Edit Blog Post
Published: September 16th 2020
The X4 rolled up on time. It had been 6 months since I had last been on public transport. The bus was showing the hallmarks of COVID. Social distancing signs. Warning tape across some seats. Advisory signs to indicate a reduced capacity - 21 seated only, as opposed to 49 plus standing. The latter sign would prove unfortunate later in the day.
East Cleveland was largely slumbering this morning. Passengers were few and far between at this early hour. A few were heading down to their jobs in Whitby - others were possibly heading home! I passed through Carlin How. The huge steel plant on the cliffs in a most unlikely setting is a reminder of the iron ore heritage in the area. The edge of Skinningrove was displaying a sign advertising a new holiday park - Deepdale Cove. The Perfect Retreat - it says so on their website. My fore fathers would be looking down from their perches at Primrose Hill and Mount Pleasant and smiling at the thought. The star attraction of the area is the Iron Ore Mining Museum, which gives an insight into their life. The sign sits next to the Iron Valley sign, which is
Cod & Lobster Pub
an appropriate colour. The beck running into the sea used to favour a more rusty, orange shade. The bus climbs into Loftus, where the theme is maintained with Iron Valley Vaping. Loftus - home of the Saxon Princess - another sign proclaims in the Market Place. An archeological dig around 2005 discovered the grave of a wealthy Saxon woman, assumed to be of royal status, just a short distance from where my bus waits at the timing stop. The town had obviously seen ahead to the link with royalty and named the pub in East Loftus, The Royal. It is no more along with the old United Bus Garage, which is now just a shell with the skeleton of the roof supports. I pass the Cricket Club and Sports Ground. Who would have thought the football club in this tiny place would have made semi-final of an FA Amateur Cup? Okay so it was in 1921, but impressive nevertheless. I pass the street where my grand parents lived, the cemetery where they lie and on out towards the more open countryside. The Iron Valley now behind us, we approach the modern scar on the landscape. The Boulby Mine - the
second deepest in Europe - dominates as far as the eye can see. I read that it is now the only source of Polyhalite in the world, which they have found in a seam under the adjacent sea. However we know the mine as the "potash" after the original purpose for the opening in 1976. I can vaguely remember the local protests and objections before it opened and how they intended to landscape the plant with tall trees to disguise the appearance. The view of the National Park was to be unhindered. I look today and they would have been some trees. The plant went ahead of course. The well paid jobs were much needed. There are other views. The bus races down into to the valley. The cliffs to my left are the highest on the East coast of England at 666 feet. It is a long way down. I cross the border into North Yorkshire and I am the only person to get off the bus in Staithes.
The upper part of Staithes village is uninspiring. You could easily drive through towards Whitby, unaware of the fishing village below. The only real clue as to what lies
down in harbour is the painting of Captain Cook, pointing at the turning. James Cook RN, born in Marton near Middlesbrough and boyhood resident of Great Ayton, was also a resident of Staithes for a year or so in 1745. After leaving home he was apprenticed to Sandersons of Staithes, a local grocer and haberdashers. It is said he was lured to the sea, after finding himself unsuited to shop work. He then travelled down the coast to Whitby as I would later in the day and the rest as they say is history.
I pass the Catholic Church, where my uncle was married. The cliffs at Boulby seem taller from this vantage point. The mine still casts a shadow over the horizon. The start of the railway bridge that crossed Roxby Beck lies suspended in mid air. The trains are no more. The line was re-opened in the mid 70s, but only in the other direction to take the mine product towards Teesside. The road towards the harbour is blocked by a series of warnings, as the descent commences. The basic message states leave your car at the top in the large car park away to my right.
The Captain Cook Hotel eagerly awaits those who decide on a beverage on the return journey to the car. On this bright Saturday morning, a steady number of pedestrians were climbing up the road to be reunited with their vehicles. It is change over day for the many holiday cottages in the village. The lucky few have a car parking space. The others face need to take their cars down to load and unload. Who needs a gym, quipped a holidaymaker en route retrieve his vehicle, clearly unaccustomed to his outdoor exercise.
