Last day in Whitby

DSC00038

The weather changed on the last day of our holiday. The rain came in and the temperature dropped. So it was a day for stopping in, reading, relaxing, drinking tea and eating cake (!) and otherwise occupying ourselves. But I do get itchy feet so during the afternoon, when the rain had eased for a while, I went out for a short walk on the West Cliff and took a few shots to remind me of an enjoyable week in the historic seaside town.

The Crescent – only half of it was ever built!
DSC00035
The statue of Captain Cook looking out to sea
Looking through the Whalebone Arch – it’s hard to get a chance of this shot on a fine day as everyone wants their photo taken under the arch – not as much of a problem on a colder, wet day!
DSC00040
A neo Gothic house – a little creepy given which novel is set here
DSC00034
The Modernist style pavillion by the outdoor paddling pool

I decided to walk down to the bottom of the cliff and take a short stroll on the beach

DSC00029
A memorial bench on the path
DSC00030

A day in Scarborough

DSC09935

The Thursday of our holiday we drove over to Scarborough. As far as I can remember I’d never been there before (although I’d been to Filey and Bridlington, a little further down the course, in the distant past). But Scarborough is the largest resort on the North Yorkshire coast. It’s been a popular destination since the 17th Century, originally as a Spa resort, but it really took off after the opening of the Scarborough–York railway in 1845, which brought in workers from the Yorkshire mill towns. The town goes back much further, though, as demonstrated by the impressive remains of a medieval castle on the hill overlooking the town. The Romans were certainly here and it’s likely that the town was founded by the Vikings. It’s built around two bays, separated by the hill that’s topped by the castle. The Marine Drive now goes round the end of the cliffs, linking the 2 bays, but this hasn’t always been the case.

There’s plenty of parking – not free, mind – and we parked up on the Marine Drive on the north bay. We walked round to the south bay, the site of the original medieval old town, and the attractive harbour.

DSC09938
The Belle

After exploring the harbour we walked along hte prom on the south bay which is typical of a British seaside resort with the usual tacky amusment arcades and shops selling trinkets, with the odours of fish and chips, greasy fry ups and do-nuts constantly present. We carried on, climbing up through the gardens before the Grand Hotel, to the top road where there was a good view over the bay to the castle.

DSC09946
DSC09968
DSC09967

The Grand Hotel was opened in 1867, when it was the largest hotel and the largest brick structure in Europe. It’s a Grade II* listed building. Today it’s owned by Britannia Hotels and so, like all their other hotels, it’s best avoided.

DSC09941
The Grand Hotel – historic, but not so grand these days

We’d decided to visit the small museum so made our way past the Grand Hotel

DSC09950
Pedestrian high level walkway

walking the short distance to the Georgian Rotunda building where it’s located.

DSC09965

The mseum has small, but interesting, collection – mainly concentrating on fassils and the geology of the area.

DSC09952
DSC09962
rather a lot of ammonites!
DSC09961

The exhibits in the drum of the building are displayed in a way that probably hasn’t changed much since it was founded.

DSC09957
Some of the exhibits displayed in glass cabinets lining the walls of the drum
DSC09956
The old spiral staicase leading to the, now inaccessible, upper level in the dome.
DSC09960
Some more exhibits
DSC09954
The dome is very impressive – but it’s impossible to capture that in a photograph.
DSC09955
A frieze around the base of the dome shows the geology of the north Yorkshire coast. I zoomed in on the section showing the Whitby area

We spent about an hour in the museum and then headed across the town towards the castle – and that deserves a post of it’s own. We also wanted to visit a celebrity in the old churchyard – you’ll have to wait to see whao that is (or perhaps you can make a guess!).

There was more to see in Scarborough, but our time there was limited. I’d have liked to have walked round to the old Spa building and the funicular railway and also spent some time walking along the norrth bay. It’s certainly worth another visit if we’re over that way again.

