Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Scarborough to Filey on the Cleveland Way - March 2014

I've decided to stop taking much notice of the weather forecast.  Too often I've delayed or completely postponed a day's walking because the forecast has been poor, only to regret doing so when it hasn't turned out to be as bad as predicted after all.  And in any case, I've got enough bad weather gear to withstand  most conditions.  I did, however, take notice of the Met Office website's forecast on one particular Sunday, towards the end of March.  It had (accurately as  it turned out) predicted torrential downpours inland with broken cloud and patches of sunshine along the coast.  So, when studying my maps to plot out a route for the day, I decided it was time to explore another coastal section of the Cleveland Way. 

My previous coastal excursions had mostly taken me along the Cleveland Way north of Scarborough, and also around the Flamborough Headland Way.  The section of the Cleveland Way between Scarborough and the start/finishing point at Filey, however,  was unknown territory to me and I was very keen to explore some, if not all, of this ten miles stretch of coastline.  A quick look at the OS map and  I realised that a circular route was either going to be unfeasibly long or would involve lengthy sections of walking along busy roads.   So, for a change, I mapped out a linear route and we drove out to the little seaside town of Filey in North Yorkshire.  Here we parked our car at the railway station and boarded a train for the 15 minute journey to Scarborough.

Filey is a very busy little seaside town in the summer months, but on a windy Sunday morning in March it was very much closed for business.  The wind was howling down the tracks as we shivered on the platform, the only other prospective passenger being a solitary herring gull.

Waiting for a train at Filey

Inland the clouds were gathering ominously with definite signs of downpours in the distance.  In Scarborough though the sun was shining, the sky was blue and the streets were busy with visitors.  Scarborough is a lovely, vibrant seaside town which seems to attract people all year round.  We were in high spirits and full of energy as we set off, leaving the town centre to head down to join the seafront path by the Grand Hotel.  Here we paused a while on the Spa Bridge to take in the view of the castle and the harbour.

Scarborough Harbour and Castle

The Grand Hotel is a huge Victorian (Grade II Listed) building which dominates the Scarborough skyline.  At the time of its opening in 1867 it was not only one of the first large scale purpose-built hotels in Europe, but also one of the largest hotels in the world.  And it incorporates some rather striking and significant design features.  There are 12 floors, representing the months of the year, four towers to represent the seasons, 52 chimneys representing the weeks of the year and originally there were 365 rooms, one for every day of the year (excluding a Leap Year).   And as if that wasn't enough symbolism for one building,  it was also constructed in the shape of the letter 'V' in honour of Queen Victoria!   The hotel's heyday was very much in the Victorian era when it was a popular choice for wealthy holidaymakers.  It was here in 1849 that the novelist Anne Brontë died (she is buried not too far away in the churchyard of St Mary's, beneath the castle walls).

The Grand Hotel

One of The Grand's four 'seasonal' towers

The Cleveland Way doesn't have a fixed route through the town of Scarborough, leaving walkers to determine their own course depending on accommodation and sightseeing choices.   After crossing the Spa Bridge though, the trail takes up again as it heads along the coast. 

The Spa Bridge

After walking along the foreshore for a short distance we passed the Spa, an entertainment complex and site of the mineral water spring which was discovered in 1626 and was responsible for the beginning of the town's tourism industry.  The Spa Complex today is a venue for conferences, exhibitions and entertainment events, owned and managed by the local council.  One of its most striking features is the beautiful Ocean Ballroom which was first opened in 1925, enlarged in the 1960s and refurbished in 1986.

The Ocean Ballroom

From the Spa Complex we continued, following the seafront promenade, leaving the town behind and with a clear view of our route ahead of us.

Scarborough Foreshore

The foreshore ended abruptly with a rather steep climb away from the beach.  Although it wasn't really needed, at the top of the cliff we found clear proof that we were most definitely now on the Cleveland Way.

Back on the Cleveland Way

And once at the top we were treated to another splendid view of the whole of Scarborough's beautiful North Bay.

Scarborough's North Bay

The next section of our walk took us along a stretch of coastline which is possibly best known for some significant landslides.  It was here in June 1993 that a large chunk of coastline tumbled down to the sea, taking with it the Holbeck Hall Hotel.  I remember this well as I was visiting Scarborough at the time and just happened to be looking across the bay when a large cloud of dust rose upwards as the last remains of the hotel slipped down the cliff.  It was quite a sight!  More recently in January 2013 three homes had to be demolished at nearby Knipe Point following a further significant landslip.  As we approached the area we could see clear evidence of the unstable nature of this stretch of coast, the homes ahead of us almost teetering on the brink. 

