Stroll With Stu: Stunning views from new stretch of coastal footpath
This five-mile walk was meant to take in a visit to the seashore and old harbour at Port Mulgrave, but a large chunk of the cliffside lost its battle with gravity last January, taking the footpath with it.
Nonetheless, it was an enjoyable trip on a hot August day and it was pleasing to see lots of families enjoying the sunshine, doing their very best to avoid computer games and daytime television.
Incidentally, if you Google “Pokemon Go”, the Californian Geeks behind this electronic tosh take irony to new levels, describing it as a reality game. You’ve got to admire their cheek.
The X4 from Loftus to Whitby screeched to a juddering halt opposite the Boulby Potash mine, after thundering down the hill from Easington.
Four of us took the minor road adjacent to the bus stop signposted for Cowbar, and you should follow this for a mile or so taking in fabulous views of the cliffs as you pass Cowbar Cottages.
The tiny road soon snakes steeply down to the pretty and historic village of Staithes, crossing a bridge over Staithes Beck into the village proper.
Go straight on along the High Street (!) and soon you will come to the harbour side at the Cod and Lobster pub.
I never went to Staithes as a kid. I’m not really sure why, as it had all the pre-requisites my Mam and Dad usually required ie a beach where my elder brother could look all innocent while trying to drown me, and a decent pub.
Maybe they knew we would soon be squealing at the dearth of slot machines, or perhaps it was the lack of a train station – the crumbling line was taken away by the rag-and-bone man shortly after I was born.
You should make time for a swift pint, or a cuppa and cake from the little café, as this is proper old-fashioned English seaside and is a lovely spot just to lean on the barriers and watch the world go by in slow motion.
Follow the narrow lane – Church Street – directly away from the shore, turning into a track as the Tarmac soon fizzles out.
This climbs and swings left to reach Barn Cottage at East Cliff Lodge Farm, where a series of new fences marks the start of a new stretch of cliff top footpath.
This is part of the development of the England Coast path which, when complete in 2020, will be one of the longest coastal walking routes in the world. At almost 3,000 miles in length (which illustrates the tortuously curvy nature of England’s coastline), that is a lot of Strolls with Stu.
Follow the path left towards the cliffs and soon right on a nice wide grassy track then sharp right again at Old Nab, before climbing up to re-join the original route. There are great views along this whole stretch – not bad for whale and dolphin watching apparently – including a great aerial prospect of Staithes and later down to the thin beach at the desolate Brackenberry Wyke.
After rounding Beacon Hill, you will quickly come to Port Mulgrave.
As I said earlier, the path down to the sea has headed off to Spurn Head and a sign says “Attention all idiots – if you die going down here, it’s not our fault” – or words to that effect. Now, from the cliffs on the far side you can see that a new unofficial route snakes up through the gorse, but I don’t want any more finger-jabbing letters, so I didn’t try it out.
Port Mulgrave harbour was built for £45,000 and opened in 1857 by Sir Charles Palmer.
It was built to transport iron ore from his mines which reached there on a railway running deep below your feet. The whole operation closed down in 1916 when more railways opened inland and the pier wall was eventually blown up by the Army, creating an impressive plume of shrapnel at the start of the Second World War.
They were scared that the Germans might think it was a cunning place to tie up a few boats and launch an invasion, but (call me a cynic) my sneaking guess is that Port Mulgrave didn’t feature on any of Adolf’s flipcharts.
Carry on along the well signposted path that curls left high above Rosedale Wyke.
Another mile or so will see you turning right adjacent to a small pond – home to some happily quacking ducks – before emerging next to the impressively refurbished Runswick Bay Hotel, where I recommend a pint or two from the excellent Wold Top brewery.
Alternatively, there is a tiny garden café just ahead on the road towards Whitby, which is handily placed next to the bus stop home after a pleasant and fairly easy coastal stroll.