I descended into the village. This is the real Staithes - or Steeas - as locals would pronounce it. Staithes means landing point, of which there are effectively two. Staithes sits at the intersection of two valleys. Roxby Beck flows from one side and Staithes Beck the other. The harbour and beck provided shelter for the local fishing boats. In 1900, there were over 80 full time fishing vessels. Today, there are a handful of part-timers. The local boat is the coble. A few examples lay below me in the Roxby Beck. I crossed the bridge on to the Cow Bar side. This is the Staithes of
the Cbeebies Old Jack's Boat - a children's TV classic or so I am told. Old Jack - played by Bernard Cribbins - lived at Number 4 Cow Bar Bank. A cut out of him stands near the Lifeboat Station a few doors down. I walk out on to the breakwater.
The centre of the village is still fairly quiet. Staithes is a centre for the artistic community in the same way they invade Cornish fishing villages. The Staithes Gallery has not come to life yet. A queue forms outside the butchers. A couple of cafes are opening up. A team of people busy themselves leading cars for their departure back to real life. Others move in swiftly to clean the cottages ready for the incoming guests. I pause to look in a few of the yards - the narrow passages that run of the High Street. A posties nightmare. My favourite yard name- Gun Gutter. I settled down in sun outside the Cod & Lobster, which had opened for breakfast at 9.30 am
I made my way back up to the bus stop on the main A174. "Is the bus coming yet?", queried the family hastily making
their way to wait for the next service. The main bus stop has a field of vision, that probably stretches the best part of 2 miles. It wasn't difficult to see, there was no bus in sight. The waiting band of potential passengers grew, as the minutes ticked by. There was a sense of nervousness, that the bus could be beyond the advisory COVID capacity. The topic of conversation shifted to Sheffield United, which possibly sums up how the local population shifts in the summer months. There was a general agreement, the Flashing Blades were poised for another good Premier League season. I pointed out the big match was in Whitby at 3 pm. "We have had a caravan here since 1984", a woman proudly stated. "I didn't know there was a football team in Whitby". Her husband scolded her lack of observational skills, given the bus drives straight past the floodlights."Who are they playing?" Marske United - the real MUFC, I quipped. He paused and thought for what seemed like a minute before delivering a gem, "Manchester United will probably play their 3rd team". I often wonder how some folk survive in the cut and thrust of city living.
I gave up and offered no further explanation. The bus finally appeared into view coming down Boulby Bank. It was a great relief to all, that there was space for half of Sheffield to board. I was really tempted by the Brown Cow in Hinderwell, but it wasn't yet open. I alighted in Runswick Bay.
Runswick Bay has just pulled off a remarkable publicity coup. The Times has just declared the village, as having the Best Beach In Britain 2020. In a year where the "staycation" is on trend, it should be a licence to print money. Who needs the inconvenience of aeroplane travel and possible quarantine, when these glorious sands await you closer to home. I was keen to see whether there had been an improvement in beach quality, since my last visit. The Mulgrave Estate, who are the local landowners, were keen to make a killing on the parking situation. The field at the top of the village had been converted into an overflow car park. I say converted - the gate had been opened. £5 all day parking. There seemed plenty of takers, even at that price. The series of yellow No Parking cones and double
.....looking towards Whitby. The Abbey an be seen on the headland.
yellow lines on the approach helped the sale. The wise ones possibly looked at the alternatives at both the top and bottom of the bank, before committing. I stood at the top of the bank near the Cliffemount Hotel. I decided for information purposes only to check the price of rooms at the Cliffemount. Their website apologised, but confirmed that "online bookings were offline". Bewildered, I abandoned my research. I gazed over to Kettleness in a nostalgic frame of mind. Kettleness - literally the cauldron on the headland in Norse - was home to great adventures as a 10 year old. The village, once a mining centre for allum, had a railway station until May 1958. The line closed, the old station building was given over to use by the Scout and Cub troops of the area. The steep cliffs were our playground by day, in a fashion that modern Health & Safety denies the youngsters of today. I descended by the old path into the village of Runswick Bay. The chocolate box fisherman's cottage are primarily holiday lets. The glowing recommendation by The Times will not help any locals wishing to acquire a property. The narrow lanes were had
been transformed with the accents of leafy Surrey or Middlesex. Denied an opportunity to lavish funds on a villa in the South of France, they had come to check out what all the fuss was about in this corner of North Yorkshire. Will they be back or will they head back to Devon and Cornwall for their British break? I reached where the narrow road sneaks in amongst the cottages and watched a driver reverse his BMW into a low stone step, whilst trying to accomplish a 15 point turn. I advised him what he had hit. He drove away, not bothering to inspect the damage to the rear of the car.