Coastal erosion near Knipe Point

Here the Cleveland Way itself has been lost to the sea and is therefore diverted inland, briefly following the main A165 Scarborough to Filey road before turning back to the coast at Osgodby Hill.  As we left the main road and turned into woodland in the ownership of the National Trust, I got my first glimpse through the trees of the very pretty Cayton Bay.

Cayton Bay

The sun was shining again as we headed down to Cayton Bay, which is home to the Scarborough Surf School and, according to their website, some of the best beach break waves on the east coast.  We could see a few surfers hoping to catch a wave although the sea looked a bit flat.

Heading for Cayton Bay

From the path above Cayton Bay we had a clear view of Knipe Point .

Knipe Point from Cayton Bay

To the north of Cayton Bay Lebberston Cliffs rise 260 feet above sea level,  and although they were mostly in shade, we could see interesting shapes and striations in the cliff face. 

Lebberston Cliffs

Once at the top it was worth having a breather and taking in the view of Cayton Bay, Scarborough and beyond to where the Cleveland Way leads to Ravenscar (a section we walked last autumn).

View from Lebberston Cliffs

 Further along we came to Gristhorpe Cliffs where caravans seemed to be perched precariously close to the edge.  Below the extensive reef known as Castle Rocks was clearly visible.  This reef and the nearby Horse Rock have been responsible for many a shipwreck over the years. 

Castle Rocks - site of many shipwrecks

As we approached Filey Brigg and the end of our walk a curious flagpole type structure caught my attention.  This is the Filey Rocket Pole, which was one of several similar poles situated along the Yorkshire coast, used to fire rockets with lines to aid rescues from stricken ships.  The pole was fenced off from public access, but a nearby sign explained that  it had been in use from 1872 until the 1960s and had been restored in 2001 by the Filey Brigg Ornithological Group.

Filey Rocket Pole

It was only a short distance from the Rocket Pole to what was the first part of the end of our walk.  That is to say, the end of the Cleveland Way (or, for some, the beginning), leaving us just one last mile to walk back to our car at Filey Railway Station.  The end (or start) of the Cleveland Way is marked with a rock sculpture, carved with the National Trail's acorn symbol and engraved with the names of several of the towns and villages through which the route passes.  This sculpture is actually double-sided in that the other side also marks the end (or beginning) of the Yorkshire Wolds Way which starts (or ends) 79 miles away by the Humber Bridge. 

The end (and start) of the Cleveland Way

Leaving this place of beginnings and endings behind us we were treated to a fine view of Filey Brigg, basking in the late afternoon sunshine.  The Brigg is a long, narrow peninsula made up of sandstone and limestone and was once the site of a Roman signal station.  Today it is popular with holidaymakers and nature lovers alike, being home to several species of bird such as oystercatchers, redshanks and sandpipers.

Filey Brigg

Before turning inland to be reunited with our car I paused to look at a wooden direction sign and I tried to imagine how I'll be feeling the next time I visit this place, which will hopefully be later in the year upon our completion of the Yorkshire Wolds Way.  I'm sure that no matter how tired I'm feeling at that point I will have happy memories of this particular walk which was one filled with interest and beauty for the entirety of its ten miles.  But now it was time to find somewhere for refreshment.  Sadly though, Filey was still closed.

The Yorkshire Wolds Way awaits

Directions for this walk:

Trains run regularly (especially in the summer season) between Filey and Scarborough and there's plenty of parking (free at Filey station).  Whichever way you may choose to walk this route, it really is very straightforward and is purely a matter of heading for the sea in the first instance.  From there the route is very obvious and very well signposted. 

Coming soon.....
My next blog will follow a glorious spring walk through the North York Moors valleys of Farndale and Rosedale.  If you'd like to be kept up to date, be sure to follow me on Facebook.

Thursday, 10 April 2014

Book Review - The Wild Rover

The Wild Rover is essentially an exploration of Britain's footpaths, as confirmed by its subtitle "A blistering journey along Britain's footpaths".

Whilst the book contains some very interesting information on the history of public footpaths in Britain, and some amusing anecdotes and personal accounts, it also contains some ramblings of another kind.  Rather opinionated ones! 

