Coast of curiosity

Paul Kirkwood comes across a mausoleum, an urban lighthouse, the outfits of a 50s filmstar and crumbling roads on a journey to the far east of Yorkshire.

Withernsea

Withernsea

‘Hidden Holderness’ is the banner under which a local history group promotes its region today. Tucked away round the corner from Hull and not quite as accessible for holidaymakers from the industrial north as the North Yorkshire coast, Holderness has been left to flounder but, from what I saw of it from my bike during a weekend break, it has bags of potential for rejuvenation particularly as a cycling region.

There are lots of very quiet, narrow, blissfully flat country lanes. I barely used the large cog on my gears all day. The scenery may not be spectacular but the sheer joy of such easy pootling more than makes up for it and there are many spots of curiosity along the way.

Constable mausoleum

Constable mausoleum

Take the Constable mausoleum, for instance, the first of many reasons to pause on my route south from Aldbrough. Built by Edward Constable of Constable Burton Hall around the turn of the 18th century, it stands, domed and pristine white, at the end of an avenue of yew trees. Halsham House, on the other side of the road, is even older having been built as an Elizabethan school, its current occupant came out to tell me. Later it became almshouses and then a hospital. Sir John Constable used to live in a house at the bottom of the garden which was demolished in the 16th century.

Unassuming Ottringham was packed with interest. I past the villages’s former station which lay on the Hull-Withernsea line closed to passengers in 1964 courtesy of Dr Beeching. A few yards further on were the ruins of an anti-tank wall dating back to the second world war. Walls were built in staggered fashion on either side of and encroaching onto the road so that vehicles had to slow almost to a stop in order to weave through the gap. Large concrete cylinders were kept nearby to be rolled into the gaps in the event of an invasion.

Just outside the village I past the site of the once top secret BBC Otteringham, now the premises of a modular buildings company. From here during the war medium and long wave services as well as propaganda was transmitted as far as the heart of occupied Europe.

Withernsea lighthouse

Withernsea lighthouse

Withernea was much more important in the olden days too. I had my sandwiches on the beach beside the former gateway to the pier. Completed in 1877 and originally nearly a quarter of a mile long, it was thought to have been based on Conwy Castle in north Wales. The pier was sadly a magnetic attraction for ships. Four vessels crashed into it over a 13-year period and this, combined with storm damage, reduced the pier to a pitiful 50ft stub in 1903 when the final remains were demolished. The gateway couldn’t be in finer condition today, though. A new scale model of the complete pier is sited in front of it as smart and proud as a sandcastle.

Withernsea’s other main feature is its lighthouse which is just as quirky as the gateway on account of being the only lighthouse in the UK with a town separating it from the sea. The proximity of such a towering structure to terraced housing brought to mind old football grounds. It was built in 1894 and its beam last shone in 1976. I plodded up the steps to check out the light at close quarters and enjoy the fine view. Down below I looked around a museum which recalls how the wonderfully named Lewis Cole and his Monarchs of Melody performed at the Grand Pavillion, now a leisure centre. Among the ecletic exhibits are an ostrich egg, whale’s tooth and display about the town’s most famous daughter, actress Kay Kendall. You can see the dress she wore in the film Les Girls in which she co-starred with Gene Kelly. Married to Rex Harrison, she appeared in 28 films, most famously, Genevieve. She died of leukaemia aged 52 in 1959.

Rimswell gravestone

Rimswell gravestone

I left Withernsea passing Owthorne, the majority of which – including its church – was washed away by the sea about 200 years ago. For 15 days men laboured at the grisly task of moving bodies and bones from the stricken churchyard to the yard at Rimswell. I cycled in their footsteps to find the two remaining transferred graves – of brothers, Matthew and Henry Webster. The adjacent St Mary the Virgin church was built on foundation stones believed to have come from the Owthorne church or collected from the beach after its spectacular fall into the sea.

The story set the scene for an unexpected finale to my ride. After Tunstall I came to an abrupt halt. “Road closed expect to cyclists” said the sign. “Wonder what that’s all about”, I thought as I lifted my bike around the concrete blocks barring the way. A few yards further on – but some miles from my destination – I stopped in my tracks. I had reached the end of the road, quite literally. It had fallen away and down the crumbling cliff towards the sea.