I climbed down over the sea wall and carefully made my way out over the slippery seaweed to the beach. The Best Beach In Britain? The last time I was down here was about 5 years ago. A creeping mess of brown boulder clay was slipping down the cliff and on to the sand like some form of lava flow. Today, the issue was seaweed. I will leave others to judge whether The Times was correct. I have my opinion. The Lifeboat Station has technically merged with
Staithes, but the colourful canoes and small boats on the adjacent ramp always make a decent photo. The cafe overlooking the beach was busy. It always is. A glance at TripAdvisor will you all you need to know about the prices. However, what price is a bargain to one is a Kings ransom to others. A steady stream of cars arrived at the bottom car park and looked disappointed. No spaces. Meanwhile across the road, there are 3 car parking spaces for sale at offers in the region of £10,000. The sale is described as an "unusual and special opportunity" in "renowned" Runswick Bay. It isn't Kensington & Chelsea, but is clearly heading that way. I tackled the steep climb back to the bus. Underestimate the gradient at your peril - some struggle in a car!
The next bus was late. I used the bus shelter to hide of the sun. I was the only person waiting, so there was no debate about the fortunes of a football club in South Yorkshire this time. The bus driver debated whether he had enough room for me in his reduced COVID advisory capacity. It would not be the first time today,
that bus capacity would be tested. The bus followed his winding route through the next village, even though he had no intention of letting on additional passengers. We reached the top of Lythe Bank, where for years the old United Bus sign warned all drivers to engage first gear or bear the consequences. I reached Sandsend. There is no need for a literal meaning this time. It is obviously the place where the sands end. The sweep of coast from here to Whitby is essentially a stretch of unbroken sand. Better than at Runswick? You be the judge. The old Railway Station half way down the bank is now accommodation. It looks out across the vista. I followed the Sandsend Beck inland towards Dt Marys Church and back on the other side. I always think the Beach Hotel could be so much more, if only there were no parked cars to obscure the view. Families grouped on the sand below. The Hart Inn beer garden was the place to be, although clearly pre COVID it would have had a significantly greater clientele. The road bridge over East Row Beck was causing the usual hesitancy among drivers. Wide enough for 2
cars, the city drivers hadn't quite worked up the courage to try it in their oversized school transports. The first bus towards Whitby sailed straight past the waiting passengers. I walked on, thinking if necessary I would walk the last 2 miles to Whitby. As usual, we were approaching the business end of the day and there was a 3 pm appointment.
The next bus was below capacity, so I was spared the walk along past the Golf Club. After the drought lasting over 5 months, I was having a busy football week. Today would be my 4th game of the week. My midweek sojourn to Annfield Plain via the other wonders of County Durham had been squeezed in between 3 Marske United games. Marske United .... the real MUFC and not to be confused with imitations from Manchester (as had been the case by the Sheffield folk at the bus stop earlier). The club were testing themselves against higher league opposition and in between dispatched North Shields in the FA Cup. I was holding a rare commodity.... ticket 0001. The only time that ever happened before was at the White Angels of NK Zagreb. Whitby Cricket Club were
hosting Richmondshire next to the Turnbull Ground. I watched a couple of overs, before heading into the Whitby Town clubhouse. Social distancing, track and trace, one way systems and organisation was the order of the day. I savoured my pint of Dizzy Blonde. Visits to premises serving alcohol are rare these days. I doubted that the world would look as organised in town, where the holiday crew would be losing their minds and the ability to follow the simplest of instructions. The game between two clubs, who refer to themselves as Seasiders, was nothing to write home about. A game of few chances. Whitby took their opportunity. Marske didn't. The new Marske forward line, including ex Whitby favourite Matty Tymon, got little change out of the Whitby defence. It finished 1-0 to the hosts. The crowd spaced out in the sizeable Whitby ground. Flags from both teams decorated the perimeter. The afternoon was marred by some unnecessary social media comments by the younger followers from up the coast..... and to add insult to injury, the first bus sailed past me with the driver signalling he was beyond his COVID capacity. It was a bright, dry afternoon in late summer, so
I was philosophical. However I can't quite see how public transport will pan out in the winter months, when it is raining cats and dogs and commuters are trying to get home after a hard day at work.
