Scarborough was a coffee and bacon butty from Greggs. I strolled out from Scarborough along the promenade, munching my butty and enjoying my coffee. It was indeed a beautiful sunny morning with blue skies and not a breath of wind. As I approached Wheatcroft Cliffs the path left the promenade, it was time to scale the steep rise to the top of the cliffs. I was afforded a brilliant view looking back at Scarborough and  was hoping that today would be better underfoot. In fact it was not much better, but I did not mind so much because in 7 more miles the Cleveland Way will have ended. At Cayton Bay, the trail was signposted for a very steep and slippy descent down Tenants Cliff and an equally boggy and slippy meander through some woods, then a steep and slippy climb back up the slope to rejoin a public footpath that I had only just left. The route planning of some of the people who plan these trails defy logic.

Looking towards Scarborough Castle
Looking back at Scarborough from Wheatcroft Cliffs
Approaching Filey Brigg

I saw that the route ahead looked very grassy and even, which was a relief. The final two miles along the cliff top to Filey Brigg was enjoyable and relatively dry. The town of Filey cames into view, as I finally reached the end of the Cleveland Way and Wolds Way. I headed the short distance into Filey itself. As I passed the RNLI station I enquired about the tides. I told one of the crew that I wanted to get all the way along the beach to Speeton Cliffs and asked about access off the beach there. The crew member advised that I could not get off the beach there as the tide did not go out far enough. I checked my map for the various options and it seemed that the best route was an inland detour. I should have checked beforehand, because when I did arrive at Speeton Cliffs, the tide was well out and I could have scrambled up a path from the beach.

The detour inland involved a number of additional extra miles and initially following a muddy track, where I finally slipped over on a steep bank. I arrived at a main road, with a footpath alongside  and continued walking south. I soon left the main road and continued on minor roads through the villages of Reighton and Speeton.  As I passed by the small church of Speeton, I joined what was called The Headland Way. Immediately,  I saw an improvement in the underfoot conditions and  I knew the geology had  changed. A quick glance at the cliff faces confirmed this as I could see I was walking on Chalk now. These cliffs were quite marvelous and would be with me all the way to Flamborough Head. The footpath gently dropped and fell and I could see a considerable distance ahead. Speeton Cliffs passed into Bempton Cliffs, at 400ft they are some of the highest sea cliffs in England. I left North Yorkshire behind me and passed into the East Riding of Yorkshire. I also passed onto the RSPB site at Bempton. It had many visitors today and some were making use of the wooden viewing platforms that overhung the cliff face to give excellent views of the birds (particularly Gannets) and the cliff face itself. The whole reserve stretched for something like 6 miles and it was certainly an impressive sight.  I pass a couple of bird watchers near Dane’s Dyke, they are seeking a small flock of Lapland Buntings who have been spotted close-by.

Start / End of Cleveland & Wolds Way at Filey Brigg

It began to dawn on me that I probably would not make Bridlington today on foot; so I remembered checking that there was a bus service that ran to Flamborough North Landing. I did not have bus timetables, so I did not know how long I would have to wait. I found a bus stop close to North Landing with a bench, but no timetable. I sat down and waited. After 20 minutes a bus came into view. The bus whisked me back into nearby Bridlington. It had been a much better day weather wise, although with the slip I was even more muddier than yesterday.

Looking towards Filey from Filey Brigg
Filey Brigg
Looking back towards Filey from Speeton Cliffs
Easy walking along the top of Speeton Cliffs
Bempton Cliffs
RSPB Bempton Cliffs
Heading towards Flamborough North Landing

Distance today = 23 miles
Total distance = 3,626 miles



202. Whitby to Scarborough

This year the weather has played an enormous part in influencing where and when I can continue my walk around the coast of Great Britain. Until last week I had firm plans to begin my walk into Knoydart from Mallaig. There had been little rain and the BBC forecast looked good. However, I also had to check out the Scottish Mountain weather forecast, because I had to climb over 300m, 500m and 700m peaks and the forecast of heavy snow with possible whiteout conditions on the high summits made me think again.

Yet again I had to turn my attention to the North East of England. The forecast for two reasonable days looked promising, however, the day before I travelled a weather warning was issued for North Yorkshire, which warned of snow showers and possible travel disruptions. Too late to change my plans, so I decided to go anyway.

I left Shropshire early to drive to and park at the Scarborough Park & Ride, located a few miles to the south of the town. A week before I would have been able to park for free in some of the car parks in the town. Now it would have cost me £7 to park for the day! I therefore opted for the P&R, at £1.20 it was great value for money as well as being close to the Cleveland Way.

