Thursday, March 30, 2006

Walk 128 -- Robin Hood's Bay to Whitby Abbey

Ages: Colin was 63 years and 326 days. Rosemary was 61 years and 103 days.
Weather: Showers which cleared just as we started the Walk. Some sun, very windy but mild.
Location: Robin Hood’s Bay to Whitby Abbey.
Distance: 6½ miles.
Total distance: 1018½ miles.
Terrain: Mostly grassy cliff paths. Very muddy and slippery in places.
Tide: Coming in.
Rivers: None.
Ferries: None.
Piers: None.
Kissing gates: Nos.96 & 97 each side of a piece of National Trust land, no.98 near a lighthouse.
Pubs: None.
‘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 just one bike on the back of the car we drove to Robin Hood’s Bay where Colin dropped me off to kick my heels for an hour and a half. (I thoroughly explored the village and beach, and bought delicious pasties in the local shop.) Meanwhile he drove to Whitby Abbey where he parked in the road just beyond the double yellow lines because, once again, the car park would have cost us £4.20. Then he cycled back, along the disused railway. He said I would have ‘hated it’ because it was mostly uphill against the wind and it was raining. (I gather he didn’t enjoy it much himself, and is almost sold on the taxi idea!)
At the end we drove to Robin Hood’s Bay to pick up the bike, and had our tea there because it was a more pleasant environment. Then we returned to the cottage.

While Colin was parking the car and cycling back, I thoroughly explored the village of Robin Hood’s Bay — despite the fact that it rained the whole time! (I had to be very careful taking photos, shielding the camera with my body or the hood of my coat.) I explored the narrow back alleys, and went down to the beach. Apart from fishing, smuggling was rife here in yesteryear. Apparently the smuggled goods were taken from the beach up the tunnel where the river comes out, and there are connections from that tunnel to the cellar of many a house. Robin Hood’s Bay always has been a very close community, but was especially so in those days. The customs officers would have met a wall of silence every time they entered the village.By the car park where I was to meet Colin was a weird modern sculpture which I didn't quite understand (not being an ‘Arty-Farty’ type of person) — but I expect it is very meaningful to somebody. Behind it was a lovely view of the whole bay back to Ravenscar, and I was able to appreciate that much more having walked it yesterday.Something I found far more interesting was a plaque giving a little bit of local history. It said:
On the 18th January 1881 the Brig "VISITOR" ran ashore in Robin Hood's Bay. No local boat could be launched on account of the violence of the storm, so the Whitby lifeboat was brought overland past this point — a distance of 6 miles — through snowdrifts 7 feet deep on a road rising to 500 feet, with 200 men clearing the way ahead and with 18 horses heaving at the tow lines, whilst men worked uphill towards them from the Bay. The lifeboat was launched two hours after leaving Whitby and at the second attempt the crew of the Visitor were saved.
So that future generations may remember the bravery of Coxwain Henry Freeman, and the lifeboatmen, and the dogged determination of the people of Whitby, Hawsker and Robin Hood's Bay, who overcame such difficulties, this memorial was erected in 1981.
What a story!

Colin arrived at the appointed time, and it stopped raining at last. He wasn’t very happy. He’d had an argument with an old man in Whitby when he was parking his car — the old fellow was obviously suffering from dementia because there was no reason for his outburst. The cycle route along the old railway line from Whitby was a hard uphill grind all the way, he said I would have hated it! He was flustered and tired whereas I was calm and fresh — raring to go. So that is very definitely the end of cycling to set up line walks. It has served us very well through the flat marshlands all the way from Kent, but now we are in hillier country we shall have to use buses, trains and taxis.
I had bought some delicious pasties in a local shop, so we sat on a bench and ate them before we started. Colin felt a lot better then.

We left Robin Hood’s Bay on the coastal path near the old railway, which runs a parallel route to Whitby just a bit up the hill and further inland. Very soon we met two men back-packing, but they were a lot more serious than us with the world on their backs and walking about three times as far in a day. We can't compete! We continued to meet couples and solo walkers — a lot of people were out hiking today even though it was a weekday in March and the weather was awful. We also met a large number of rambling groups, I think they may have been connected to HF Holidays, or that kind of thing. Each group had a couple of guides, and a lot of the participants didn't seem to be fit enough for the type of walking they were doing. One or two looked worryingly exhausted, and fearful. Conditions were not good out on the clifftops. It was very wet, muddy and slippery after all the rain we have been having. We both found it difficult, our pace was slow because we had to be so careful, and I sat down involuntarily at one point and got covered in muck!
But it was a lovely route over the cliffs, and we both settled to the conditions and enjoyed it. The path would have been fairly kind if it wasn’t for the wind and the mud. It was very bracing and the views were stupendous. We sat in the lee of a wall to eat our lunch where we had a view but were sheltered. We went through an area of National Trust land — appropriately named ‘Rain Dale’ — where there were some long thin waterfalls running all the way down the cliff. Further on we found planks to sit on in a sheltered spot near Oakham Beck, so we stopped to eat our fruit and yoghurt.
Then we came across a little memorial garden, right out there on the clifftops. A seat surrounded by flowers and shrubs, all very well cared for. While Colin was taking a photograph of me sitting on the seat, he saw a pair of weasels in the adjacent field! As soon as he spied them they were off, and he didn’t get a chance to photograph them. All I saw was a couple of shapes disappearing into the distance. We looked at the map, and discovered we were not yet halfway along the Walk, our progress had been so slow. So we trudged on, with more determination now but still being very careful on the slippery parts.
Eventually we came down a sweep of a hill to a small lighthouse. The path led us across a lane and in front of it. Most of the complex seemed to have been turned into holiday cottages. Then we came to some more holiday cottages with great big foghorns on the roof! We were glad we didn’t stay there for this break — how much sleep would we have got on a foggy night? Those foghorns are LOUD!
We came to the top of a mound, and way in the distance we could see Whitby Abbey, the end of today’s Walk. But we still had a couple of miles to go.Up on the clifftop it was a bit ambiguous as to which side of the fence we should walk because the golden arrows were faded. We chose the wrong side, of course, and found it a bit narrow between the fence and clifftop! But we survived, and managed not to fall off.We descended to a holiday park where the path disappeared amongst the caravans. It was difficult to see which way we were supposed to go, so we asked a man who was out walking his dogs. He hadn’t a clue either, but he stopped and chatted about this and that for about ten minutes. We bumbled our way through the caravans and found the path again, but occasionally it disappeared again because the cliff was so eroded. It was probably down in the sea near some big rocks that were on the little headland there.
Further on we could see the entrance to Whitby Harbour peeping round the edge of the cliff. It felt like an age before we finally arrived at Whitby Abbey, and it looked as if it was about to rain again so we were relieved. We were also very tired, the slippery cliff paths had not made it an easy Walk. According to our map, there should have been a footpath round the end of the Abbey on the cliff side, but this was cut off — probably eroded away. So we cut across to the road and walked along to where our car was parked just beyond the double yellow lines.
That ended Walk no.128, we shall pick up Walk no.129 next time on the lane leading down the east side of Whitby Abbey. It wasn't a very nice place to stop and have our tea, and it was quite windy just there. So we drove to Robin Hood’s Bay where we found a more sheltered spot, and got out our flasks there. Then we tied the bike to the bike rack on the back of the car, and drove to our cosy cottage at Rudston — quite a distance now.

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