Staithes to Kettleness

So Peeps, the Moors are calling so a couple of phone calls and a text later we’re quorate for a ramble from Staithes to Kettleness.  I’m testing a new pair of boots. It’s a bit under 6 miles and has a couple of quite challenging ‘ups’ and that’s exactly what we need.

Staithes is a wonderful little fishing port with narrow cobbled streets. Cars are not welcome so we park at the top and make our way down the street with the intention of meeting up with Louise.

Staithes is definitely popular now and contrasts significantly with the Barry Slater/Vin Garbutt song Streets of Staithes. Vin’s beautiful rendition of the lament that illustrates the loss of fishing from the 1970’s is buzzing around in my head. I’m struggling with all of the words but the first couple of verses come readily to mind and they’re rattling about in my head as we walk down to the harbour:

One fine August day as I was making my way
Along the hardship-troubled streets of Staithes,
I saw the seagulls flying in the grey northern sky
Heard the shifting chorus of the waves
As Staithes looked so fair in the crisp morning air,
Sea mist lifting to fragmented specks of light,
And on the sea wall, though the mist’s lifting pall,
An old man sitting there came into sight…

I’ll add the rest of the words and put a link to Vin’s web site at the bottom of the page but the words above are keeping me vigilant and I take in how vibrant the village is now.

The contrast from the days when Vin wrote the song is significant. It was desperately sad during those days of transition but now there are people passing through on the Cleveland Way, visitors parking in the designated parks at the top of the bank and walking down to the quay as we are now. (Although the cost of the car parks are eye watering and whilst local services need to be maintained I think a balance needs to be struck between what is reasonable and what will put people off).

We pass tiny shops, a couple of pubs, The Royal George (recommended) and the Cod and Lobster (recommended but can get a bit busy) then spend some time at the quayside. The weather is overcast but dry and the wind is blowing hard so the water is angry and white. It’s great for photographs but the wind off the sea cuts through our clothes and when we get on to the cliffs we’ll be grateful for the direction as it’s blowing us on to the land. It’s much safer than our experience a few weeks ago when we had to deliberately walk inland slightly to avoid the gusts attempting to blow us over the edge.

The track bears right and begins a slow incline that becomes more acute as we pass the Mission Church of St Peter for Fishermen that must have given more solace than reassurance on stormy days when the menfolk were at sea in tiny open cobbles when prayers would be said for their safe return. Today it looks like an art centre and shop but still retains an element of its former religious role and the feeling of this exudes from the stone in its walls.

Now the climb starts. It’s not too bad if you’re fit but if this is your first outing for a while you may struggle a bit. The trick is to walk in bursts and before you know it, you’re fit again and start to enjoy the scenery rather than cursing the incline. We reach the top quite quickly then look back. Staithes is photographed from every angle but this is one of the least published views so it’s worth the time to appreciate this beautiful little village. Today is even better because of the wind so we have the village, the quay, Cowbar Nab, the cove and the open sea progressively getting wilder as the water becomes more exposed to the wind.

We haven’t met Lou yet so we split at a fork in the tracks so we don’t miss her. We take the cliff route and the Pilgrim and Dave head inland.

The cliff route is definitely recommended. We’re above Penny Steel and Jet Wyke, the latter illustrating the fact that the semi precious black stone of Jet can be found along this coast and is used extensively, after much polishing, in bracelets, necklaces and broaches and sold in local shops and more extensively in Whitby.

We walk for about a mile then turn inland, we can see the Pilgrim and Dave on the hillside about half a mile away and a hundred metres or so above us. The wind is behind us and does help us with this incline to the top of our path adjacent to Beacon Hill where we stop to catch our breath and look back at the sea breaking white over the rocks that are Brackenberry Wyke towards the point of Old Nab.

