The day dawns. Saturday 10th July, 1993. I packed my rucksack last night, it doesn't feel too heavy. Anyway it will get lighter after I've eaten my lunch. With my wife Kath at the wheel and daughters Sarah & Helen in the back, we drive to Northallerton to meet Brian. We leave 15 minutes late, and arrive 5 minutes after Brian's train has arrived. Brian left his home at Guiseley at about the same time that we got up. I didn't tell him this at the time in case it made him jealous.
A very pleasant drive to Saltburn. Saltburn is Teeside's answer to Blackpool. To say "Saltburn" in the same breath as "Blackpool" does Saltburn an injustice. Saltburn, on thirty minutes acquaintance, strikes me as a pretty little place. Very much a creation of the railway age when seaside resorts grew and became the lungs of the industrial conurbations. Saltburn positively bustled in the neat town centre. The railway station has undergone quite a tasteful conversion into a supermarket and a collection of small shops. The railway being pushed 100 yards up the line towards Middlesborough. There is none of the brashness that Blackpool brings to mind.
It took us a long time to actually get started. True, Brian bought a Phonecard, and I wanted to buy some food for tomorrow's lunch. (Brian was one step ahead of me there, he had brought enough sandwiches for two lunches. I had forgotten that the day after Saturday is Sunday and nearly all the shops are shut). Both Helen and Sarah wanted to take photographs of the intrepid walkers before they set off. We decided to start at the railway station, it seemed to represent the centre of the town. We posed in front of the station for our photographs, the sign informing travellers that this is Saltburn behind us. Then as Kath and the girls got in the car and headed back home to Tynemouth, we took our first steps on the Cleveland Way - or did we? There were no signs in the town saying 'Here is the Cleveland Way', or 'Next stop Filey'. With nothing else to guide us we headed towards the sun, which at about 11.30am is more or less South and the direction we wished to go.
We quickly reached the beach and the edge of town. Our first stop. Brian decides to buy postcards and I put on my "stout walking shoes". Still no sign of the Cleveland Way, but there is a path leading up to the cliff tops. We start our first climb in sunshine. The next hour or so is quite pleasant, although that first climb took us by surprise, we were both breathing a little harder than normal. The weather can't decide what to do either. Anoraks are on & off twice before we stop for lunch just before we reach Skinningrove. A railway line keeps us company for about a mile. The map suggests it is no more than a siding- albeit a long one. There are three large metal sculptures alongside the railway. The artist is obviously a shy sensitive creature who does not seek recognition - his art is enough. It would have to be 'cos its a good 2 hours walk from anywhere to see them. They really are good though.
The first place we come to is Skinningrove, a dour place, reached after climbing down to beach level. We have to walk along the beach which is the worst part of the walk to date. We go under a bridge which at one time carried a railway line onto the jetty. Fishing appears to be its raison d'etre now and there are perhaps a dozen small boats in the "harbour". The fishermen's cottages along the sea front are rather small and plain. Some of the men are out and watch us as we make our way through the town. The place has a slightly forbidding air. We feel as though we are trespassing, intruding into their private world. The bright orange/brown stream running into the sea does nothing to dispel the sinister atmosphere. Another big climb and we get a panorama of the town. It is a modest place but we sense that it has seen more prosperous times.
There must be something wrong with the countryside hereabouts. We keep finding steep ravines crossing our path as they run down to the sea. They should not be there - haven't they read the map!
The climb out of Skinningrove is much bigger than the one out of Saltburn, or out of the ravines we have crossed so far. This part of the country is playing games with us - the sort of games a cat plays with a mouse. We reach the cliff top at last, the climb appears to have been vertical. We must be at the top now, but no - the cliff keeps on rising, true not as steep as the last half mile, but still going up. The sheep ignore our labours, no doubt they have seen it all before. At last a breather, only a 1 in 20 rise but still going up! At last the path levels out and all we have to do is walk round the headland at the foot of that big hill with the farm nestling in a fold of land half way up.
