The following morning we set off for Staithes. Anna had seen a lovely photo of this little town, almost hidden in a ravine on the coast of North Yorkshire and had suggested we visit. From that time on Staithes kept popping up all over the place for both of us. Just the week before her visit I had gone to some of the art studios that were showcased in the Open Studios weekend in Hebden Bridge and one of the first things that caught my eye in Kate Lycett’s studio was a little notebook – with her watercolour of Staithes on the cover. I asked her to sign a copy for Anna and I wrapped it in Christmas wrapping paper (!) and gave it to her as we travelled through Yorkshire on the train. The sense of the size of Yorkshire was definitely apparent on our trip. Our first train took us to Dewsbury, the next to Thornaby, the next to Whitby. It was very foggy all day. Our ride from Thornaby followed the River Esk and we stopped at many many station, just 3 or 4 minutes apart. One of the stations was for sale. Anna just loves these old buildings.
Arriving in Whitby we spent a couple hours or so exploring the town. It was very busy with tourists, this being the second weekend of the school holidays. Even the 199 steps up to the abbey were scattered with parents with kiddies in tow, reminding me of how we used to take day and weekend trips like this almost every weekend when our children were small. We didn’t go into the abbey and there’s a high wall around it so we couldn’t see much of it, but it was founded by Hilda in 680AD.
We wandered around the graveyard perched on the cliff top and remarked on the amazing patterns of the weathered sandstone – and its various colours too. We passed the new youth hostel that I’d taken a peak into when I visited Whitby in 2016 with Judith, and then we found the original youth hostel building that Colin and I had stayed in when we hiked the Cleveland Way in 1979. Back down the steps we wandered around the harbour with its tall ships and we passed many people in steam punk outfits.Whitby is renowned for its steam punk festival because Bram Stoker used Whitby as an inspiration for Dracula. Then it was on to Staithes, a half hour journey by bus. The bus was just like the bus from Hebden to Haworth. In the dense fog the driver seemed to go way too fast!
We had booked a room at the Captain Cook Hotel, which Anna had picked out. I later found that it had originally been built was the Station Hotel and the dining room had old photos of the railway viaduct that spanned the valley and was demolished in 1960 because for much of the time trains couldn’t use it because of the high winds. We could see the stanchion on the other side of the valley. The hotel was above the old town so we had great views of the town each time we climbed the hill. This was especially beautiful at night when the orange street lights gave a warm glow to the picturesque buildings. Our room was on the third floor and it was so foggy that we could barely see the ground.
We were getting hungry by this time and so an hour after our arrival we set off the explore Staithes, passing the huge blue wire lobster! This village, often used by photographers and watecolourists consists of houses huddled together – higgledy piggledy. I read its like a set of child’s building blocks that have fallen down and scattered randomly.
There is a homogeneity that comes from the red roof tiles and there must be some ordinance that people can only use a certain colour palette for painting their houses. It was much much quieter than Whitby and it was much more to Anna’s liking. She’d read the reviews of places to eat and had selected the Cod and Lobster that’s right on the waterfront. It’s so close to the sea that it’s been washed away three times! Again, we felt so fortunate to be able to have dinner outside and not be freezing cold. From our table we watched the tide leave the little fishing boats high and dry and as darkness fell the orange street lights of the town gave the houses a lovely warm glow. The colour of the lights always reminds me of the view of Bolton from my bedroom growing up at Affetside. American street lights are white, not orange – quite different.
We left the Cod and Lobster and climbed the hill, getting back around 9:30. Our actual journey on 3 trains and a bus had taken 6 hours.
Breakfast in the dining room was from 9 til 10 since this was a Sunday so we made our plans for the day and then headed downstairs. Anna wanted to do a hike.it was still incredibly foggy, but warm, humid and rain was not in the forecast fortunately, so we decided to walk along the cliff top, past of the Cleveland Way that I’d done in 1982. For the next few miles the cliff edge was a couple of feet on our left hand side and rolling corn fields stretched into the distance on our right. The entire path was covered in butterflies too. We could see the harbour at Port Mulgrave, just a few shacks and little boats before we reached Runswick Bay. This wasn’t anywhere near as pretty as Staithes but we stopped for coffee at the Cliffemount Hotel that I’d seen mentioned online. Again we were able to sit outside in the beer garden.
We headed inland to Hinderwell because when we’d passed through this little village on the bus we’d seen several scarecrows and wanted to take a close look. It reminded me of the Flower pot festival I’d visited with Rachel in Settle in 2015. People had gone all out on these from Laurel and Hardy to Elvis. Great photo opp. We had lunch at the Badger Hounds after finding that the Runcible Spoon was closed and the only other place serving food, The Brown Cow, was only serving BBQ.
From Hinderwell we took the bus to Saltburn-by-the-Sea, a half hour journey. We’d already remarked on the high prices of the bus fares on our journey from Whitby to Staithes and this was just the same. As we were waiting for the bus we chatted to a local lady. As always, English conversations begin with the weather. she told us that the dense fog was unusual and that it had rolled in following the extreme heat last Thursday. She had been a teacher in several different countries in Africa and she made the same comments as we had done about British people sitting out in the full sun, wanting to get sunburned. She suggested where we should get off the bus in Saltburn and within minutes we found ourselves in the midst of the Saltburn food festival.
Hundreds of pop-up food and drink stands lined the streets. Bales of hay provided places for people to sit and enjoy live music. The National Health service has really fallen on hard times. They now provide bales of straw as people wait in line for an appointment in the surgery. Anna had read about the vertical tramway and we took it down the hill and then walked out along the pier. We were surprised to find that it had been ‘yarn bombed.’ Well, that’s what it’s called in Hebden Bridge. Delightful.
Around 4:30 we left Saltburn and headed back to Staithes on the bus. The seagulls were very noisy as they roosted on the cliff. We were trying to find the spot where Colin and I had taken the only photo of Staithes from when we were on ur Cleveland way hike. It wasn’t too difficult to find and it was the very same place that Kate Lycett had painted her picture from.