Monday, March 27, 2006

Walk 125 -- An historical day in Scarborough

Ages: Colin was 63 years and 323 days. Rosemary was 61 years and 100 days.
Weather: Windy and a lot of rain.
Location: Historical day in Scarborough.
Distance: 0 miles.
Total distance: 997 miles.
Terrain: Around the town — tarmac and concrete.
Tide: In.
Rivers: None.
Ferries: None.
Piers: None.
Kissing gates: None.
Pubs: The Scholar's Bar where we drank Durham’s ‘White Centennial’ — nice and hoppy.
‘English Heritage’ properties: No.36, Scarborough Castle.
Ferris wheels: No.6 by the harbour, but it was closed for the Winter!
Diversions: None.
How we got there and back: We were staying in a holiday cottage on a farm near the village of Rudston. We drove to South Cliff car park (where we should have parked yesterday — it would have made life a lot easier) because it was free. We walked into Scarborough from there, but before we did so we discovered that we were on the very spot where a big hotel slid down the cliffs into the sea at breakfast one morning in June 1993!
At the end, we had our tea and then drove straight back to the cottage in the rain.

The weather wasn't much better today, it was cold and kept raining off and on. We made a relaxed start because we weren't walking a distance, just exploring Scarborough as we missed most of it on our walk through in the rain yesterday. We parked at South Cliff, the only free car park in Scarborough, and where we wished we had parked our car yesterday.
There was a big and wordy information board at the side of the car park, and on reading it we realised that it was there that a Victorian hotel slipped over the cliff edge quite suddenly in June 1993! The guests were at breakfast when there was a shout, “Get out! Get out!” Everybody ran for their lives as one side of the hotel subsided. All day, all night, and for the next few days, the building slipped further and further towards the edge until — watched by thousands of people and the media from all over the world — the whole hotel and everything inside it fell over the cliff and crashed down on to the beach below! It was quite a spectacle, I remember watching it on the television news. No one was hurt, but nobody was allowed to retrieve any of their belongings. The hotel owners were devastated — they had lost everything.The Holbeck Hotel was built in 1880 as a private house. It was built on glacial boulder clay which has a tendency to slip over the underlying strata. However, the landslip of 1993 was completely unexpected, the building had stood there — ‘safe as houses’ dare I say? — for a hundred and thirteen years. History records a major landslip in the area in 1737, and three in 1892-3. Nothing since. Six weeks before the disaster, two cracks appeared on an upper path. This was nothing unusual, they were considered minor as so many others had been, and sealed. Forty-eight hours before the landslip, there was considerable movement along those two cracks and in the hotel’s rose garden at the top of the cliffs. Access to the cliffs was closed so that an inspection could be made. Since the building was 165 feet from the cliff edge, it was not thought to be in any danger. At midnight on 3rd June the hotel manager reported that the rose garden had sunk four feet. At breakfast the next morning it all began to happen!Over a million tons of earth and rock slid down along with the hotel and extended in a big ‘toe’ measuring nearly 350 feet out to sea. It completely destroyed all the existing sea defences and retaining walls. It cost £2million to make the area safe, and there are no plans to rebuild the hotel! There are a number of other buildings, mostly large residential houses, along the top of the cliffs in the area — having just put our own house on the market, we wondered how difficult would it be to sell any of them?We walked into Scarborough along the clifftop through some pleasant gardens. It kept raining, so the town looked grey and miserable. Scarborough claims to have ‘invented’ the seaside in the late 17th century when water steeped in minerals which stained the rocks red — God knows what was in it! — was found to be seeping from the cliff. (The mineral content of the water changed extensively over the years, and what remains of the original well is now inaccessible due to Health & Safety regulations!) People came from far and wide for the supposedly curative powers of this water, and to indulge in sea-bathing which became very fashionable in later years. The first bathing machines were used at Scarborough. In the 19th century a toll bridge for pedestrians was built across a ravine in order to separate the ‘Quality’ from the hoi-polloi, who had to walk underneath because they couldn't afford the toll. We passed three cliff railways, and the Grand Hotel is an architectural masterpiece.
We went into the gardens above the road which had been closed off for ‘Skipping Day’ last Shrove Tuesday, and there we came across a sculpture which seemed to be a figure in a coracle on a giant hand. I expect it is all very meaningful, but we couldn't make it out.
We liked Scarborough, but because of the cold and wet we were really fed up by the time we reached the town centre. So we sought out one of Colin’s ‘real ale’ pubs where we had a sandwich each and the beer was very flavoursome (nice and hoppy!) Then we felt better. We liked a sculpture we came across in the middle of town. It was depicting the coastal path between Filey and Whitby, so it was a bit closer to our hearts! Near the pub is a row of almshouses which looked pretty good.We visited the castle next. In this we were disappointed — only half the 12th century keep remains and there isn’t much else. It is built on a rocky outcrop with ‘commanding’ views, but today it was just grey — grey — grey. We looked over the edge at the road we walked along in the rain last night, far down below.
We did the audio-tour in the rain but didn’t get much out of it — I guess we were both pretty miserable. Colin was more interested in a bright green caterpillar he found creeping out of a crack in one of the walls!We walked down the hill to a Ferris wheel but it wasn't going, hardly surprising on a wet Monday in March. It actually stopped raining then, and we enjoyed a pleasant walk around the harbour which has a lighthouse on it. It is more a marina really, mainly leisure yachts with just a spattering of small fishing boats. One of these boats, the Coronia, was used in the evacuation of Dunkirk in 1940. Now it is used to take holiday-makers for trips along the coast. Colin said he remembered going on it when he holidayed with his Mum and Dad in Scarborough in the early 1950s. He can’t remember much else about that holiday, and it was only the once that his parents brought him to Scarborough.We watched the antics of some opportunist birds hanging around the harbour. Then we were tempted into buying a crab sandwich each from a stall on the seafront. We wish we hadn’t bothered — 20% crab and 80% detritus, I think! We then walked back to the car, first going across the ‘Quality’ bridge (where else?) and along the top of some gardens. Fine views all along, but still very grey.

That ended Walk no.125, which wasn’t really a Walk, more a ‘catch-up’ on local history — and geography! We shall pick up Walk no.126 next time on the seafront half way along North Sands. As we returned to our cottage at Rudston, the weather began to clear and we became hopeful that it would improve for tomorrow.

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