The seaside town of Whitby on the North Yorkshire coastline, may seem like a typical seaside town relying on sandy beaches, fish and chips and amusement arcades for trade, especially in summer.  The town has had an eventful history however.  _PW_5004_3_5-Edit

The ruined abbey that dominates the town from its clifftop setting dates back to Anglo-Saxon times, and it was here that the differing views of how Easter should be dated were reconciled at the Synod of Whitby in the seventh century.  Viking raids, Henry VIII’s dissolution, and WWI naval bombardment have left the abbey as a shell, but its raised position enables it to maintain a dramatic silhouette against the northern skies.

Once the home of a great fishing fleet, the economy has suffered as fish stocks have dwindled, but by encouraging leisure boat owners to moor in the River Esk they continue to make good use of the port where the explorers William Scoresby and more notably James Cook learnt their trade, the latter commemorated through a museum, statue and a pub named after his ship, the Endeavour.

_PW_5052The town is also noted for its bi-ennial Goth Weekend, though purists feel that the event has been watered down by other sub cultures like Steam-Punk and Victorian Vampires attending, together with the scores of photographers who wish to take advantage of willing models.  (I have so far resisted the temptation).

What is it that draws them all to Whitby?  Perhaps the visit in 1890 of Abraham Stoker explains a lot, for when he set to writing his classic gothic novel he chose for his anti-hero to come ashore here and visit both the graveyard of St Mary’s atop the hill and the abbey ruins.
I don’t know what time of year it was when Bram Stoker came to Whitby, but if you’re looking for a day that would inspire a writer to share an account of a shipwrecked vampire and his eventual demise then a January such as this wouldn’t be too unsuitable for Count Dracula.  The clouds would have provided ample protection from the sunlight._PW_5033_4_5-Edit


Life’s Simple Pleasures

With summer drawing to a close, at least as marked by the long school holiday, the seaside draws many to enjoy the last few days of sun and sand.  I’m also part of this throng, though the evidence elsewhere on this blog proves that I’m not simply a fair weather visitor.

Bouncing from coast to coast as my work takes me west and my home returns me to the east, I’ve left the Irish Sea behind for today’s post and returned to the North Sea, this time on the North Yorkshire coast.

Just a short distance short of Whitby, the town made famous by Bram Stoker and now home to Goth festivals, fish and chips galore, and a smattering of jewellers specialising in the jet which is washed up on these shores, is a small village called Sandsend.  Village is perhaps a misnomer, for this was originally nothing more than two rows of dwellings overlooking the shore, separated by a small beck flowing into the sea.APW_5987-Pano-Edit

The local alum works led to its growth, and though that no longer provides the demand, Sandsend’s setting makes it one of the most expensive places to buy property in the county, but no matter how costly the cottages and houses, enjoying the beach requires little sophistication.

Ingenuity was on display however.  Digging and damming water channels to irrigate sand castle moats is commonplace, but here people were working on a larger scale.  By slowing the flow of East Row Beck a small reservoir was created, and so Sandsend had both paddling pool and boating lake to add to its attractions.APW_6011

Not my usual coastal subject matter, but a short walk to the north (where the sand does indeed end) provided both interesting geology as well as more colourful possibilities, and by virtue of having J with me, one of my rare appearances from behind the lens.  Well we can all enjoy the sun and sand can’t we?