A walk to Sandsend

DSC09777

There’s a long stretch of sandy beach to the north of Whitby. At the other end, nestling underneath the cliffs, is the small village appropriatly named Sandsend. It was originally a fishing village, then a home for workers in the alum extraction industry. Today it’s a tourist resort and, apparently, the most expensive place to buy a property on this stretch of the coast!

On the Sunday morning of our holiday in Whitby, as the tide was going out, I set out with my son to walk the 3 miles to the village. It was a fine morning and although there was a bank of cloud hovering over Whitby, we were in the sunshine as we headed north.

DSC09767
Looking down to the beach where the tide was receding, from the cliffs near Whitby Pavilion
DSC09766
Although it was early, there were quite a few people taking some exercise on the beach and / or walking their dogs!
DSC09768
DSC09771
Passing the colourful beach huts
DSC09773
There were a few surfers out
DSC09776
A rocky stretch
DSC09779
DSC09785
Approaching Sandsend. We didn’t stop to look around the village as we’d planned to visit the Abbey that afternoon and time was getting on.

DSC09789
Halfway back to Whitby, we took a path that climbed halfway up the cliff to get a different perspective
DSC09792

We were walking towards the cloud now, but it was clearing and we were in the sunshine most of the way back to Whitby

DSC09793
Looking down on the beach huts and towards the harbour
DSC09796
We took the path up to the top of the cliffs a short distance before the Pavillion and passed one of the heritage statues celebrating thealleged invention of the “Crow’s Nest” by local man, William Scoresby

DSC09797
And a second one, of Skipper Dora Walker (1890-1980), the first female fishing boat skipper on the North East coast.

A little further on we turned off the cliff top path back down towards Skinner Street and our holiday cottage.

A week in Whitby

We’re just back from an enjoyable family holiday in the historic seaside town of Whitby. This was our second visit having had a holiday there in July 2017.

The town developed following the establishment of an Anglo Saxon monastery high up on the East Cliff in 656 by Oswy, the Christian king of Northumbria. It’s in a narrow valley at the mouth of the River Esk, flanked by tall cliffs. The original settlement was at the bottom of the cliffs on the east side of the river, eventually spreading over to the west bank. It’s location means that it’s a maze of steep, narrow streets and ginnels – not the easiest of places to drive around!

Until relatively recently it was very much an industrial town with alum quarries on nearby cliffs and shipbuilding was a major industry – it’s hard to believe that in the 18th century it was the third largest shipbuilding port in England. Not surprisingly it was a fishing port and in the mid 18th century it also became a centre for whaling. Whitby developed as a spa town in Georgian times and tourism really took off in the mid 19th Century with the arrival of the railway, leading to the development on top of the West Cliff.

Bram Stoker stayed in Whitby and it inspired him to write his novel, Dracula, which started with the Dementer, the ship carrying Dracula running aground, its crew missing, its dead skipper lashed to the wheel was wrecked on Tate Hill Sands, below the East Cliff (his inspiration for this was the beaching of a Russian ship, the Dmitry, on the sands in 1885).  One of the novel’s characters, and Dracula’s victim, Lucy Westenra, was attacked by the Count in St Mary’s Churchyard, the Parish Church that stands in the shadow of the Abbey.

We had a relatively easy week, spending our time wandering around the streets, cliffs and beaches with only one trip out to Scarborough. We didn’t spot any vampires, fortunately!