To begin with I found the book fairly interesting, as the author covered issues such as the 1932 mass trespass on Kinder Scout through to the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000, all written in a light-hearted and readable way.   It was when writing about other walkers that I thought the tone became quite derisive at times.  And perhaps just a little hypocritical too.  For instance, an almost mocking criticism was aimed at people who write about their walks online, the inference being that no one else is really interested in reading such material.  Naturally, as a writer of such an online blog, this was a bit close to home!  It actually made me wonder how much truth there was in this sentiment and, for a time, I even questioned whether I ought to continue if this was how people felt (although personally I enjoy reading other people's blogs).  Then I moved on to the very next chapter where the author proceeded to give a blow by blow account of his walk along the Ridgeway National Trail.  In effect a "blog" within a book, if you like.  But, of course, the difference is that he was paid to write about it.  So that's alright then!  Hey ho.

I continued reading to the end and found the book by turn amusing, informative and occasionally annoying.  I suppose it could best be described as part factual, part autobiographical, part political commentary and part anecdotal.   And, in spite of my criticism, overall I enjoyed reading it.  There's no doubt  that it's well written and easy to read with some genuinely funny moments.  But occasionally it's also a little annoying, particularly when the author launched into sharing his opinions and various episodes from his personal life.    I did also find sections of the book fascinating though, such as his descriptions of various paths he'd visited and trails he'd embarked upon (but not always finished). 

All in all, it's a blistering journey indeed!

Monday, 7 April 2014

Planning for a National Trail - The Yorkshire Wolds Way - Part 2: Gear choice and packing

This is the second article about our plans to walk the Yorkshire Wolds Way National Trail later this year.  Having plotted out an itinerary and booked our accommodation (see Part One), it's now time to take a look at what we will need to wear, work out how much we can carry and decide whether the rucksacks and footwear we already have will be adequate.

One starting point for the Wolds Way - at Filey in North Yorkshire
(We will be starting at Hessle and walking to Filey)

I once read somewhere that  80% of what's found in a rucksack could have been left behind and the 20% that's left behind is sure to be needed.  There's definitely some truth in that, but joking aside, having looked at the map for the Wolds Way, I believe there are only three locations throughout the whole 79 miles where supplies can be purchased, and one of them is just a village petrol station. 

When it comes to packing for any trip, be that for a fortnight or just one night away, I follow the same principle every time.  It's always worked for me and, to date, I've rarely forgotten anything.  My packing routine dates back to the days when I used to regularly go camping.  A time when the packing list didn't just include clothing but items like pots, pans, bedding, gas stoves...virtually everything including the kitchen sink (or rather a washing up bowl).  It's a fairly straightforward system, which simply entails getting a note book, thinking my way through an entire trip and listing what I think will be needed.  The same principle applies to every trip I make.  I envisage every activity, work out what I'll need, make a list then tick items off as I pack.  And I keep my notebooks, amending the entries to add things I'd missed or cross out items that weren't actually needed, so the next time I undertake a similar trip it's even easier.

For our Wolds Way walk what we'll need is fairly basic.  For starters there's clothing for each day which will consist of a short sleeved base layer and trousers in lightweight, fast-drying/wicking fabric.  In addition to this we'll need a very lightweight micro fleece, waterproof coat and trousers and (essential) a clean pair of walking socks for each day.  The correct socks, as I see it, are probably the most important piece of kit, after the boots or shoes.  A couple of pairs of lightweight socks and some light shoes will also be packed - because I don't intend going for an evening meal in bare feet or dirty walking boots!  Then there's toiletries which can be purchased in the miniature travel sizes (that is, those items I haven't already purloined from hotels).  A basic first aid kit is a must - plasters, blister plasters, Paracetamol, sting relief cream, antiseptic cream - as are water bottles.  Navigational aids will consist of OS maps and GPS, plus I will also have a mobile phone, charger, camera, spare battery and memory cards.  Items I would like to take but will have to leave behind include a hairdryer (most places can lend you one anyway) and (male readers will not understand why this is such a sacrifice) hair straighteners (I just hope it isn't too humid this time).

Once I'd gathered together everything we already own from the above list and laid it all out on the bed, it quickly became apparent that our current rucksacks were inadequate.  The largest I owned had a capacity of 28 litres, which is technically what's known as a daypack, albeit a larger than average one.  By leaving out a couple of items of clothing and cramming everything down tightly I could just fit everything from my list into the rucksack, but then when I tried it on it was very uncomfortable indeed.  Just walking downstairs and to the bottom of the garden and back was a chore, so it was impossible to imagine carrying it for 15 miles a day.  I decided I needed to invest in something fit for purpose.