End of the road - at Tunstall

End of the road – at Tunstall

There have been many occasions on my cycle travels when I’ve swore blind that there should be a road at a particular point and that the map simply must be wrong and, for once, I was right. My map had been published in 2005 and a couple passing in the opposite direction told me that the minor road from Tunstall to Hilton had existed on their last walk here two years ago. This was about as close as I’ve ever come to an earthquake in Yorkshire. Cracks in the tarmac made it clear which sections of the carriageway were due to go next. I looked gingerly over the edge, remarked at the spectacle and continued on foot along the grass on the landward side of the former road. Closed except to cyclists? Only just – and to those who don’t mind walking a bit.

Back in Aldbrough I saw further evidence of erosion. Signs warn of sunbathing at the foot of the cliffs for fear of cliff collapse and a bunch of flowers was poignantly tied to a sign at the end of the road saying “Warning. Cliff collapse. Road closure”. Hard-standings where caravans once stood are are now used as car parks for owners of caravans next in line for removal. The landlady of my guesthouse told me that the current rate of erosion is running at around one coast road cottage every five years. House no 228 even calls itself Cliff Top Cottage To Be. Holderness is hidden – and disappearing fast.

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Former gateway to Withernsea pier

 

Fact file

Cycle route in brief:

Admiral Storr's Tower

Admiral Storr’s Tower

Aldbrough – Fitling – Roos – Halsham – Ottringham – Winstead – Withernsea – Rimswell – Tunstall – Hilston – Aldbrough. Distance: 40 miles. Other points of interest to look out include two follies: Admiral Storr’s Tower (visible to the right as you pass through Hilston) and the castellated Grimston Garth (visible shortly afterwards to the right of the B1242 to Aldbrough).

Weblink: http://www.hidden-holderness.org.uk. You can download a series of interesting leaflets about different aspects of the region.

Tunstall church

Tunstall church

The far east

For East Riding read easy riding on this flat route on the coast which includes an old railway line.

The Hornsea Rail Trail at New Ellerby station_9_1‘Hidden Holderness’ is the banner under which a local history group promotes its region today. Tucked away round the corner from Hull and not quite as accessible for holidaymakers from the industrial north as the North Yorkshire coast, Holderness has been left to flounder but, from what I saw of it from my bike, it has bags of potential for rejuvenation particularly as a cycling region.

There are lots of very quiet, narrow, blissfully flat country lanes. I barely used the large cog on my gears all day. The scenery may not be spectacular but the sheer joy of such easy pootling more than makes up for it and there are many spots of curiosity along the way.

End of the road - at Aldbrough

End of the road – at Aldbrough

Holderness is hidden – and rapidly disappearing. In fact, it’s the fastest eroding coastline in Europe as I observed by nipping down to the sea in Aldbrough before starting the ride proper. Signs warn of sunbathing at the foot of the cliffs for fear of cliff collapse and a bunch of flowers was poignantly tied to a sign at the end of the road saying “Warning. Cliff collapse. Road closure”. Hard-standings where caravans once stood are now used as car parks for owners of caravans next in line for removal. The landlady of my B&B told me that the current rate of erosion is running at around one coast road cottage every five years. House no. 228 even calls itself Cliff Top Cottage To Be.

At this point it seemed prudent to head inland – which is what I did by following a narrow, winding road east from Aldbrough to Burton Constable Hall. After such rural thoroughfares the village of Skirlaugh on the main road seemed like a metropolis. Trees, unusual in these parts, shroud the smaller settlement of Rise and, with All Saints’ Church, give it the feel of an estate village in the Home Counties. I passed the gates to Rise Hall which Channel 4 property developer Sarah Beeny is currently redeveloping into a wedding venue having bought the former convent as a home 10 years ago.

Burton Constable Hall

Burton Constable Hall

From here it was full steam ahead – almost literally as I joined the Hornsea Rail Trail. It runs along the trackbed of the railway that operated between Hull and Hornsea for exactly a century from 1864. The railway had a dramatic effect on the development of Hornsea. Families moved here from Hull or set up businesses in the holiday trade or commuted back to the city for work. New roads and houses were built on the seaward side of the old town and many Victorian properties of various types can still be seen today.