The path turns inland at this point. We do have to go over the hill behind the cliffs. We go up the farm track, through the farm yard and up again. "Not much further" says Brian, for about the tenth time. Why don't I believe him? Lord knows I want to. 20 minutes later we finally reach the top. Brian has stopped saying "It's not much further". I think he must have realised that his prospects of becoming a grandfather had been receding every time he said it. We drop our packs and lie gasping on the ground. During the last hour we have probably only covered a mile - it feels like twenty. Still we are tough intrepid walkers, we can take it.
We march on. We both want a nice cup of tea. The problem is there are no signs of habitation within 3 miles let alone a cafe. As we follow the path down from the cliff top a few cottages come into view. We walk by, our eyes set on the roof tops of Staithes nestling contentedly in the valley below us.
I hear a cry "This one's a cafe!". Brian is hallucinating, "It's a mirage" I tell him, "no one would be daft enough to run a cafe here".
But no! There is a cafe - the Walker's Halt! Earl Grey tea and a scone - beautiful! You sit in the host's dining room - all very homely. A few knickknacks on sale and some tourist leaflets. There are discrete signs on both of the tables, `Foot dressing station, plasters are free but donations welcome'.
More signs "You may eat your own food as long as you buy our drinks"! It is obvious that the proprietors are really tuned into the needs of walkers like us. This is a wonderful place, so relaxing, you feel that they do it for love not the money. Two mugs of tea and an orange squash each later we feel sufficiently refreshed to move on. It's downhill all the way now, literally not metaphorically. Only worry is that my right knee is painful when walking down hill. Toffee Crackle House - a B & B in Staithes - has been recommended to us by the cafe man. Someone has a warped sense of humour. We sleep in the attic room which is very narrow, We can only stand upright in centre of room and the door is only 4'6" high. We eat in a cafe just down the road, and then pop into the pub for a quick half and a game of darts. Then back to our garret and secure in the land of Nod by 10.30.
The leaving of Staithes is a saga in itself. We get lost and end up going up & down hill about three times in Staithes itself. Another stiff climb out of the village. These climbs first thing in the morning are becoming a bit of a bore. Staithes is a quaint place, an old fishing village full of narrow streets and seagulls. The seagulls outnumber inhabitants by about 10,000:1
Eventually we get out of Staithes. There follows a nice flat stroll along the cliff-top to Port Mulgrave where we are confronted by another steep descent to sea level. The path here is dedicated to Wilf and is called, in an original and apt manner, "Wilf's Way". Apparently the Cleveland Way in this area was improved by some guy called Wilf. (See Stage 1 Links)
We reach Port Mulgrave - a tiny jetty enclosing a small circle of sea with a couple of dozen lobster pots drying in the sun. There are 4 or 5 boats I wouldn't take out on Tynemouth boating lake let alone face the North Sea looking for Neptune's bounty. There seem to be only two ways into Port Mulgrave - the sea or the very steep foot paths down from the cliff top.
We are now reaching known territory. So far neither of us have visited this corner of England, but as we approach Runswick Bay Brian reminds me he's been in this neck of the woods before. The path leaves the cliff top near Runswick Bay and we walk alongside cultivated fields for a time. We meet a family out for a stroll. Our spirits get a boost as father says to the children "Don't block the path, let these walkers go by"!
The path follows the road down to the bay. This has to be the worst part so far, much worse than climbing up to the cliff tops, especially when the down is 1 in 4 - sheer hell. My knee is really hurting and Brian gets the first blisters. I quietly gloat - but my come-uppance is to still to come. The Sun has been beating down all morning - no sign of the showers we had yesterday. There is more pop and tea at Runswick Bay. This could become a habit.
After a rest we set off. Brian has done running repairs to his blisters. Guess what? No signposts. This is the third place we have found where there are no signposts telling you the way out. We try to find the path. We look at our map and scan the countryside. Along the beach and there might be the beginning of a path up the cliff over there ... we go for it. Yes, there is a path along a stream emptying onto the beach. We scramble over rocks - steps cut into the hill side - this must be it.
Why do the ups seem longer than the downs? Yet another stiff climb to negotiate. We have met quite a few walkers so far today, more than all day yesterday.