I caught the first bus of the day at 7:05 into the town centre and made my way to the railways station where I would catch the X93 bus to Whitby. At £6.10, the bus is not cheap, but the Middlesbrough bound bus does offer a regular service. As we drove over the North York Moors the snow began falling heavily. It was still snowing and sleeting as I arrived in Whitby. The sleet and rain would be with me for virtually the rest of the day, ensuring I got quite a soaking and affecting the quality of some of my photographs, with misting on the lens.

I set off through the wet streets of Whitby and made my way up the 199 steps to the ruined Abbey. As I left Whitby behind, I could see that progress along the Cleveland Way was going to be tough with the amount of mud that was underfoot. I had walked other National Trails in mid-Winter and had expected there to be some difficult walking. However, this section of  Cleveland way was particularly bad, my progress was very slow and I dropped down to just over 2 mph by the time I reached Robin Hood’s Bay. The terrain was not making it easy with numerous steep descents and ascents across various water courses. After leaving the charming village of Robin Hood’s Bay the path became even more boggy and I read a number of signs advising of the state of the path and an intention to do something about it. After climbing out of another steep valley, The Boggle Hole (great name and site of a YHA), I realised that I would struggle to make Scarborough before nightfall. Even worse, I may not be able to get back to the P&R and my car would be locked-in for the night! I had to re-evaluate my route. After reaching a small section of tarmac road I noticed on my map a potential alternative route. This looked like an old railway course and seemed to be National Cycle route #1.  I followed the road for about half a mile, climbing steeply up the hillside until I came to the disused rail track. This was The Cinder Track a 21 mile walking /cycling route between Whitby and Scarborough, formerly a rail route, the last rail service ran in 1965. The Cinder Track broadly followed the direction of the Cleveland Way but along much higher ground, thus avoiding the water course descents. This indeed was a godsend and I began to make swift progress.

A wet and dank Whitby ahead
Looking across the harbour to the ruins of Whitby Abbey
South Whitby lighthouse
One of the drier bits of the Cleveland Way!
The tight streets of Robin Hood’s Bay
Boggle Hole YHA
As if you did’nt notice!
The Cinder Track
Looking down on the Cleveland way from the Cinder Track

As I entered the small hamlet of Ravenscar I could look down on the Cleveland Way and see other walkers struggling through the mud. The views from the Track were quite extensive and the Cleveland Way briefly joined up with the Cinder Track before descending back down to the cliff-tops. I passed through a number of overgrown platforms and station houses, now converted in private dwellings.

By late afternoon I could finally pick out the ruins of Scarborough Castle six miles away. I passed close-by the small villages of Cloughton, Burniston and Scalby before  entering the suburbs of Scarborough. I left the Cinder Track and dropped down towards the shore at North Bay. I continued into the town centre by first walking along Marine Drive which encircled the rocky promontory of the castle. I emerged by the harbour and walked along the promenade with its usual collection of seaside attractions. I knew I could not make it back the 3 miles to the P&R before it shut, so I needed to catch a bus, fortunately this Service runs every 15 minutes.

The platform and station house at Cloughton
A Fairy House tree with it’s own postbox at Cloughton!
Two Scottish Deerhounds I befriended near Burniston
On Marine Drive in Scarborough
Seafront scene near Scarborough Harbour

I had been walking for over 8 hours and without the Cinder Track I would not have been able to complete my walk, which would have been annoying. I set off from the P&R for the short drive to Bridlington where my B&B was for the night.

The Cleveland Way is a superb walking long distance footpath, however its popularity has caused serious underfoot problems during the winter season. Poor drainage, particularly near water crossing points and the absence of simple channel cutting means that path deterioration will continue unless some measures are taken.

Distance today = 26 miles
Total distance = 3,603 miles


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


24.a Starcross to Exmouth

My plan was/is to get a minimum of 5 days coastal walking per month, but I understand that I will need to up this target to about 7 days/ month in 2018; that’s if I want to make better progress. Anyway, I saw a small weather window in the south-west which meant ticking off another of my “use of ferries” walks to bridge the gap when I took ferries on the walk along the SWCP. I did not envisage driving through bad weather to get to good weather, but that’s what happened as I set off through sleet and rain, with most of the M5′ s fast lane snowed in. Fortunately, as I drove Somerset, the snow which had fallen elsewhere had not affected Somerset and Devon.

I was making this walk with my daughter Nicola and we had chosen to do the walk from Starcross to Exmouth. The route is served very well by train links and we opted to finish at Exmouth because of a good ‘Spoons in the town.

We got off the train at Starcross and was immediately confronted by a strong bitingly cold wind that we would have to face all the way to our bridging point. It was lovely and sunny and we could see the twin towers of Exeter Cathedral for most of the way. The actual path we  followed was the Exe Estuary Trail, which also follows  NCN 2.

