“How come we’re walking to Skinningrove, isn’t it really industrial?”. It’s a good question from one our group and he’s in for a very pleasant surprise!
If you haven’t walked this part of the Cleveland Way then you’re missing a treat and if you haven’t had the delight of seeing Skinningrove Beach from the top of Cattersty Cliff then you really should be thinking about putting it right.
We gather near the funicular railway at Saltburn for no other reason than there are no parking charges (Yet!) Bill is busy reversing into a space to the gaggle of a bunch of elderly hippies taking the mick with mock-surprise at his driving skills and accuracy.
We have a blue-sky day and the cliff south of Saltburn is as clear as I’ve ever seen it cutting a three ‘D’ image against the sea and blue-heaven above.
We have a good turn-out today and continue the banter as boots are donned and rucksacks stuffed and checked then we’re off.
The steps to the foreshore lend a wonderful view of the bay which is flat calm and not conducive to the surfing that, on a day of waves, attracts the wet-suited tadpoles at the most ungodly hour. They swim out with arms extended, clinging to boards that will allow them a few seconds of vertical pleasure before throwing them back into the water ready for another ten-minute swim to a point where, if they’re lucky, another wave will emerge and the cycle can repeat itself.
By now we’re at the toilets and with a call that these are the last ones until Skinningrove there’s a mini-stampede of both genders to avoid the necessity of au-natural on the busy Cleveland Way.
We pass the Ship Inn and locate the steps and/or path to make our way onto what will become Huntcliff. The OS Map on my ‘phone at 1:50k tells me that we’re walking on the “Cleveland Way”; however, without moving another step but at a scale of 1:25k we’re suddenly on the “English Coastal Path”. Apparently, when it’s complete, “The English Coastal Path” will be the longest coastal path in the world. There you go, you heard it here first.
We’re on Huntcliff now and the evidence of the lives lost from these cliffs is clear. The Samaritans have laid slates with words of encouragement on the tops of these shear and deadly bluffs asking that if you’re having a bad day, “Don’t close the book when bad things happen” and encouraging you to, “Turn the page and start another chapter”. It’s a stark reminder that you don’t have to have a broken bone to be poorly.
It’s a longish haul up Warsett Hill but the views are stupendous and, looking out to sea, it’s easy to be impressed with the capacity of Teesport as ships of every size make their way along the coast carrying their valuable cargos either ‘to us’ or ‘from us’, or maybe a mixture of both.
At Hunt Cliff and beyond the path is sandwiched between the railway track and the cliff edge. To our left and 300 feet below is the sea and on the right is Warset Hill about 180 feet above. There were three sculptures set back from the cliff edge. Richard Farrington was the artist responsible for these sculptures and there’s a bit of a tale behind them.
Although from Alton, Hampshire, he lived in the area and collaborated with local groups with regard to the subject of his works.
They were the result of a three-month residency commissioned by the local parish council. They were constructed at the British Steel plant in Skinningrove, they’re made from locally produced metals and represent the industrial, social and natural history of the district.
‘Trawl Door’, a representation of the doors of an open trawl net with its catch: a large fish and plankton. It takes its form from equipment used by fishermen in Whitby.
‘Pillar’, a ridged marker post, supporting a chain of four metal sculptures which represent a star; the top of plant growth; the shape air makes when striking a surface; a jellyfish and its reflection in the water. The figurative elements in Pillar are intended to symbolise sky, earth, air and sea.
The Charm Bracelet Sculpture
‘Circle’ is the largest work. Within it there are ten figurative sculptures hanging on metal rods from a large steel hoop. The Circle includes castings of the Cleveland Bay Horse and a cat (apparently, cats were hunted here in the 14th c.). Farrington described the whole sculpture as a giant charm bracelet. It has become a local landmark; however, in 1996 vandals cut through its base and rolled it into the sea 300 feet below and the only piece to be recovered was the horse. It has been reported that the New Circle sculpture produced to replace the vandalised one has been the site of a wedding one Midsummer’s Day. It has also been the focus for a number of stories by the Saltburn writers’ group.
We walk on past the old Fan House that housed the extraction fan for the mine and onward to Cattersty Cliff where we get our first glimpse of Skinningrove Sands. Bill is seriously impressed and we all look down in admiration of this jewel of the Yorkshire Coast.
As we descend the steps there’s the opportunity to turn left and walk on the sands and, like children, we take that fork and enjoy the last half mile on firm sand with the sea singing its song to our left and three other people on the whole of the beach and all of this is under a warm autumn sun. We are lucky people still able to do this and, just occasionally, we need a little nudge to remind us… this is that nudge!
Skinningrove is not a vibrant tourist resort, and long may that last; however, a coffee would be nice and with the help of a friendly postman we identify the post office that doubles as a corner shop and coffee dispenser where a very pleasant coffee is prepared fresh for a mid-day sojourn on the village seat.
The return trip gives us new views and, by now, there are a few more walkers most of whom are doing the Cleveland Way. All offer a friendly smile and a pleasant word with many remarking on the views and they’re right. It’s a challenge for the first couple of miles as we make the ascent to the sculptures but the scenery and sunshine are a wonderful distraction then the descent is easy and the thought of fish and chips as a reward encourages a spring in the step as we re-enter Saltburn.
A wonderful walk with wonderful people. Thank you, Lou Graydon, Dave Bowman, Dave Rider, George Preston, Frank Kennedy, Peter Hymer, George Renwick and Bill Humphrey.
Brilliant company with views, exercise and sunshine. Enjoy the snaps…G x