Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Walk 127 -- Ravenscar to Robin Hood's Bay

Ages: Colin was 63 years and 325 days. Rosemary was 61 years and 102 days.
Weather: Sunny with a cool breeze. Dry.
Location: Ravenscar to Robin Hood's Bay.
Distance: 5 miles.
Total distance: 1012 miles.
Terrain: Mostly grassy (muddy!) cliff paths. Undulating, but not as much as yesterday. Wonderful views!
Tide: Coming in.
Rivers: None.
Ferries: None.
Piers: None.
Kissing gates: None.
Pubs: ‘The Dolphin’ in Robin Hood’s Bay where we enjoyed ‘Old Peculier’ and ‘Deuchar’s IPA’.
‘English Heritage’ properties: None.
Ferris wheels: None.
Diversions: None.
How we got there and back: We were staying in a holiday cottage on a farm near the village of Rudston. With bikes on the back of the car we drove to Robin Hood’s Bay where we parked near the disused station, but not in it because that car park would have cost us £4.20. We then followed the disused railway on our bikes towards Ravenscar — but the problem today was that it was all uphill. I couldn’t do it! My legs kept giving out, and I had to stop every fifty yards or so for a rest. I tried eating my pasty, then my chocolate to give me extra energy, but it was 2.50pm before we were in a position to start our Walk! That has decided me — I can no longer use my bike to set up line walks because the topography has got too hilly. If we can’t use trains or buses, we will just have to dig deeper in our pockets to pay for taxis.
At the end, we went to the pub on our way through the village. We walked up as far as the first car park, then Colin went on and brought the car down to me because I was exhausted. We drove to Ravenscar to pick up the bikes (we both had a set of bike-lock keys today just to be sure!) and then returned to the cottage.

It was ten to three before we started on the actual Walk, and I was already exhausted from the uphill cycle ride. However, today’s Walk was one of wonderful views so that partly made up for it.
We started by the ‘TEA ROOMS’ sign where we left the coastal path yesterday, and continued in a north-easterly direction. To our right was the cliff, and to our left we had tantalising glimpses over a field gate of views to come. But in less than half a mile we were diverted away behind trees because of the eyesore of a golf club — the building even had pseudo-battlements round it! It masked what is probably the best view we have experienced since we left Bognor over a thousand miles back. We had to walk round three sides of this monstrosity, but then we were able to drink in the fantastic vista of Robin Hood’s Bay which was laid out before us. It was beautiful!The public footpath led right down through the golf course, so nobody could stop us drinking in all aspects of the view.We didn’t go all the way down as it was a dead end, instead we diverted off to the left up a track which curved round and joined up with the way-marked coastal path further on.Soon after that we turned into the old alum works. It all looks pretty calm and rural now with sheep grazing on the hillside, but between 1650 and 1860 this area was a noisy and smelly industrial maelstrom with a workforce of up to 150 men. It was one of Britain's first chemical industries. Why here? Because the hills behind us contained vast amounts of alum shale. The alum crystals were extracted on site and converted into alum flour which was then exported to be used as a fixing agent in the dyeing industry, also as a preservative for tanning leather. So it was very valuable.
Only the scant remains of the vast buildings remain, and we could just about see where they used to hoist goods up and down the cliffs. Seaweed and large quantities of human urine were required for the chemical process — far more than could be provided by the workers housed between the quarries and the processing sheds. So ships bearing these necessities came from as far apart as London and Newcastle, docking at the bottom of the cliffs. The seaweed and urine were hoisted up (beware anyone standing underneath a container that leaked!) and the processed alum flour was lifted down to be taken away to other parts of Britain and to Europe. The chemical process was labour intensive, excruciatingly smelly and very unhealthy — but labour was cheap in those days and there was no such thing as ‘Health & Safety’!
Colin had a look in a pond, and I looked up the hill back to the castellated golf club and a hotel — but we needed to move on because the hour was getting late and we still had a Walk to do.
Just as we were leaving the site we met a couple of about our age, and stopped to chat about the walking conditions, etc. We told them about our Round-Britain project and they were very impressed — we have found that people generally are. But we hadn’t got the blogspot set up on the internet at the time. It will be nice when we have so we can tell such folk where to look if they want to find out more about our adventures. It was 4.30pm before we left the alum works.We rejoined the coastal path and continued towards Robin Hood’s Bay. The path was very muddy in places so we had to be careful not to slip. Fast walking was out of the question.The flowering gorse was absolutely wonderful!Twice we had to descend a deep wooded cleft to sea level in order to cross a stream. Then it was a long haul up numerous steps to get out the other side.The second cleft was called ‘Boggle Hole’ and has a Youth Hostel down there right next to the stream. Lovely location, but we gave up youth hostels several years ago after bad experiences in Canterbury and Dover. Besides, Colin doesn’t think he can cope with dormitory sleeping since his prostate operations. At our age we need our privacy, even if it is only in a tent.At last we were on the cliffs above the delightfully pretty fishing village of Robin Hood’s Bay.We descended the steps, watched cars and boats vying for parking space near the quay, and went to the pub! (Old Peculier-yum!) Afterwards we walked up the steep hill as far as the first car park.
That ended Walk no.127, we shall pick up Walk no.128 next time at the lowest car park in the village. Colin went on and brought the car down to me because I was too tired to go any further. We drove to Ravenscar to pick up the bikes and then returned to the cottage.

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