A Harr

UK enjoys a warm end to the Easter weekend

BBC News Website 7th April 2015


Not all of the UK was so fortunate; arriving at Saltburn-by-the-Sea to begin a sunny day by the sea it was clear (unfortunate choice of word) that the plan wasn’t going to be realised when the start of the famous pier was barely visible, never mind the end.

It was cold too; time to add extra layers to the polo shirt that I’d hoped would suffice for the day.

Off then to Staithes, just a short trip down the coast and where there might be distractions from the murky chills.

It’s hard to believe that this tiny fishing port was once one of the largest in the North East, in fact the town’s own website proclaims that it was once the largest.  It seems incredible that the fleet on the Tyne was dwarfed by Staithes, especially as you approach down the steep hill from above and appreciate how few dwellings there are here and what little supporting infrastructure, but that wasn’t always the case.  Evidence remains of a rail viaduct (dismantled half a century ago) that once connected the town to Middlesbrough and Whitby.  All the same, the short walk down the only narrow road leaves you in no doubt as to the town’s history.

Perhaps it would be more accurate to say one history, for the town has several.  Captain Cook was once a resident, born in Middlesbrough he developed his love of the sea here, before moving south again to Whitby to join the Royal Navy.  Why the developers of the Assassin’s Creed games chose to give him a Scottish accent is beyond me.

To the left and right of the small harbour are huge cliffs which apart from providing shelter have a story of their own to tell.  The stone under your feet and the towering walls of rock above are full of fossils from the Jurassic period; ammonites being particularly prevalent.  Any fresh rockfall, whilst extremely hazardous, attracts keen geologists and palaeontologists in the hope of new revelations.  Though cold today this was once a tropical lagoon whose sediments are now visible as layer upon layer of shale and mudstone.

Combined with the lugubrious swell of waves whose energy is damped by dense beds of kelp, the fog served to create an otherworldly vista, that were it not for the water would have felt almost lunar.

Not surprising then that mineral mining has also formed part of the industrial heritage hereabouts, but there’s another strand to the story of Staithes.  The jumbled rooftops, the coloured renders, the boats, the ever-changing coastal light…  these are a magnet for visual artists, and so in many ways Staithes has been a smaller echo of St Ives in Cornwall.  The BBC made a children’s TV series here, though the only trace of Bernard Cribbins was in a cutout standee by the lifeboat station.

The Staithes Group were artists who worked in the town in the early part of the 20th Century, and though their time has gone there are still plenty of colourful sights to inspire now, especially in Dotty About Vintage and their adjoining tea room.

Not sure what inspired this in nearby Skinningrove however…

APW_8500_HDRScary as it is, this is just a small detail from a much more extensive whole!

*Harr is a word for sea mist or fog according to a dictionary of the North East dialect.


4 thoughts on “A Harr”

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