There’s plenty to see of natural as well as historic interest on the Trail. In summer look out for the common spotted orchid, reed bunting and orange tip butterly and, in autumn, the shaggy ink cap fungi (also known as lawyer’s wig). The apple trees along the line are ordinary enough but their origin is unusual. They grew from the pips of apples that train passengers cast from windows. They had plenty of time to munch as, in the line’s hey-day, there were no less than seven stations on the eight miles of track between Skirlaugh and Hornsea.

Hornsea Mere

Hornsea Mere

I came up from the trail before it entered the town to include a loop around Hornsea Mere, the largest freshwater lake in Yorkshire. An off-road section of my route took me into some trees and through a rapid succession of bridlegates that would tax even the keenest horserider then onto a glorious avenue of maple trees forming the approach to Wassand Hall, an early 19th century villa. I turned right on the road towards Hornsea soon passing Mushroom Cottage, a quirky circular building that forms part of the Wassand estate. It has pointed Gothic windows and rustic wooden pillars which once supported a thatched roof.

Despite cycling just yards from the northern bank of the mere I was frustratingly restricted to just occasional glimpses of the water through the trees. Soon enough, though, I finally entered Hornsea and headed straight to the main viewpoint for the mere. It’s a pleasant ice cream and ducks sort of spot with views towards Swan Island, the only island in the Yorkshire (if you exclude one in the river in Sheffield).

Bettison's Tower

Bettison’s Tower

My favourite place in the town, though, is Bettison’s Folly, a tower incongruously tucked away in a modern housing estate just behind the road to the beach. Curiosities like this make a ride for me. It was erected by a Mr Bettison for carriage watching. The idea was that his servants should try to sight their master’s gig coming up the Hull road so that they could serve dinner the moment he burst into the house. The cafes in the town weren’t quite so concerned about my sustenance but did provide plenty of lunchtime options before I hit the beach. I stood beside my bike beneath the sculpture marking the end of the Trans Pennine Route and Rail Trail feeling somewhat fraudulent. The total length of the long distance route that starts in Southport is 215 miles and includes many yards of punishing Pennine ascents but I had reached the end in just a few gentle hours. I neither sought nor deserved a certificate. The end of the old railway line is marked by a beautifully restored station which is now – given its Trail signifiance – more of a terminus than it ever was.

I left Hornsea to the south along the most bracing section of the route. The road is open here and the North Sea is only a few hundred yards away but, thankfully, the wind wasn’t blowing and I made quick progress to Mapleton. The beach is much quieter here than in Hornsea and was the perfect spot for an ice cream before the final leg of the journey. A finger of rock defences extends into the sea, another indication of the power of erosion in these parts. To my relief when I got back to Aldbrough it was all still there.

Hornsea beach

Hornsea beach

Fact file

Distance: 28 miles.

Directions:

In Aldbrough, opposite the Country Stores on the B1242, turn down Carlton Lane signed to Carlton and West Newton Cemetary. Follow the winding road past farms to a t-junction. Turn right (signed to Marton and Ellerby) to pass the main entrance to Burton Constable. Take the first left to Old Ellerby and then, in the village, turn right. At the next t-junction turn left to reach the busy A165. Turn right into Skirlaugh. Turn right at the mini-roundabout beside the Duke of York pub heading towards Rise on the B1243. Keep ahead (leaving the B road) as you approach the church in the village and follow the road as it bears right.

Aldbrough church

Aldbrough church

Soon the road crosses the old railway line. Turn left onto the line towards Hornsea. After 3½ miles as you approach a bridge fork left at the sign for ‘Loop via Hornsea Mere’. Turn left when you reach the road then, after 200 yards, turn left again down Southorpe Rd. At the end of the road pass around a double gate and keep ahead along a track.