The next section on to Sandsend is fairly gentle. On the outskirts of Sandsend we drop down a very steep, heavily wooded gully. Good job steps have been cut into the hill side. We could be Dr. Livingstone pushing on through the jungle it is so humid and hot amongst the rich foliage. The illusion is broken, and we are reminded this is Sunday in North East England as we meet day trippers doing their impressions of Dr. Livingstone. Still, they have not got it quite right, no baggage see. We are intrepid walkers and are a little closer to the original in that we have the baggage, but we seem to have lost our native bearers.
At the bottom we meet a well-defined footpath which follows the track bed of a long disused railway. This leads us right into Sandsend past some old quarries and the overgrown platforms of the Station. It's about 3.00pm. Time for TEA! Two more mugs of tea and a glass of orange squash each. We rest for quite a while here. The Cleveland Way "disappears" again. Whitby can be seen at the other end of the beach - about 3 miles away. As we leave the cafe - agony! My feet have caught up with me, strange I thought I had them with me all the time. Blisters.
After emergency first aid we set off down the beach. The sand is nice and firm so there is no real problem. This has to be the easiest stretch so far. At about 5.00pm we reach Whitby. We find a B & B near the sea front on the North side of the town. Brian stayed here several years ago. The owners have changed but the place is really good. Why is it though that we are in the attic again. Can't people see that we have done enough climbing for one day? We relax, take a shower and head off looking for an evening meal.
We find a great little cafe down by the harbour side. Roast beef with all the trimmings for a song. Pud was great too. Don't think the whole thing came to more than a fiver each. We explore the quayside before heading back to our digs. We see a pub, it's still early so we decide to go in. I think both of us we are only doing it for form's sake. Still half a pint later it seems like a good idea so we stay for a couple. No darts tonight though. Back to the guest house for 8.30pm. Watch some telly then into bed by 10.30. We both feel well satisfied with our efforts. We have done about 12 miles today, and the blisters have not proved to be too bad.
We are thinking that, maybe, if things go well tomorrow we might get to Filey and Billy Bunter's Cafe which, according to the sign in the Walker's Halt marks the end of the Cleveland Way. We must wait and see what the morrow brings. Whatever the outcome we are here to enjoy ourselves and not set endurance records.
Monday dawns bright and sunny. Our stiffness has gone, but we feel the blisters. Today's walk is awkward. There are no convenient places to stay tonight. The places on the coast - Robin Hood's Bay and Ravenscar are only 6 and 9 miles from Whitby, hardly more than half a day to the former and mid-afternoon to the latter. The next place is Scalby Mills at about 18 miles. We set off with no clear objective except to get as far as is practicable. We buy our lunch in a super sandwich shop, then down to the quayside, over the River Esk and into the old town.
Two things happen, neither of which is a surprise. We have to climb out of the town, and the start of the walk is not signposted. We pass the Abbey and with a look back at the whale bone arch we are off to Robin Hood's Bay. The first part is very easy. The cliffs are lower, and the country is less rugged. The pain from the blisters is only felt when we stop walking - funny really. Today feels warmer than the previous two days. We meet more people than previously. They appear to be holiday makers going for a morning stroll. None of them have their houses on their backs like us. One or two are obviously serious walkers and we nod to each other with that secret knowledge that we are a breed apart from these holiday strollers.
The mini ravines cut into the cliffs by the streams are lower than yesterday, but they still make me cringe. I am beginning to dislike them intensely. In fact, coupled with the early morning climbs, I have developed a hearty loathing for them!
By about 11.00am we are feeling the heat. There is barely a cloud in the sky and the air is crystal clear. This has to be the hottest day so far. Robin Hood's Bay is hidden from view behind a headland for most of the morning, but we can see Flamborough Head which must be 30 miles away. We come round the last headland and can see our goal about a mile away. This last mile is heart breaking. The roofs beckon tantalisingly in the distance; it's uphill all the way and the sun is beating down. All we want now is our daily fix of tea and orange squash but first we must climb this wretched incline.
We eventually reach the top and go into the village and search out a cafe. We find one at the top of the hill into the old fishing port.
"4 big teas and two orange squashes, please love".
We wait. There is a distinct lack of activity behind the counter. Perhaps they didn't hear.
"4 big teas and two orange squashes, please love".
"Oh! You really want them, I thought it was a wind up"!