Here’s a few snaps that I took around the town during our stay, starting with a few views of the East Cliff from the harbour and West Cliff

DSC00038
DSC09881
This is the beach where the Dmitry ran aground – the inspiration for the start of Bram Stoker’s novel.
DSC09799
Some of the shops in the “main street” of the East Cliff
Looking up the 199 Steps that lead up to the Parish Church and the ruins of the Abbey.
In bram stoker’s novel, Dracula, in the guise of a black hound, ran up these steps up to the top of the East Cliff after the shipwreck.
DSC09885
Looking down to the harbour from part way up the 199 steps
Looking over the graveyard to the Abbey
The Abbey ruins
DSC09837
This modern bridge linking the east pier and the east pier extension of the harbour walls. An addition since our last visit.
DSC09805
Looking down over the harbour to the West Cliff from the top of the East Cliff
DSC09854
Another view over to the West Cliff settlement
DSC00035
The monument to James Cook, who, as an apprentice seafarer, was based in the town

There’s a fine beach to the west of the town stretching a couple of miles to the small hamlet of Sandsend

DSC09795
DSC09782
DSC09777
A replica of Cook’s Endeavour
DSC09797
Another change since out holiday in 2017 – there were a number of these wire statues of former residents of the town illustrating it’s heritage.
DSC09796
A fellow photographer!

A walk along the cliffs

Last Monday, before setting off on the long drive home, we took a couple of hours to go for a walk on the cliffs north of Whitburn near Souter lighthouse.

The lighthouse opened in 1871 and was the first in the world with an electrical powered lamp. It was decommissioned in 1988 – but not before the foghorn kept me awake during my first visit to Whitburn, when it operated throughout a foggy night, while we were staying at J’s auntie’s house (the house where she was born!).

DSC09528

Battered by the sea and the elements, the cliffs are eroding, a process being accelerated by climate change. Since we were last here, sections of the coastal path have been diverted due to safety concerns

DSC09523
DSC09539
DSC09515
DSC09512

The cliffs are home to sea birds, including Kittiwakes, Fulmar, Cormorants, Shags and Guillemots.

DSC09514

To the south of the lighthouse, the coastal path descends and there is access to a small cove known as the Wherry, a popular local recreation spot in the past when fishing boats were kept in and launched from the cove.

DSC09534
DSC09532

There’s a lot of history in the area. Although today the coast between Whitburn and South Shields are owned by the National Trust the top of the cliffs is a pleasant lawned area not that long ago they were dominated by industry with a coalmine (Whitburn colliery) lime kilns and a railway running along the top of the cliffs. There’s no sign today of the mine, (where my wife’s grandfather used to work) but the old lime kiln just over the coast road still remains as a reminder of the industrial past.

DSC09519

The Marsden Banner Group have some good information on the history of the colliery and the village on their website.

The shore at Seaburn

Last weekend we were up in Sunderland for a family wedding. We hadn’t been up to the North East for about 4 years, visits delayed due to lockdowns and travel bans, so it was good to have an opportunity to catch up properly with family, rather than relying on posts on Facebook and Instagram.

We drove up on Friday, the day before, and stayed in the new Seaburn Inn hotel on the sea front. Although it’s very much an industrial town, Sunderland has a fantastic beach and coastline stretching from Roker through Seaburn and then on to Whitburn. We had paid a little extra for a room on the front with a balcony, hoping to enjoy the views over to the sea. The weather was rather dull when we arrived and it rained on Saturday (but, I’m glad to say, this did’t spoil the wedding), but it brightened up for the next couple of days. I’m always up early and was out for a walk along the Prom each morning irrespective of the weather.

DSC09468
A dull morning, but it’s still enjoyable to walk along the Prom

And on Sunday afternoon, after a family gathering in the morning, we were able to enjoy a walk along the beach in the sunshine, from our hotel as far as the start of the cliffs at the boundary with Whitburn.

DSC09484
DSC09474
DSC09472
DSC09477
DSC09480

We then spent a little time on the balcony reading and enjoying the view before an earlyish tea in the hotel bar. After that we enjoyed an evening walk along the shore towards Roker and back, finishing off with a drink on the balcony.

DSC09491
DSC09490

Cemaes

After our walk around Parys Mountain we decided we’d drive a little further along the north coast of the island to the small resort of Cemaes – the most northerly village in Wales. Originally a fishing village, particularly for herring, and a port for the export of bricks, today it very much relies on tourism with it’s sandy beaches and pretty little harbour.

