My Dearest Chums
‘In 1969 the Cleveland Way took its rightful place as one of Britain’s premier walking trails. This dramatic horseshoe shaped route loops for 110 miles through the magnificent scenery of the North York Moors National Park.
Its starting point is near to the medieval sandstone cross in the market town of Helmsley. This way-marked route leads walkers around and across stunning and often remote moorland scenery to collide head on with the North Sea at Saltburn-by-the-Sea.
From here, with the waves at the walker’s left shoulder, the path careers south hugging the coastline. The route enjoys magnificent seascapes and samples the delights of a series of iconic seaside villages, hamlets and resorts before finishing its roller coaster ride on the edge of Filey Bay overlooking the dramatic Brigg. It is an outstanding adventure that can be sampled in parts or undertaken whole’.
That description of the Cleveland Way will be familiar to many. A dedicated walking route which is much loved and enjoyed by ramblers and holiday makers. For the most part it is a completely separate leisure amenity, away from roads and traffic, with a strong identity and purpose.
Today it is perhaps difficult to imagine that until relatively recently walking to places was a necessity rather than a frivolity; Rambling was certainly not a leisure activity, paths were an essential way of life. They were used and followed because they afforded a degree of certainty that a destination would be reached. A well trodden pathway offered some safety to the traveller, it was dry underfoot and easy to move over by man and beast whatever the time of year. There would be good general views of the landscape around, ensuring early warning of approaching dangers.
The idea of a Cleveland Way hugging the coastline would not have seemed at all a good idea. Who was interested in a view when livelihood and business were at stake?
I recently came across an interesting account of a walk along another ‘Cleveland Way’, a walk taken at the end of the nineteenth century, before we became a nation changed forever by the industrial revolution. A time before the motor car was king, when speed and convenience had different meanings, and when the ‘leisure industry’ was an unknown concept.
It recalls a journey taken for the purpose of business in January 1900 between Whitby and Redcar, a journey on foot of ‘a little over twenty-six miles’. Today the Cleveland Way covers the route between Whitby and Saltburn-by-the-Sea (almost to Redcar) completely at the edge of the North Sea, and the rambler has to walk over fifty miles to achieve the same goal.
Before you get excited at the prospect of an ambitious days’ outing, I have to tell you that the 1900 route is mostly followed by today’s modern A171, a fast and busy road from which you would gain no benefit and an awful lot of vehicle emission fumes if you were ever foolish enough to attempt the route on foot.
However, on ‘a fine January day’ in 1900 the route was a day’s walk full of charm and interest. Here are the highlights:
‘Business took me to Whitby and Redcar, and pleasure suggested that if it was a fine day I might walk the distance between the two’.
‘I decided to take the coast road by Hinderwell, and left Whitby a little before ten. I might have gone by Ugthorpe over the moors, but the recollection of a former day spent upon them, when I was twelve hours on a slice of bread and butter, was not inviting to a man who weighs fifteen stones’.
‘I climbed the steep hill leading to Lythe Church, in company with the village policeman, who pointed me out Mulgrave Castle embowered in the woods’.
‘I looked down on Kettleness, which has wonderfully revived since the day when the entire hamlet fell into the sea in 1829, owing to a landslip’.
‘I met with a farm labourer, with a shepherd, and with a railway clerk, but not a single tramp did I meet on the road’.
‘I passed through the largish village of Hinderwell, which owes its prosperity to Palmer’s Iron Works in the neighbourhood, and where evidently the sight of a pedestrian was unusual. It was a little after twelve, and the children were leaving school. At the sight of me they either composed or struck up a song:
“He’s got his pack
Upon his back
And so he goes to Jericho”
‘I began the toil up Boulby Bank, said to be the steepest road in the North Riding. I fell in with a carter who told me that “nobody ever went up Boulby Bank who could help it”. He advised me to stick to the contour along the line of telegraph posts’.
‘It was half-past one when I stood at the door of the tiny public house in Easington and enquired if I could have any luncheon. “Certainly”. Cold ribs of beef, apple tart, bread, butter and cheese were produced as though travellers wanting luncheon were an everyday occurrence. “How much to pay, please?” “One Shilling!” I was not such a fool as to spoil the place for those coming after me by paying more than was asked, but I made a note in my pocket book, that this broke the record for dinners in my experience’.
‘Down the Cleveland Hills I strode, past Loftus with its brand new church and Brotton with its teeming population of miners, after which I was glad to strike the field path leading to Saltburn. I reached Redcar soon after six, having accomplished my twenty-six miles in eight hours, and having been in the pure open air nearly the whole of that fine January day’!
Different times indeed.
Echo Sweetly BV
Proprietor and Editor,
The Gentlemen Adventurer’s Chronicle