Obviously they like to live dangerously in Robin Hood's Bay or the locals don't realise that it is potentially lethal to deprive an addict of his fix. After our fix we go down into the village proper and have our picnic lunch before setting out for Ravenscar. You guessed it - uphill again although the path out of town is signposted this time. They must be having trouble with the cliff top at Robin Hood's Bay. The first mile or so of the route consists of wooden staging, duckboards I suppose. In some ways it makes the going easier, but feels a little strange. We soon come to Boggle Hole, a deep ravine across the path. Then onto Ravenscar! Ravenscar stands on a very high headland that commands the surrounding countryside. We have seen it in the distance for some time, even before we reached Robin Hood's Bay. There is a big climb up to it from every direction. From a distance it looks a big climb, but as we approach the full significance dawns on us. The last mile is going to be very hard work.
We are not disappointed. The climb into Ravenscar was every bit as hard as we had imagined and more. I am reminded of a story about pigs told by Max Boyce. According to Max pigs come in three sizes; small; big and duw! This is a duw hill.
We find a cafe at the southern edge of the village and get our second fix of the day. Excellent value and no nonsense about us not needing 4 cups of tea and orange squash. These people are obviously used to intrepid walkers like us. The locals join in our discussion as to where to go from here? We could walk down the disused railway, and Scarborough is only 9 miles or so by that route. The going will he fairly easy as the railway disliked near vertical climbs nearly as much as I do. We could reach Scarborough that night. We decide to stick to our principles and stay on the Cleveland Way. The cafe proprietor supports us though it is obvious some think we are a little mad. The locals have confirmed our worst fears though. There is only the Hayburn Wyke Hotel on the coast, and that is not too far. We decide to make one of the villages off the coast - Cloughton, about 7 miles further on - our target.
Neither of us voice it, but we both feel that Scalby Mills might be within range. This feeling is reinforced by the terrain which is very easy and the next two miles are rattled off in next to no time. I feel quite bullish about Scalby tonight, although I keep the thoughts to myself. If we could do it, then there would only be 9 miles or so the next day to finish at Filey.
The number and depth of the gullies we have to cross has reduced the further South we have come but we now reach a big one. Hayburn Wyke! The gully is wide and deep, and densely wooded. We encounter flies, millions of them. They seem to like us and follow us through the gully and along the hedgerow at the top. We decide to have our tea when the flies have left, but they don't leave. We plod on to the end of the hedge between us and the sea. This hedge has to be the longest hedge in the world, especially as we want our tea. The flies are all right, they've had their tea - us!
We don't yet know it, but this last mile and a half is deciding our ultimate fate. It is about 6.00pm when we stop on Roger Todd for our tea. The heat and the distance we have covered today hit us hard. When we stand up our legs are as stiff as lumps of concrete. We feel our blisters for the first time that day and Brian's right foot is giving him some pain. We both decide that Cloughton is as far as we are going tonight.
The weather is fine and the conditions are perfect for walking, but we are not. We hobble our way towards Cloughton. It takes 10 minutes for my legs to loosen up after the stop. Brian is not so badly affected, but his foot is worrying him. We arrive at the door of the Red Lion in Cloughton. The locals are much amused by our funny walks, but after a bath and a pint we manage to get downstairs for some supper and a quiet pint or two.
My heels have the biggest blisters I have ever seen. Brian is not much better but is far more concerned about his right foot. He says it feels like the time he picked up some internal bruising in a rugby game. Whatever the cause, it is very painful to walk on. We both hope it is not too serious, and that the rest overnight will be sufficient. Tuesday dawned bright and sunny. The weather has been great every day, too warm if anything. We are up by about eight. Mine host and family are still asleep! We stroll around to the front of the pub and greet the postman, who, seeing us poring over maps offers us some friendly advice. We don't like to tell him that we haven't had breakfast yet.
Back indoors we hear the sound of young children talking, but no other signs of life. We eventually knock on the kids' bedroom door and ask them to tell Mum & Dad that the two intrepid walkers are up and ready for the off. Breakfast is really good. Brian's foot feels a little more comfortable and we decide to give it a try. If the pain is too great we will have to get the bus into Scarborough. Fortunately Brian's foot has improved enough. We push on.