At signs for ‘no entry’ turn right onto a bridleway, pass through a wood and through a bridlegate, across a field and through a second bridlegate. Bear left keeping a barbed wire-topped fence on your left. Pass through a third bridlegate and keep ahead probably needing to walk for a short distance. Pass through two more bridlegates to reach a stony track. Pass through a final bridlegate beside a five-bar wooden gate. This section of the route is well signed with blue waymarkers. Continue ahead down an avenue of maple trees to the junction with the B1244.

Turn right towards and into Hornsea. Follow the road as it bears right then, at the church, turn left down Newbegin to reach the sea – or continue a little further for access to Hornsea Mere on the right. At the seafront turn right then follow the road as it bears sharp right and up to the B1242. Turn left onto this road and follow it through Mapleton back to Aldbrough.

To find Bettison’s Folly: Just after the Hornsea Museum on Newbegin turn right down Willows Drive signed ‘School’. Bear right down The Willows and you will see the tower in the corner of a grassed area.

Map: here

Eating:

The George & Dragon, Aldbrough, Hu11 4RP. Tel 01964 527 698.‎
The Elm Tree Inn, Aldbrough, HU11 4RP. Tel 01964 527 568‎.
The Duke of York, Skirlaugh, HU11 5ET. Tel 01964 500 093‎.
The Railway Inn, New Ellerby, HU11 5LP. Tel 01964 563 770.‎
The Wrygarth Inn, Great Hatfield, HU11 4UY 01964 533 300.
Lots of choice in Hornsea including a café at the Mere (tel 01964 533277).

Old Hornsea station

Old Hornsea station

Break for the border

Paul Kirkwood follows in the footsteps of celebrities as he cycles up the coast to Redcar.

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Saltburn by the Sea

When the North Riding of Yorkshire was abolished in the reorganisation of local government in 1974 the county lost its northern coastal corner but not forever and neither completely.

The area encompassing Guisborough, Marske, Salturn and Redcar formed a new county of Cleveland which became the unitary authority of Redcar & Cleveland in 1997. At the same time the area came back into the territory of the Lord-Lieutenant of North Yorkshire which, in short, means that he represents the Queen in both regions. Following him over the border so to speak – by bicycle, with my five-year-old son Bertie literally in tow and bucket and spade in my panniers – made for a fascinating day’s exploration. As I found out, Yorkshire’s loss is Redcar & Cleveland’s gain.

Kirkleatham Museum

Kirkleatham Museum

We parked at Kirkleatham Museum of local history housed in a 1710 Queen Anne building. We visited the museum when we got back along with the owl centre next door which has has one of the largest collection of owls in the country. Also worth a look is Turner’s Hospital over the road. Consisting of 26 almshouses set around a courtyard, it has provided sheltered accommodation for retired people since its construction in the 17th century. The gate is flanked by a pair of little bastions with battlemented turrets. Our first staging post, Wilton village, is just as attractive and interesting. Stout, honey-coloured houses hide among the conifers along with a another fine row of almshouses fronted by a green, the headmaster’s house and, next door, the village school which mimics Gisborough Priory.

That was our first rest spot which we certainly needed after labouring up a steep hill. We arrived at the Priory at the same time as actors from a travelling theatre company were building the stage for an open air performance of Pinnochio. I read about the ruins while Bertie scrampered over them. Just to the side of the eastern gable of the priory church as if in the wings of a theatre we came across a group of volunteers who are two years into a 10-year project to restore the formal 18th century priory gardens to their former glory.

Gisborough Priory

Gisborough Priory

There was no need for such restoration at our next port of call, Saltburn, a lovely old fashioned seaside town. It’s very name – in full, Saltburn-by-the-Sea – exudes Victorian gentility. Originally a fishing hamlet, Saltburn was developed as a resort in the 1860s by entrepreneur Henry Pease who’s sculpture we passed later. Two of his structures still boast superlatives. The pier is the the most northerly in the country and the cliff lift which connects it to the town is the nation’s oldest remaining water balance cliff lift. Using distinctive white firebricks from his own brickworks, Peace also built streets of terraced houses and the Italianate Zetland Hotel, unmissable on the cliff top. Among its facilities were a private railway platform and hot and cold seawater and fresh water baths.