We drove into the village, missing the turn for the car park down by the beach but managed to find a large car park up the behind the main shopping street. I was amazed to find that parking there was free. Makes a change!

It’s quite a small place and it didn’t take long to look round. We walked along the main street, which had a only a few shops (some of them shut down, sadly), and then down towards the picturesque harbour. the tide was out so the fishing and pleasure boats were all stranded in the mud.

There was still some evidence of fishing and we saw a couple of men loading up crates of lobsters into their van. None for sale locally, though.

P9294325

Then on to the beach

P9294337

There were signs up making it clear that dogs were only allowed on a resticted section of the beach during the main season (which hadn’t finished). But what did we see. Yes, several dog walkers ignoring the instruction. It illustrates the problem that if you implement meaures people are required to follow the message must be clear (it was in this case), reinforced and enforced. Just the same with masks and social distancing at the moment. (Rant over!) Having said that, there were very few people on the beach and the promenade. It was very quiet and peaceful.

We were intrigued by this structure standing on the beach

A little research revealled it to be “St Patricks bell“. It’s one of several bells located at coastal locations around the UK by the Time and Tide project to celebrate the connection of local communities between themselves, the land, the sea and the environment. In Cemaes the bell celebrates the local legend that St Patrick was shipwrecked on the nearby island,Ynys Badrig, where he founded a church in 440 AD, introducing Christianity to Britain.

The bell is rung by the high tide, and is meant as a reminder of rising sea levels caused by global warming. Gillian Clark, a favourite poet of mine, composed a poem for the dedication of the bell and read it at the installation ceremony

Mewn gwynt a glaw,
gwyll neu oleuni,
heulwen, lloergan,
pan fo’r tonnau’n taro
ar y traeth dan dynfa’r lleuad,
bob dydd, adeg y penllanw,
swn y tonnau,
sain y gloch yn canu.

And in English:

At the turn of the earth,
heartbeat of the deep
under the wind’s breath,
as the sea stirs in sleep
under the moon’s gravitational pull,
when the tide’s at the full,
at the twelfth hour
the bell will toll.

Cast in bronze, the colour of the metal changes due to the action of the environment – air, water and salt.

I notice that one of the bells was installed last year on the Stone Jetty in Morecambe. I’ll have to go and have a look some time.

We didn’t stay very long but after strolling along the beach set back off to our accommodation, stopping at the sizeable Co-op in Amlych to pick up a few supplies. We then finished off the afternoon by walking down to Lligwy beach. Unfortunately the little cafe was closed 😦

Coastal path to Traeth Dulas

The second day of our holiday the wind had dropped and we were greeted by a fine sunny morning. So the boots were back on and we were off down the path through the fields for another walk on the coastal path, this time heading north towards Traeth Dulas.

The tide was out again when we reached Traeth Lligwy

Off we set. the temperature was just right – neither too hot nor too cold and we were walking in t-shirts for most of the afternoon.

The geology was quite different than when we walked south to Moelfre. That way was dominated by Carboniferous limestone whereas heading north the rocks were predominantly sandstone and shale, deposited in a semi-arid, sub-tropical environment millions of years ago.

We soon reached a concrete lookout post up on the cliff looking over the sea. I reckon this was a remnant from WW2 as it would overlook the shipping route into Liverpool.

P9274293

The path descended down to a sand and shingle cove before climbing back up on the low cliffs.

P9274272

As the wind had dropped, the sea was calmer than the day before. We had a brief walk on the sand, inspecting the variety of pebbles that were washed up on thebeach.

P9274273

Looking south from the beach with the Great Orme and the northern Snowdonia mountains visible on the horizon

P9274274

Back up on the cliffs

P9274276

I’d brought my long range lens with me so zoomed in on the tower on Ynys Dulas.

P9274279

Carrying on the path, down below was Traeth yr Ora. This fantastic beach is only accesible via the coastal path or from the sea – there’s no road or car parks nearby. It was almost deserted except for a small number of people.