Better days ahead? There would be for Marske United the following week. They brushed aside Northern League, Crook Town, to reach the FA Cup First Qualifying Round. Wembley beckons. My football week saw no better days. Lincoln United withdrew from their FA Cup at West Bridgford FC with some of their squad members testing positive for COVID 19 and thus I was left without a game .... or at least, a game I walk to. Meanwhile, Little Matty makes excuses for his "world beating" COVID testing regime, the R rate goes through the roof and TFB tries to distract us all with another 11th hour squabble over Brexit. Better days ahead? It isn't looking likely, anytime soon. Appendix 1 Friendly Match Marske United FC 1 South Shields FC 4 Venue:
GER Stadium, Mount Peasant, Marske by the Sea. North Yorkshire. TS11 7BW Date:
Saturday 29th August 2020 @1500 Hours Attendance:
Not Known Scorers:
Gillies 51 MIns (South Shields), 1-1 Gott Pen 56 Mins (Marske), 1-2 Kempster 62 Mins (South Shields), 1-3 Kemspter 76 Mins (South Shields), 1-4 80 Gilchrist Mins (South Shields) Marske United
: Catterick, Smith, Stevenson, Garbutt, May, Hood, Blackford, Gott, Johnson, Maloney, Round Subs: Butterworth, Boyes, Wheatley, B Clark, Wilkinson South Shields:
Boney, Baxter (Hunter 62), Adams (Croft 83), Ross (Thompson 71), Morse (Verstraaten 46), Brown (Lockey 83), McCamley (Jenkins 46), Briggs (c), Gilchrist, Gillies, Kempster. Sub not used: Hodgson. Appendix 2 FA Cup Extra Preliminary Round Marske United FC 3 North Shields FC 0 Venue:
GER Stadium, Mount Peasant, Marske by the Sea. North Yorkshire. TS11 7BW Date:
Tuesday 1st September 2020 @1945 Hours Attendance:
1-0 Butterworth 17 MIns (Marske), 2-0 Tymon 25 Mins (Marske), 3-0 Tymon 31 Mins (Marske) Marske United:
Catterick, May, Round, Butterworth (Blackford 81 Mins), Burgess, Wheatley, Smith, Gott, Boyes, TYmon Johnson 75 Mins), Maloney (Garbutt 86 Mins} North Shields:
Purvis, Cartwright, McDonald, Hall (Robinson 45 Mins), Myers, New, Patton (Smith 61 Mins), Ormston, Wilson, Carr, Robinson (Cunnigham) Appendix 3 Friendly Match Whitby Town
FC 1 Marske United 0 Venue:
Towbar EXpress Stadium @ Turnbull Ground, Upgang Lane, Whitby. North Yorkshire. YO21 3HZ Date:
Saturday 5th September 2020 @1500 Hours Attendance:
Not Known Scorers:
Ible 34 Mins (Whitby Town) Whitby Town:
Bland, Mills, Martin, Ible, Ritson, Sukar, Gell, Rowe, Fewster, Hazel, Hawkins Marske United:
Catterick, May, O'Sullivan, Maloney, Burgess, Wheatley, Wrightson, Boyes, Gott, Tymon, Round Subs: Butterworth, Johnson, Smith, Blackford, Garbutt, Wilkinson, Hood, B Clark
Tot: 2.167s; Tpl: 0.027s; cc: 30; qc: 222; dbt: 0.0781s; 1; m:saturn w:www (22.214.171.124); sld: 1;
; mem: 2.2mb