St Germain's Church, Marske

St Germain’s Church, Marske

In contrast with its neighbours, Markse – which also has that all-important ‘by the sea’ appendage – is unremarkable with the exception of St Germain’s Church which we passed. It consists of just a tower as if the nave is buried below the churchyard like children bury their feet on the beach. (The majority of the church was demolished in 1960). A headstone just to the west of the tower records where Captain Cook’s father is buried.

The beach between Markse and Redcar, the last town of this seaside trio, was the site of two world land speed records in the early 20th century, the long, firm, flat sands being the attraction. In Redcar – where sandyachting was popular – we came across modern day speed kings. Kite-boarders hurtled up and down on skateboards pulled along and sometimes hoisted up into the air by paraglider-type canopies.

The states of the most eye-catching hotels in Redcar and Saltburn reflect the towns’ contrasting fortunes. The Zetland in Saltburn has been turned into luxury apartments but the Coatham Hotel in Redcar, now called the Regency Mansions, is boarded up awaiting redevelopment like many other seafront properties. Back in the 60s and 70s the hotel was the venue of the renowned Redcar Jazz Club. Looking at building today it’s hard to imagine that the likes of The Who, Status Quo, Cream, Marc Bolan and Free all passing through its doors.

Redcar

Redcar

A somewhat chequered history had another celebrity twist in August 2006 when the building was dressed as Hotel L’Hirondelle to became part of the set for Dunkirk sequence of the Atonement film starring James McEvoy and Keira Knightly. The pink building next door was turned into ruin for the purposes of the film and still bears the ‘bottes’ and ‘cires’ legends that were painted onto the walls as part of its Second World War makeover. The film makers didn’t need to do much to send the Regent Cinema – which also features in the film – back to the 40s. Standing at the former entrance to Coatham pier, the cinema was was built as a theatre in 1928. Choosing the venue for the regional premiere was easy. It was attended by the film’s director Joe Wright who, the same day, unveiled a steel sculpture of packing cases and a directors chair commissioned by Working Title Films and still in place on the front as as a thank you to the town and the thousand locals who were extras.

Redcar has seen better days but things are looking up. Over the road from the Regency Mansions a bandstand has been restored and Coatham Boating Lake is underdoing a similar rejuvenation. The work forms part of a larger project to redevelop the 35-acre Coatham Links area which will eventually include 357 new homes, a leisure centre, pub, restaurant and other facilities.

Girding ourselves for the last stretch back to Kirkleatham, Bertie and I had ice creams on the beach looking northwards. The Teesside chemical works may not be scenic but, with kite-boarders in the foreground, they form a dramatic backdrop to the scene and emphatic reminder that the sands at Redcar are the final beach on this stretch of coastline – whether you consider yourself to be in Yorkshire or not.

Kite-boarding at Redcar

Kite-boarding at Redcar

Fact file

Turner's Hospital, Kirkleatham

Turner’s Hospital, Kirkleatham

Parking: Free car park at Kirkleatham Hall. Closes promptly at 4pm in winter and 5pm in summer. Alternatively, you could start the ride at Markse where there is a free car park just above the beach on the Redcar road.

Map: Tees Valley Cycling Map for Redcar & Cleveland is available free from local Tourist Information Centres including the one at Guisborough Priory. Highly recommended.

Refreshments: Camfields Coffee and Juice Bar which the route passes in Saltburn is a chic alternative to a conventional beach café and has a pleasant area for eating and drinking outside.

Distance: 23 miles.

Directions:

Kirkleatham Hall
Leave Kirkleatham Hall the way you drove in. Cross the main road via a cycle crossing and turn left. Keep ahead on cycle path until a t-junction with a minor road. Turn left down an underpass then left signed to Wilton and second right signed to and through Wilton village. Proceed up steep hill and after 4 miles pass under the A171 to enter Guisborough.