At Port Mulgrave we meet up with Lou who’s had a couple of false starts due to a lack of communication between us that was the result of an old phone number. We’re at full strength now and take the path across the front of Port Mulgrave and look down at the collapsed path to the harbour. The National Park are still thinking about where they put the new one. The old path down was rickety anyway but was claimed in a massive land slide last year after some particularly heavy storms. There is still a way of getting down to the port but it does involve a rope and the ability to abseil, we’re not doing that today! Since the collapse and subsequent further erosion the fossil collectors have been having a field day even to the extent of taking portable ‘pneumatic’ drills and are now considered a menace rather than quaint amateur geologists.

We’re on Rosedale Cliffs now looking down on Rosedale Wyke. The wind is still cutting through us from the sea but we’re all well dressed and it’s not an issue. Occasionally, we’re protected by the track either going through cuts and small valleys or by beautiful gorse in full yellow bloom or by rough scrubby shrubs that don’t look pretty but are still welcome for the protection they give us from the wind.

At Runswick Bay the tide is in so we take the advice of our local expert Lou and head inland in search of the old disused railway track and it’s well hidden through a gap in the hedge no more than the size of an internal door. Our path is about a metre wide and climbs up a cinder embankment through elderberry and brambles then turns left on to the railway track proper. There are no rails of course, they were taken up when Dr. Beeching conducted his act of official vandalism in the late 50’s and early 60’s but the way is easy going and whilst adding two or three kilometres it has got us away from the high tide and gully walk.

The sun keeps threatening to emerge from the grey covering of stratus cloud and break into the welcome fluffy cumulus that we all adore, sadly, it’s just not strong enough but we’re a little warmer now with the protection of the shrubs, bushes and trees that have grown on the embankment.

Just before the hamlet and adjacent to Kettleness Mines (disused) we turn off the embankment and rejoin the Cleveland Way for the final kilometre or so along the cliff tops of the appropriately name High Cliffs above Hill Stones and Kettleness Sands.

Just as we reach the car, the sun breaks through, it’s still windy though!

This walk is about seven miles (11ish kilometres) and has some ascents but it’s rewarding a exhilarating in equal measure.

Oh, by the way, my new boots were challenging by the time we finished. Best to take my own advice and wear them for shorter walks to start with!

Enjoy the snaps…G…x

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Here are the full words of Vin and Barry’s beautiful lament “Street of Staithes”

One fine August day as I was making my way
Along the hardship-troubled streets of Staithes,
I saw the seagulls flying in the grey northern sky
Heard the shifting chorus of the waves
As Staithes looked so fair in the crisp morning air,
Sea mist lifting to fragmented specks of light,
And on the sea wall, though the mist’s lifting pall,
An old man sitting there came into sight.

Well, we sat side by side until the turning of the tide
But not the smallest craft put out to sea –
As the water receded, still unheeded lay the boats,
The pots and nets neglected on the quay.
I asked him the reason why no boats put to sea.
He looked long and thoughtfully at me
And then, with a sigh, he said: “You might well wonder why
For who’d have thought such things could ever be.”

“Aye, there’s days I remember when from March till November
The men of Staithes set out with net and line
And every day from morn till night, every man and boy would fight
To take the family’s living from the brine,
And when the men came back to land, their women lent a willing hand
To get the hard-won catch safe on the shore;
Work for women and for men, pots to pull and lines to mend
Hooks to bait – all ready for the morn.”

“But now the boats come empty in – no fish will buy no bread.
To fish today you need a radar screen
Those trawlers with their fine mesh nets are out to take all they can get.
Between them they’ll soon fish the North Sea clean.
So Staithes now wears a different face – the fishwife’s bonnets trimmed with lace
Are only curios and souvenirs
And since they’ve taken buried hens, the lobster too are at an end.
The only fish is frozen now in Staithes.”

“So now you see the fishing’s gone, the folks are moving on.
If it’s Staithes you came to see, you came too late.
Although the seagulls still fly high, our men now work at ICI –
They’ve moved up to the council house estate.
Ah, but think on now you’ve heard me tale, these cottages you see for sale
For a way of life they are an unmarked grave.”
And on the air’s salty breath, I seemed to catch the smell of death
On the hardship-troubled streets of Staithes.


You can see Vin’s full catalogue here:

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