The cliffs are only a shadow of what they were when we started, barely half the height. The gullies unlike their Northern cousins are not so deep or long. The path, remembering what a real gully is like shows its disdain by going round them instead of up & down. Somehow I can't help but feel that the path has got it wrong, we should have gone round the big ones.
We meet an eccentric Yorkshireman wearing plus-fours and thick lens glasses. I don't think he was wearing a deerstalker but it wouldn't have looked out of place. We say good morning and after exchanging pleasantries this bit of dialogue occurs. `How far do you intend going today?' we ask. `Don't know. 'Appen I might stop 'ere, or mebbe I'll go on. Depends on 'ow the mood takes me', comes the reply in tones that would make Geoff Boycott feel right at home.
The day is really hot. Scalby Mills lurks in the distance peering at us through the heat haze. Flamborough Head, our distant companion of the previous day is hidden. We reach Scalby at midday, find a cafe and get our daily fix of tea and squash. Our feet have stood up to the pain but the heat has really sapped our energy. We take a long rest and start to walk round Scarborough's North Bay. More decisions to be made. Do we walk round the bay and the pass the castle on the shore side, or do we pass the castle to the landward side? The former is much further but going inland means a stiff climb and descent to the Harbour Bar. The climb wins and we take the long way round.
The Harbour Bar! The very thought of it has kept me going for the last two days. Brian must be sick and tired of me extolling the delights of this emporium. But the Harbour Bar does sell the best Knickerbocker Glories in the land. Since day one the prospect of sitting on one of the high stools and gorging myself has been the main force driving me on.
The walk round the bay is particularly hard. For most of the last 40 miles we have been walking across fields, but now we are walking on the hard streets of Scarborough and our feet don't like it. We reach our goal (well mine anyway) - The Harbour Bar. Time for photographs and our ice creams. After walking 40 miles I am ready for my reward. The thought of the best Knickerbocker Glories in the land has kept me putting one foot in front of the other in searing heat. Like John Mills in "Ice Cold in Alex"; those Knickerbocker Glories kept me going just as the thought of cold lager drove him to overcome all that fate could contrive. We go in, find some seats.....the moment of fulfilment has come! I persuade Brian into having one. "One Knickerbocker Glory and a Bananarama, please" Did I say that? Yes! I can't believe I said that, but it was true. When the time came and the chips were down; I realised I fancied a Bananarama more than a Harbour Bar Knickerbocker Glory.
Our walk is over at 1.15pm on the Tuesday. We both agree that intrepid walkers like us could go on to Filey and Bunter's cafe if we had to, but we have reached our prime objective. After all we are supposed to be enjoying ourselves, not setting records. We hobble off in search of digs. At least we are feeling better than the Holbeck Hall Hotel on Scarborough's South shore. Half of it fell in the sea. We have avoided that fate.
We eventually find some digs near the railway station. The place is a bit of a dump, but it has certain attractive features: - close to the railway station - a bar - cheap - a bar etc. Again our room is in the attic. On this walk we have stayed in 4 places. In each case we have been in a room on the top floor, someone has had it in for us (we have been too tired).
We dine in a very pleasant Italian restaurant just back from the prom. Then back to our hotel(?) and a pleasant evening in the bar. The bar runs out of beer! I know we were thirsty, but surely not.....
There are a lot of Scots people escaping Glasgow staying there. Staying in Scarborough we can understand, but staying in this place. Still it has some advantages - a bar; cheap....
Wednesday dawns. For the first time in days the sky is cloudy, it's raining. We are served breakfast by the gay barman. I have to ask Brian if he thinks he is gay, or does he camp it up to the hilt to gain attention.
Two days ago we could see for miles, today we can't see Oliver's Mount just across town because of the low cloud and mist. We are both mightily pleased that the last four days have been dry and clear. The train is packed as we leave. There is a sense of anti-climax, a very ordinariness about the proceedings. We are both quiet and lost among our own thoughts yet we share a sense of achievement. The mist stays with us all the way to York where we part. Brian goes on to Leeds and Guiseley, as I go on to Newcastle and Tynemouth.