Guisborough
At t-junction turn left onto Church Lane then right down Redcar Lane which becomes Church St and leads to Guisborough Priory. Turn left out of the Priory and, at the clocktower, bear left to pass the Severn Stars pub. At the lights, turn left down Whitby Lane then right down Butt Lane. As it bears right (into Whitby Ave) keep ahead down a gravelly track. At the end of the lane, ignore the first left turn but take the second left which takes you onto the old railway track and is signed to Slapewath. At a crossroads of tracks turn left, again signed to Slapewath. Emerge from the track at Roundhouse Farm. Turn right onto another cycle path running beside the road. At the end of the path cross over the road around go around a lay-by like crescent that includes the Fox and Hounds pub. Continue beside the road for another 100 yards then cross back over it and down a now closed-off lane signed Cleveland Way into the village of Charltons via a bridge. Just before the end of a terrace of houses turn left to cross the main road and proceed down Margrove Rd. (You can cycle on the A171 from Roundhouse Farm until this turn but I think that crossing the road three times is preferable).

Skelton Green
Pass through Skelton Green. About 300 yards after the village and just before the road bears sharp right turn right down East Parade (easy to miss) and immediately fork left down Willy Lane. This brings you out onto Skelton High St. Turn right then left down Saltburn Lane signed Rushpool Hall. Continue ahead at roundabout and descend to the seafront at Saltburn.

Henry Pease sculpture, Saltburn

Henry Pease sculpture, Saltburn

Saltburn
Where the road bears sharp left and up a steep hill turn right to follow the broad foot and cycle path past the pier and along the seafront. Where the Tarmac ends dismount and walk up a footpath through a wood to the road. Turn right and immediately right again before the railway bridge down Milton St signed for Route 1 of the National Cycle Network. Pass by some disused caravans and allotments, ignoring a track passing underneath the railway line.

Marske
On the outskirts of Marske and where the cyclepath ends turn right down Howard Drive signed ‘Cycleway to Redcar’. The road bears left into Windy Hill Lane and past Redmar convenience store. Turn right down Church Howle Crescent again signed to Redcar. St Germain’s Lane becomes Church St at the end of which turn right at a t-junction. Just before Bydales School cross over the A1085 at a pelican crossing and continue towards the sea and onto Redcar on the cycle path (still signed as Route 1).

Redcar
Follow the path all the way round the Redcar beach forking right at Regency Mansions in Coatham. After passing a car park and at the end of the cycle route the road bears sharp left and joins Majuba Rd. Go ahead at the roundabout, over the railway and then left at the traffic lights to follow a cycle path running beside the A1085. At a crossroads turn right and follow Route 1 all the way back to Kirkleatham Hall. It starts with a traffic-free stretch on the far side of Mersey Rd. At a t-junction at the end of Mersey Rd turn left and almost immediately cross the road via a pelican crossing by a Netto supermarket. Turn right and follow the cycle path as it bears left and emerges at Low Farm Drive. Turn left and follow a traffic-free stretch through a housing estate to reach West Dyke Rd. Turn left and then right down Mapleton Crescent signed ‘Kirkleatham 1’. Turn right up East Lodge Gardens and immediately left down a paved passageway to a t-junction with Plantation Rd. Turn right and through a wood to return to Kirkleatham.

Note: A cycle path is indicated on the cycling map that links Waterfall and Airy Hill Farms and appears to provide an alternative to using the A171 at Slapewath. This is actually a bridleway, very steep and rough in parts and not recommended.

Saltburn by the Sea

Saltburn by the Sea

Big dipper

Today (i.e May 20) marks the fifth anniversary of the North Sea Cycle route which covers 3,800 miles around the coasts of Germany, Belgium, Holland, Norway, Sweden and the UK. Cyclists across Europe are pedalling the whole route between them in a day. Paul Kirkwood sampled just a few miles of it in North Yorkshire.

Staithes

Staithes

On a cycling holiday in Cornwall many years ago I barely needed pedals. I was either freewheeling into a cove or pushing the bike out of one. The same could be said for sections of this scenic ride along the North Yorkshire coast which takes you from its industrial past to its seaside present. Part of the reason I headed seaward was curiosity. Everyone knows Robin Hood’s Bay, Whitby and Staithes but what about the next village up on the map, Skinningrove?