P9274290

Looking down to the beach from the north.

P9274282

We diverted of the coastal path which swung inland and around the Dulas bay / estuary. We carried on a permissive path along a headland which overlooked the beach and the bay. We spotted a couple of fishermen – I don’t think it was Whitehead and Mortimer though.

P9274286

The tide was still well out and the Dulas Bay was almost dry. We could see the wreck of a large boat resting on the sand. I wonder whether it was wrecked or just deserted?

P9274289

The path looped back from the headland and we retraced our steps along the coastal path back toward Lligwy.

P9274292

We stopped for a while to take a break at this rather attractive carved bench which overlooked the sea.

Interesting rock formations.

P9274271

We arrived back at Traeth Lligwy. We fancied a brew but the cafe was busy – there was a lengthy queue and all the seating was taken so we decided on a walk along the beach, returning after half an hour or so when the cafe was a lot quieter.

P9274270

Another good coastal walk on a perfect day for walking.

Autumn on Anglesey

PA014376

Well, I don’t really need to say that it’s been a funny old year but, of course, it has been. As a consequence, our original plan for a transatlantic trip for our main summer holiday had to be abandoned (luckily we hadn’t quite got round to booking anything). After restrictions were lifted, we decided to try to book a self catering cottage somewhere but were a little slow off the mark and we couldn’t find anything suitable during the main holiday period. I’d taken a couple of short walking breaks in the Lakes on my own, but we hadn’t been away together. J fancied a holiday near the sea, and that sounded like a good idea to me – a change from the mountains. Looking at my work diary I found a couple of options during September and after some searching found a self catering “cottage” in Anglesey which had a free week. So we snapped it up.

So the last Friday in September, I finished work early, loaded up the car and then drove down the M6, M56 and A55 over to the island off the coast of North Wales via Stevenson’s Britannia Bridge (well, the reconstructed version).

Looking over the sea to the mountains of Snowdonia

We were staying on the north west coast of the island, a little inland near the village of Moelfre (pronounced something like Moyle-vre),

Moelfre

although only a 20 minute walk cross country to the sea near to the very attractive beach at Traeth Lligwy (Lligwy Bay). Our “cottage”, in reality a modern semi detatched, purpose built two storey house, had the main living room on the first floor as from the large window there was a view over green fields over to the bay – hence the name of the accommodation, “Sea View”.

PA014349
Traeth LLigwy

We were pretty lucky with the weather. Looking outside as I write this the week after our holiday it’s raining in heavily and it’s been like that on and off since we got back (although it was reasonably OK on Sunday). During our holiday, though, it was sunny most days – just a day and a half of rain.

A windy day on the coastal path
Cliffs near Moelfre

We wanted a relaxing break so no rushing around in the car – we only went out in it on one day, and even then only for a relatively short journey. So we spent our time walking along the coastal path (an excellent stretch of rocky cliffs and sandy bays), pottering about and, on the rainy days, catching up on some reading (or, in J’s case, watching the tennis as the French Open had started). I even had the chance to climb a “mountain”, or at least what passes for a mountain on the mainly flat island. And there were ancient monuments to visit (no, I’m not talking about myself!!!) a short distance away. I enjoyed just looking out of the window too (ignoring the several small caravan sites) over the fields to the bay and one of the ancient monuments (a Medieval chapel) was visible in the distance too.

We were a little worried on the Tuesday evening when we heard that 4 local authorities in North wales were introducing some tight restrictions including not allowing anyone in or out unless they had a good reason (e.g. work or medical). Luckily Anglesey wasn’t one of them, but our route home on the A55 went through 3 of them – Conwy, Denbigh and Flint. Initial fears of a very long diversion were soon proven to be unfounded as you were allowed to drive through them, provided you didn’t stop (with some exceptions that – e.g. if you needed fuel)

So, lots to write up over the next few days or weeks, during the autumnal evenings, to relive my memories of an enjoyable holiday

A walk from Formby to Ainsdale

The Wednesday of my week off work was looking promising for a walk but where to go? J’s foot was still swollen after twisting over her ankle in Conwy Castle, so this was to be a solo trip. I didn’t leave her unattended though, as our son was also off work. I decided to take the train to the coast for a half day walk along the beach and through the dunes from Freshfield station near Formby, which is between Liverpool and Southport.