This will be our finishing point (at Filey in North Yorkshire)

Before we set off to visit our nearest large outdoor gear retailer I had a good long think about what other items I might need to buy.  And my thoughts immediately turned to footwear.  Memories of our previous attempt to walk the Wolds Way (17 years ago) are still all too clear.  We had set off in a heat wave, the first few miles being through woodland with high humidity, resulting in wet feet and blisters on our very first day.    The leather boots I owned back then had not been particularly breathable and my thick socks had done a great job of retaining moisture.  It was not only very uncomfortable, it also completely scuppered our walk and we had been forced to quit after walking 50 of the 79 miles.  I have no intention of letting this happen again.  Perhaps, I reasoned, I should not be walking in boots but instead should think about investing in a decent pair of shoes.  After all, the Wolds Way doesn't involve any scrambling over rocks or wading through streams.  As long distance paths go it's fairly gentle, so the boots I wear for moorland walks and Lakeland climbs are maybe just too sturdy and heavy.

These days the simple activity of walking (like most leisure activities and hobbies) has been hammered by marketing hype.  A quick look through a walking magazine or an outdoor retailer's catalogue and your head will soon be reeling with options you may not have considered before, such as "Pertex shield", "Vibram soles", "Polartec" and the like.    And then there's what appears, on the face of it, to be the issue of brand name snobbery.  The wearing of clothing with logos and names clearly emblazoned for all to see means you have a pretty good idea what someone has paid for their gear.  "Fjall Raven?  Ooh...expensive!" or "Mountain Warehouse?  Really?"  Hands up.  I'm guilty of this too, to a certain extent.  I have been known to position the rucksack strap to cover up the "Regatta" label on a base layer, but move it down a touch so as to proudly display Jack Wolfskin's pawprint.  Sad, I know.  But I suspect I'm not the only one.  It's what the manufacturers want us to do - to advertise their gear for them.  Vanity aside though, I do believe in the old maxim "you get what you pay for" and, having previously fallen foul of attempting a long walk without all the "tech", I was willing to splash out on all the "Keprotec",  "Polygiene" and "Contagrip" I could get my hands on.

Now don't get me wrong.  I'm not knocking the budget brands at all, especially not for clothing such as trousers and base layers.  But when it comes to what I consider to be the crucial bits of kit - the shoes, socks and rucksacks - I believe it's worth investing a little extra.  And for those three particular items I have my own favourite brands - Scarpa, Bridgedale and Lowe Alpine. 

Having tried on practically every pair of shoes in my local Go Outdoors I finally decided on a pair of Scarpa Breeze GTX (seriously.....GTX!) which look somewhat like a trainer but have those all important Vibram soles and are so comfortable straight out of the box that I don't think they will need any breaking in.  Naturally though I won't leave that to chance and will do a good few walks in them before embarking on a journey of 79 miles.  To complete the lightweight option I invested in a few pairs of Bridgedale's "Trail Diva" socks which are designed for summer walking.  And finally, the rucksack I chose was Lowe Alpine's Kongur 65-75, which is to say it has a capacity of 65 litres expandable by letting out a few straps to a whopping 75 litres.  I was able to try this on in the shop, filled and weighted, and by virtue of a comfortable, padded waist belt and properly positioned straps, it was much more comfortable than even my smallest (18 litre) daypack.  Of course, the three items I've mentioned are all female-specific in style and design.  Although Tom has yet to find himself a suitable rucksack, he has also gone for a lightweight shoe and sock option with Mammut Treon Low GTX trail shoes and Lorpen Light Hike socks. 

Scarpa Breeze GTX

When I first decided to have another go at the Yorkshire Wolds Way I didn't anticipate having to splash out on any extra gear at all.  And although I did wonder whether I'd need to buy a bigger rucksack, I certainly didn't expect I'd be buying extra footwear.  I was mulling this over as I waited in line to pay for my purchases when a display of guidebooks caught my eye.  I picked one up for a closer look right at the very moment the next checkout became free.  Almost absent-mindedly the guidebook was added to my basket. 

The Hadrian's Wall Path is an 85 mile national trail crossing the country at one of my very favourite places.  I haven't just bought that rucksack to use once!