So proud of his village

STAITHES' action man Sean Baxter knows a lot about diversifying and he puts his wealth of skills to good use.

As a youngster in a serviceman’s family he travelled extensively with his parents but when they settled in Staithes he became hooked on the sea.

He said: “I’d wanted originally to be a vet but when I was a lad of about 13 I started helping the boat owners and messing about on the beach as kids do and Staithes and the sea took over.

“When I left school at 15-and-a-half I started working for George Harrison who owned a fishing coble and after a couple of years when I was 18, my brother Ian and I had our own coble.”

Later, Sean had a spell with VSO – Voluntary Service Overseas – and after that he taught sustainable fishing skills in exotic places including Papua New Guinea and Sierra Leone.

Back in Staithes, he was helmsman for 20 years on the Staithes and Runswick lifeboat.

Staithes may not be exactly exotic but it’s certainly well up in historic rankings and Sean is exploiting that to the full.

He said: “I want people to know that Staithes is not just about its pubs or even its artists but there’s so much to see and enjoy about it.”

So now, in addition to taking out fishing and bird watching parties in his boat All My Sons, he runs short courses, guiding groups on discovery walks along the foreshore from Staithes to Port Mulgrave.

His parties of up to eight people cover only about three miles but Sean shows them the hidden secrets of a fascinating stretch of coastline from the days of the dinosaur to the present time.

He shows them how black sea slugs emit a bright purple dye when they’re picked up and the relics of the many industries that were carried on in the area over the decades.

There was alum, once used to fix dyes, and jet, a favourite of Victorian ladies for mourning jewellery.

Nowadays it’s potash and road salt from the nearby Boulby Mine.

There are also plenty of fossils to be found, ammonites and belamnites, clam shells and fossilised tree roots from the time when the area was a prehistoric lagoon.

World class ichthyosaurs and plesiosaurs have been unearthed, making it one of the most important geological sites in Britain, known as the Jurassic Coast.

Port Mulgrave has a more recent history, created in the mid-19th Century as a port for the local iron industry.

It thrived in those days but now the harbour is silted up and there’s not even a road to it.

But Sean has one of the fishermen’s huts that still remain and there his wife Tricia meets the groups with lunch – velvet crabs, lobsters, soup and salad.

Sean’s next course is on Thursday.

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