We soon reached Powderham Castle, the ancestral home of the Earls of Devon. The park was full of Fallow deer as we passed by. At Turf we met the Exeter Ship Canal which used to carry small ships onwards towards Exeter. The canal now only contains pleasure motor and sailing vessels, some waiting at the lock for the next high tide which would permit passage out to the Exe Estuary. Our views were continuously drawn to the sound and sight of the M5 spanning the Exe valley here. The roar from traffic grew until we finally passed underneath it and continued onto towards the Swing bridge across the canal and then onto the stone Countess Wear Bridge.

Looking north up the Exe Estuary at Starcross
Powderham Castle
Exeter Ship Canal at Turf
Looking across the River Exe towards Topsham at the Ferry landing stage
The M5 viaduct
Swing bridge over the Canal
Crossing over the Countess Wear Bridge

After we crossed over the bridges, the fierce wind we had been facing for the last couple of hours was now at our backs. We continued along quiet lanes and footpaths into Topsham. Topsham is well-known for its architecture particularly with its Dutch inspired buildings. After making a short detour inland we crossed the River Clyst alongside the railway line on a wooden pathway of decked boards. We next passed through the small village of Exton and then alongside the perimeter fencing of the Royal Marines Commando Training camp at Lympstone. It was certainly interesting seeing the various assault courses through the high barbed wire fences. There were a number of information boards giving information on what was required to successfully complete the Commando training course.

At Lympstone we walked alongside the station and through the small village. The path was never far from the railway which we continued alongside all the way into Exmouth. An enjoyable days walk.

Looking south down the Exe Estuary at Topsham
Commando Training Station at Lympstone
Looking across the Exe Estuary towards Starcross from near Exmouth

Distance today = 15 miles
Total distance = 3,446 miles




194. Sunderland to Crimond

I had planned originally to reach Hartlepool on this walk, but began to have second thoughts when I did a rough estimate of the distance involved. I therefore decided on Crimond, which is located just south of Blackhall Colliery. But first I had to drive south through the Tyne Tunnel and down the A19. It had been raining most of the night and I decided to wear my walking boots as I suspected parts of the walk today would be on muddy ground.

It was still dark when I parked up just to the south of Crimond Dene holiday park. The lights of Hartlepool were twinkling just a few miles away. I walked to the main road to catch the 7:14 #23 bus which would take me, via a very circuitous route all the way to Sunderland. The bus journey took a good hour and it was quite light when I disembarked at Sunderland bus station and began walking towards the Wearmouth Bridge.

After replenishing myself with a Greggs breakfast I dropped down to River Wear and its footpath and began walking eastwards to the mouth of the Wear. It was almost 4 miles before I said goodbye to the built up areas of Sunderland. I was walking along the England Coast Path and to be quite honest there was little or no need to refer to the map. In fact, it stayed in my rucksack all day!

In the distance I could make out the large town of Seaham which I would be walking through. The walking was very easy and gentle and I made good time. The only inconvenience on this stretch of coast are steep-sided gullies, ravines or valleys called Denes locally. Most of these Denes meant a short detour inland to pass around the head of the Dene.

I entered Seaham and headed for the small green where the artist Ray Lonsdale’s statue/sculpture depicts a sitting British Soldier, officially called 1101 (the time the armistice kicked in) it is more commonly known as Tommy. I next nipped across the road into to get a Greggs coffee. As I walked out-of-town I could look down on the concrete and quite barren Seaham Docks.

Wall mural below Wearmouth Bridge
Looking south to Seaham
“Tommy” sculpture at Seaham

After passing Nose’s Point I was now on what has been termed the Durham Heritage Coast. Most of the land I been walking over today had once had heavy industry and coal mines on it. Today, after years of reparation, little evidence remains of this industrial heritage. In fact if it was not for the signs, no one would ever know that this area had once been a huge coalfield.  I dropped down into a steep valley of Hawthorn Dene , with its dramatic railway viaduct spanning  Hawthorn Dene.

At Warren House Gulley I drop down to the beach and continue walking along it for about a mile. The sand is interspersed with very fine coal pieces that came from spoil heaps from the local Horden Colliery, which are flattened now. At Hartlepool Point I climb up again to the cliff top path. My legs begin to tire as I try to locate the caravan park at Crimond, which seems to take an age before it came into view. I’m glad I did a shortened walk today, the extra bit down to Hartlepool would have been a bit of a chore.

Hawthorn Dene viaduct
Signage on the Durham Heritage Coast
Flattened coal spoil-heaps at Warren House Gulley
Looking north back along the coast at Hartlepool Point
Blue House Gill at Blackhall Colliery

Distance today = 20 miles
Total distance = 3,431 miles