People have been living around Formby for a long time. The suffix -by is derived from the Scandinavian byr meaning “homestead”, “settlement” or “village”, so like a number of towns and villages in Lancashire and north Cheshire, Formby was originally a Viking settlement.

From the station is was just under a mile to the Pine Forest and Red Squirrel Reserve, looked after by the National Trust.

Rather than head straight to the beach I took a path through the forest and wandered through the pines across to the asparagus fields.

No squirrels spotted, unfortunately.

DSC07584
DSC07566
DSC07567

After cutting through the asparagus fields, taking a few moments to look at the information boards and the wooden sculptures dotted around the route, I took the path across the sand dunes

DSC07569

over to the beach.

Formby beach is part of an extensive spread of golden sands, backed by an important dune system, which stretches all the way from Crosby (home to Antony Gormley’s iron men) to Southport.

The tides here often reveal prehistoric mud layers underneath the sand, some of which contain human and animal footprints from the late Mesolithic to the late Neolithic periods, approximately 8,000 – 5,000 years ago. I didn’t spot any during my walk, though, although I left plenty of footprints myself!

It was low tide when I arrived so it was quite a way to the sea.

DSC07573

But I wanted to get my boots wet so made my way across the sands to the water’s edge.

Looking south I could see a ship sailing through the off shore wind farm at the mouth of the Mersey towards the docks at Liverpool

DSC07576

Being half term there were other people about, mainly clustered near the National Trust car park, but other than that it was very quiet and I enjoyed the solitude. There wasn’t a lot of wildlife about but I spotted gulls (not surprisingly) a few Oystercatchers and Sanderlings pottering about on the sand, but too far away to catch on a photo.

I carried on heading north along the beach for a while, with the extensive sand dune system over to my right

DSC07582

After a bout a mile I cut across towards the dunes and then doubled back along the beach towards the “Fisherman’s Path” which I joined and headed inland through the dunes into the Pine Forest.

DSC07586

The sand hills between Formby and Ainsdale are a Nature Reserve but there are a number of way-marked paths and routes to follow. I’d planned a route that would take me through the woods to Ainsdale.

It’s a variable landscape with mature pines, areas of deciduous trees and grass covered dunes

DSC07589
DSC07588
DSC07592

The Nature Reserve is rich in flora and wildlife, including the Natterjack Toad and Great Crested Newt. There’s also herds of cattle and sheep, introduced to control the undergrowth. I spotted some sheep, including some Herdwicks, natives of the Lake District brought south onto the dunes.

DSC07590

I carried on meandering along the paths through the Nature Reserve

DSC07591

until I emerged next to the Pontins Holiday Camp at Ainsdale. After a final look over the beach towards the Fylde coast across the Ribble estuary (I could just about make out Blackpool Tower)

DSC07579

I headed inland and on to the road that took me towards Ainsdale village and the train station. After a short wait I was on the train to Southport where I was in good time for my connection back to Wigan.

It had been a cold, but sunny day and an enjoyable walk. I mustn’t leave it so long before I go back – I enjoy walking on the beach on a cold, clear, sunny day in the winter.

Arriving home I dug out a favourite book of mine Strands: A Year of Discoveries on the Beach by the poet, Jean Sprackland who used to live in the area and enjoyed walking along the beach here, picking up flotsam and jetsam, including mermaid’s purses, lugworms, sea potatoes, messages in bottles, buried cars, beached whales, and a “perfect cup from a Cunard liner”. I didn’t find anything like that – perhaps I need to look more carefully next time!