Quirky, different and worth it - unearth hidden gems of north east coastline in Stroll With Stu
When escaping to the coast from Thornaby as a child, it always puzzled me why everybody went to Redcar or Saltburn but nobody ever got off the train at Marske.
It shares the same stretch of sandy beach as its neighbours, but candy floss and fruit machines remain absent.
I had a look round on this four-mile circular stroll, starting in the tidy central square, and I was pleasantly surprised at what I found.
The square has lots of shops and cosy little eateries, contrasting with towns like Redcar with their to-let signs, charity shops and pound stores selling cheap tat that’s been shipped halfway around the world, just to swiftly end up in a recycling plant and shipped back out again.
Take the road to Redcar from the roundabout, passing St Mark’s Church and the impressive Marske Hall on your right.
The Hall has an illustrious history. Built in 1625, it has seen more landed gentry across the doorstep than the Royal Box at Ascot.
The first was Baronet James Perryman, who cobbled together a little army – probably from the bar in the Top House - and as a staunch Royalist, fought with some vigour in the Battle of Marske Beach against Oliver Cromwell. (He lost).
Much later, the hall was used by the armed forces during two World Wars and eventually became a private school in 1948, lasting nineyears or so until some bored kids wreaked havoc with a box of matches.
Nothing much changes really.
In the early 1970s at my school in Middlesbrough, someone burned down the International Eisteddfod marquee because they erected it on the grass where he liked to play football.
Later, my mate Barry crawled under the desks and set fire to the RI teacher.
She wore big flouncy dresses and was lucky not to go up like the Hindenburg.
Further up the road at a crossroads go left up Longbeck Road, walking as far as the Rail Halt.
Hidden behind the signal box is a path leading directly to Marske Station. Drop down steps near the road adjacent to the old coal yard, where I imagine the railway delivered the black stuff for local houses and light industry before anyone had heard of carbon footprints.
The yard is now home to an auto-spares business (and several chickens) next to an old railway repair shed, betrayed by its high arched doors.
Go left under the rail bridge, then right down Meadow Road and quickly left on a path alongside Marske United Football Club.
Keep going past two children’s playgrounds and along grass to emerge over a car park turning left on Windy Hill Lane near the library.
Quickly right along the length of Spain Hill and St Germain’s Lane to go left at a crossroads and soon right at a no entry road which instantly leads to the gates of the Valley Gardens.
OK, they aren’t on the same scale as Saltburn or Scarborough, but they are pretty and well maintained and a welcome escape from the urban traffic.
Well done to all the locals who do their thing with a trowel and a dibber.
After half a mile, the path leads to another hidden Marske Gem. It is a little sandy inlet on the wider beach, flanked by quaint cottages, low dunes and pastel shaded boats.
Have a walk onto the beach to admire the views North to the wind farm and even Hartlepool, and South to Saltburn and the high cliffs of North Yorkshire.
Back – this time along the little road – take a quick right at Cliff Terrace staying left of smugglers cottage to access a lovely little cobbled path taking you to the main A1085.
A few hundred yards left, well after the pub, is Winkie’s Castle Folk museum.
I’m not even going to describe the experience, as it is just £1.50 admission so you can see for yourselves.
I’ll just say that Winkie was a one-eyed cat (cue Benny Hill jokes) and the following words appear on a five-star Tripadvisor review – “they even offered us a home-grown marrow as we left!”
Quirky, different and worth it.
Cross over, and just after Kerridge close is a path called Yeoman terrace running by some attractive cottages.
This eventually goes round the back of St Mark’s Church onto the A174 close to where you started, where I recommend you turn left and seek refreshments in the Smugglers Den Micropub.
By the way, as you sit there reading some dire headline in the paper about how many grotty pubs are closing every week in Britain, remember that they don’t mention the hundreds of little jewels like this that have opened in the last year to replace them.
So there it is!
Marske – historical, quirky and hidden little gems.
Who’d have thought it!