The Shell Book of the British Coast says that Skinningrove “although decayed retains a certain fascination“ which is a good way of summing it up. The small fishing village was transformed when the mining of ironstone for the iron works of the north-east began here 1848. The mine closed in 1958 – it now houses The Tom Leonard Mining Museum – but the sense of a close-knit community still very much remains. There are few cars even on the huge main square but lots of people – many of them in their front gardens talking over the hedge or outside Timms Coffee House. A man on a bike seemed to be a rare site. I’ve never felt so much of a stranger in my adoptive county. I reached the end of the village and the start of the sea, swung to the right and away from the red-stained rocks on the shore for the first of four steep climbs.

Staithes in the summertime

Staithes in the summertime

Thankfully, the mast in front of me turned out to be the summit. I read afterwards that I’d be going over the highest headland in England, higher even than Beachy Head. I plunged down, gripping the brakes as tight as I could to avoid losing control. I was taking route one – quite literally as this stretch follows part of the No 1 route of the National Cycle Network which forms part of the North Sea cycle route. One of its many plus points is that it takes you into Staithes via Cowbar along a cliff top road which is prohibited for vehicular traffic. The cycle route hugs the cliff top – for now at least. If there’s much more erosion it could disappear.

Boat sculpture at Skinningrove

Boat sculpture at Skinningrove

I pushed my bike over a footbridge and then found myself in the familiar surroundings of Staithes. Here too erosion is a problem. The Cod and Lobster Inn has been washed away three times and the drapers shops where Captain Cook was apprenticed has also been lost to the sea. The sound of seagulls echoed in the narrow, cobbled passageways and a fisherman mended his lobster nets sitting outside his cottage. It was like being back in Cornwall again. I laid my bike on the sand and enjoyed my sandwiches.

Staithes used to benefit from a railway between Scarborough and Loftus, a viaduct spanning the ravine. All that remains of it today is a stone abutment which you can see opposite the car park on your way out of the village.

Runswick Bay

Runswick Bay

Just three miles later I was back on the beach at Runswick Bay. Upturned boats lay on a bank in the sun like lazing whales. Sitting in front of the lifeboat station I could see yachts to my right and to my left a pretty white, thatched cottage beside the harbour wall. James Herriot stayed there one weekend. At the end of his holiday he instructed his family to walk up the steep slope from the beach while he drove his old Austin A70 as he thought he’d stand a better chance of reaching the top without them. The gradient is, indeed, perilous.

After the seaside bustle and traffic of the A171 I was glad to slip back into the country along a narrow windy road. My return inland took me through the pleasant rolling pastoral landscape of Borrowby. Often with coastal rides the sea section is the attraction and the inland section is an obligation – but not on this one. The road was so little used grass grew in the middle in places. As I laboured up my final hill I wished the other person on my bike was the rear rider on a tandem rather than my son Bertie in the child seat, bless him. He pushed on my waist but it didn’t help. At the top I spotted yachts on the Scaling Reservoir where I had parked. My ride hadn’t been plain sailing but the seaside stops had more than made up for the hills.

James Herriot cottage in Runswick Bay

James Herriot cottage in Runswick Bay

Fact file

Mural at Skinningrove

Mural at Skinningrove

Distance: 23 miles.

Time: 3 hours excluding stops.

Parking: At Scaling Reservoir on the A171 to Whitby. Free.

Directions:

L onto A171 then first R signed Easington. First L signed “Local traffic” into Loftus. L at A174 then R up Duncan Place which bears L to become Coronation Rd. R at end up Deepdale Rd and ahead onto cycle track into Skinningrove. At large square in village centre R then L (not crossing the bridge) to shore. Follow road round to R and upwards. At t-junction R and immediately L. At the end of descent L onto the A174 at Boulby and, after 100m, L signed Cowbar. Push bike over footbridge into Staithes. To leave village turn R and uphill. L onto A174 again, through Hinderwell and then L to Runswick Bay. After visit to beach retrace route then, in front of Runswick Bay Hotel, L signed Ellerby and Whitby. R at A174 then first L signed Newton Mulgrave. Pass through the hamlet and, at t-junction after steep ascent, L through Borrowby. L at t-junction then R at A171 back to car park.

Map: Outdoor Leisure 26: North York Moors (Western area).

Bertie Kirkwood at Staithes

Bertie Kirkwood at Staithes