A Stroll With Stuart - Steering to Staithes


WHEN alighting from Arriva’s X5 bus on the A174 at the top of Staithes village (and you’ve really got to admire their engineers for keeping these old tubs going), you’d be forgiven for feeling underwhelmed.

Pretty it isn’t. This end of the village is a modern extension to the old fishing community which is huddled – almost a mile away – around a pretty harbour, and rising up along the side of Staithes Beck.

The good news is that you’ll see the picture postcard side of Staithes at the end of the walk.

To start this six-mile circular hike, head east along the main road, and on the opposite side of the road to the Co-op, go through a swing gate onto a path by the last of the houses.

Just 200 or so yards further on, cross a stile on your right into a wide field.

Ignore the half a dozen cows that may seem a smidge miffed that you’re walking on their dinner, and go through a metal gate at the end of the field, then downhill on a clear track with a fence on your left.

Emerge over a stile into the lovely and hidden village of Dalehouse, and head left down the road.

Cross the river bridge, then immediately turn right along Ridge Lane and follow this narrow road for half a mile to go over a ford, then bear left up a hill.

Immediately after a “try your brakes” sign (mine were fine), turn right on a track and follow it for a mile as it heads through woodland, curving slowly around to the left.

The track heads right on a man-made embankment over the stream, but before it does so, look left to see a long brick tunnel in the hillside, betraying the mining heritage of this area.

Cross the embankment and turn left to head up to a clearing.

Head straight on past a jumble of metal fences and concrete rubble, then climb uphill towards woodland still on a clear track.

The track heads sharp left past a sign saying “private woodland – keep out”, so do as you’re told and head sharp right on a waymarked grass path heading into the woods.

Soon you’ll find yourself going steeply uphill, and if sliding around in the mud whilst looking desperately around for an escalator were an Olympic event, this is where they’d practice.

Mercifully, it doesn’t last long and soon you’ll find yourself crossing a stile over the railway line that serves the potash mine.

Now, at this point I’m going to leave you to your own devices.

The sensible thing to do is to follow the marked path straight uphill, then onwards to Twizziegill Farm.

Follow its access road to cross the A174, then a few yards to the right take a footpath that leads up through four fields to a phone mast half a mile or so away.

Turn right along a minor road and wait for me there at a path on your left just in front of Boulby Barns Farm.

Unfortunately, I turned right after the railway line, along a path heading down to Newton Gill Wood.

Crossing into the woods, I was confronted with a footbridge that had collapsed more dramatically than the Greek economy.

Now this beck is not the Amazon, but I was still there for half an hour trying to find a dry crossing.

Steve McQueen, in the Great Escape, would have said “it’s a fair cop Heinrich, I’m goosed” and given himself up, and wouldn’t even have seen the subsequent pile of mud blocking the path, courtesy of several JCBs.

I eventually reached the main road looking like I’d crawled out of the sewers.

Whichever route you choose, you are afforded lovely emerging views back over the fields to Staithes.

They would however, be a lot lovelier without the Cleveland Potash Mine (coming soon to a field near you).

Take a marked track close to Boulby Barns Farm, heading towards the cliff top.

After 50 yards you need to cross an unmarked stile into a wide field and head on uphill.

Turn right after a final stile onto the cliff top path and essentially keep walking for three miles all the way to Staithes.

The views are wonderful as you drop down (steeply at first) to the lower cliffs and through the few houses that amount to Boulby village.

Soon you are on tarmac heading towards Cowbar and there are plentiful signs here of the power of the North Sea as the old road disappears into thin air where the cliffs have collapsed beneath it.

Your final approach to Staithes is a delight as it snakes steeply down to the small sheltered harbour past handsome cottages and colourful fishing cobles.

Cross the footbridge to explore the old village with it’s collection of pubs, cafes and galleries.

Not much traffic – not even a mobile phone signal – gets down here, so you need to head up the steep hill to return to the bus stop.

On the way you’ll pass the James Cook Heritage Centre. Cook arrived in Staithes aged 16 to work in a grocer’s shop – it’s recreated in the Heritage Centre – and it was here that he really developed his love of the sea before moving on to Whitby on the X5.

At the top of the hill, if you have a little time to spare, is the Captain Cook Inn where the fire blazes, the banter is good, the beer is superb and the furniture, carpet and other sundry decorations are still awaiting delivery.

A unique place – perhaps best summed up by recalling that the Landlord recently held his own mock funeral procession and wake because he didn’t want to miss the booze up. Just don’t expect cocktails and cucumber sandwiches.