Cook Country (2) - Marton-in-Cleveland and Great Ayton

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May 29th 2015
Published: June 12th 2015
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The weather this morning in Whitby was cold and wet, but we really can't mind that too much as we have had some remarkably good weather while we have been on holiday. We had been trying to plan the order of our visits to the next two Cook Museums with there appearing to be some disagreement between our AA Road Atlas and 'Ken'. We finally worked out that this was because there are two towns named Marton in North Yorkshire, but only one Marton-in-Cleveland ... which is the one where the Captain Cook Birthplace Museum can be found!

With this sorted out we first drove up the coast to Staithes where James Cook worked as a shop assistant before being apprenticed to John Walker in Whitby. The streets in Staithes are so narrow and so steep that visitors, and indeed some residents, must park at the top of the hill and proceed on foot. The signs only said 'No Visitor Parking' - they didn't say that visitors couldn't drive down to the harbour and then drive out again. Not being intrepid adventurers like Captain Cook we decided not to walk down into the village in the rain, but to drive.

Perhaps we should have braved the rain because the drive down to the harbour and back again was a bit of a nail biter??! Bernie managed though and even snapped a few photos of Staithes's Harbour for me ... because I didn't want to get my hair wet!!! It was only once we were in Staithes that we discovered that it houses yet another Cook Museum. Unfortunately this one didn't come up on my Google searches when I was trying to find how many Cook museums we should plan to visit while we were in North Yorkshire. Given the weather and time constraints we decided to forgo a visit to the Captain Cook & Staithes Heritage Centre and proceed to Marton-in-Cleveland.

From Staithes Ken directed us on a B road across to the A171 which we then followed through Guisborough and then on to Marton-in-Cleveland which today is a suburb of Middlesborough. On our way we had our first glimpse of Roseberry Topping. As a boy growing up in Marton and later Great Ayton, James Cook is supposed to have spent many hours climbing and exploring the small hill known as Roseberry Topping.

Ken guided us without incident to Stewart Park in Marton where we managed to find a park despite the fair being in town and a Stroke Foundation fundraising event in progress. As we followed the signs to the Captain Cook Birthplace Museum, we happened across a birds of prey exhibition. The North Yorkshire Birds of Prey were supporting the Stroke Foundation by offering photos with their birds for £3.00 with the proceeds being donated to the Stroke Foundation.

We were excited to have the opportunity to hold the birds and more than happy to make a donation to the Stroke Foundation. I was captivated by the largest bird, an owl, that was on display so I had my photo taken with Mrs Robinson. Mrs Robinson is a European Eagle Owl, one of the largest species of owl in the world. She's a gorgeous orange-eyed beauty with a wing span just short of two metres and weight of four kilograms.

Bernie chose to have his photo taken with Bonnie a stunning hybrid Falcon crossed between a Gyrfalcon - the largest falcon in the world - and the Saker falcon, which is renowned for its power, speed, stamina and capability of diving for prey at 200 miles per hour. Her owner told us that he has been offered £25,000 to part with her, but he can make many times that amount by keeping her and selling her eggs. We had no idea that birds of prey could be so valuable. I guess like so many other sports (hobbies?) the amount people are prepared to spend is only limited by the size of their wallets. And this bird was magnificent.

After this diversion we continued on our way to the Captain Cook Birthplace Museum. The actual cottage where James Cook was born is long gone, but an urn in the grounds of Stewart Park marks the place where it once stood. We photographed the urn and then explored the museum.

The Captain Cook Birthplace Museum (at 1°12' longitude!) opened on the 28th October 1978 - the 250th anniversary of Cook’s birth. It is housed in a purpose-built building close to the granite urn marking the site of Cook’s birthplace cottage. Being purpose-built the museum has a lot more display space than Cooks' Cottage in Fitzroy Gardens to tell the story of one of the world’s greatest navigators and mariners through a number of themed display galleries. There are galleries exploring Cook's early life and career, the Royal Navy and life aboard ship and the science and ethnography of the voyages.

Our next stop was Great Ayton at the Captain Cook Schoolroom Museum. The volunteers staffing this museum asked where we were from and before I knew it I was telling Rosemary and Kevin that I am a volunteer at Cooks' Cottage in the Fitzroy Gardens, Melbourne. I was unsure about telling the people in North Yorkshire about this in case they felt badly about the cottage having been shipped to Australia in 1933. Rosemary and Kevin were OK about it, in fact they were quite excited to meet someone who 'works' at the cottage and wanted to know all about it. The only thing they weren't excited about was the fact that when we are 'working' at Cooks' Cottage we wear period costume to bring the cottage to life. They didn't think this sounded fun at all and they hope that the trustees that manage the schoolroom museum don't get wind of it!! We exchanged email addresses and made plans to keep in touch.

The museum had much the same information as all of the Cook Museums, but presented differently and from a slightly different perspective being focussed on the formal education that James Cook received at the Postgate School that set him on his path to becoming a great explorer, navigator and cartographer. Michael Postgate’s original school building was erected in 1704, but was rebuilt in 1785 so the building that houses the museum is not quite the same as it was when the young James Cook was in attendance. So the link to James Cook is a bit tenuous in much the same way as his link to Cooks' Cottage is. Still, whether the links are tenuous or not, it is a good thing that there are museums that commemorate James Cook's contributions to astronomy, cartography, ethnography, exploration and science.

With threatening black clouds hovering, we walked from the schoolroom museum to the memorial obelisk that was erected on the site of the cottage following its removal to Australia. We took some photos of the obelisk and returned to the car before the rain started again. Unfortunately this meant that as we drove towards Roseberry Topping the weather was deteriorating. Before leaving Australia we had given some thought to actually climbing Roseberry Topping, but we only allowed two days to explore 'CookCountry' which really wasn't quite enough. Rain aside, we had simply run out of time to do more than take a couple of snaps of Roseberry Topping before turning the car back towards Manchester.

As we drove south on the A172 we were treated to brooding black clouds over the Cleveland Hills contrasting with sun on the bright yellow fields of canola in the foreground. As luck would have it, we managed to find a spot to pull off the road to take a couple of photos. Hopefully, the photos will capture the dramatic contrast??

Rather surprisingly the closer that we drove to Manchester the more the weather improved. When we arrived at Kath and Albert's we were told that it hadn't actually rained in Stalybridge all day. In fact, by the time we arrived - just in time for curry for tea - it had turned into quite a fine, if rather cold, evening.

With it being Whit Friday we were eating dinner while on stand-by for the call to go down to the football ground to see India and Amelia play in the Tameside Whit Friday Brass Band Contest. If the weather had been warmer we probably would have gone down to watch the other bands while waiting for the girls' band to arrive, but Kath and Albert had decided that it would be quite enough time out in the cold if we just went down to see the girls.

Fortunately we had finished eating when Colin called to say the band was on its way to Stalybridge Celtic's ground. We donned our warm jackets and piled into the car before driving down to the end of the road, parking the car and then walking across to the football ground. We have been to the band contest before so knew what to expect. The coach arrived and the band disembarked before forming up to march to the entrance to the ground. Both India and Amelia took part in this section of the band's performance. Amelia and the other junior members of the band then retired while the rest of the band formed up inside to perform their set piece. After the performance the band filed out, re-boarded their coach and set off to the next venue they were scheduled to play at. We headed back to the nice, warm house!!

Steps for the day 8,843 (6.12 km)

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