The Cleveland Way. Kildale to Saltburn by the Sea
Day 3. 16 miles
Unsurprisingly, being as it was forecast, I awoke to the sound of heavy rain outside, pattering down on top of the byre, and with a chilly breeze entering inside through any cracks it could find in the door and walls. Did I really want to spend a day outside in that? Not particularly, certainly not right now, so I put the kettle on and came back to bed with a hot cuppa. Hopes that I might be able to get stuck into a hot, cooked breakfast were unfounded when I was offered mini-cereals and bread to take back to my byre. I had a bowl of cornflakes and a banana. And then got my pounds-worth in the shower, decorated myself head to toe in my waterproofs and headed off at around 11:30 - disgracefully late as I usually prefer an early start - but the exertions of yesterday and the comfortable surroundings this morning, contrasted to the weather outside, ensured I delayed leaving as long as possible. Additionally, though today's sixteen miles did include some climbing, it on the face of it didn’t look as hard a day as yesterday, and that proved to be the case, conditions not withstanding.
However, I didn’t start the day off well by taking two wrong turnings upon leaving the farm and ended up having to backtrack for ten minutes to get on the right path. That annoyed me. When I did eventually find the village centre of Kildale, I was disappointed to see that the cafe I had spotted on the map had closed and with nothing else worth stopping for, I walked straight through. Though it was still raining, it had eased off and in fact wasn’t as cold as I’d expected, so the walking wasn’t too bad - aside that is from the wrong turns and then being hit on the other side of Kildale with the biggest climb of the day, an ascent up a quiet lane and then into some woodland, where a narrow, sheltered path headed to an open and exposed Easby Moor where I was met by the sixty foot high statue of James Cook, and an almighty and chilly wind that knocked me sideways upon emerging from the woods. Ordinarily, I am sure this would be an ideal spot for a break, even this early in to the day with expansive views east and towards, again, the peak of Roseberry Topping. As it was, the conditions up there were miserable, and even whilst doing a spot of filming, the tripod I’d attempted to lodge in to the ground ended up providing only some wobbly footage. Therefore I neglected to hang around and headed off down Cockshaw Hill with high trees either side of the path, and once over the road at Gribdale Gate were several people and their dogs wrapped up against the elements (the people that is, not the dogs) and it was another steep climb up some steps and an eroded track to the ironically named Summer Hill, and into some wild and windy moorland with Ayton and Newton Moors either side of the squishy track that had flattened out and led to the T-junction where lay the option to head up to Roseberry Topping. Again, on a calm and clear day I’d have been up there like a rocket. Today, with the weather getting worse and visibility pathetic, I reasoned that Roseberry Topping will always be there to come back to at a later date, and instead I headed on my wet and bedraggled away along Newton Moor, thankfully selecting the correct path among the few available and eventually onto the en-route to Potters Ridge.
Arriving at some lower ground again (albeit at 250 feet) I decided to briefly stop for five minutes, especially as the rain had eased off, to enjoy the second of my pies from Helmsley. An outstanding beef and onion one where I found myself scraping the foil base for every last crumb I could find. Delicious. I made a mistake on the Pennine of not investing in pastries when the opportunities presented themselves, and I vowed not to make the same errors again. This boost of energy propelled me up to Highcliff Nab, via more flagstones and wet, long grass. Aside from a solitary dog walker that came the other way, there was no one else around. It could be argued how sensible this was for anyone thinking of a walk today to stay in but like I frequently say, with the correct attire most conditions (relatively speaking) can be withstood. The new waterproofs I’d bought for my Pennine walk in the summer, and barely used, proved to be ideal here, the jacket and trousers kept me warm, dry, and just as important, free from overheating and sweating, even on climbs today like the admittedly less than taxing lope up to The Nab. The views up here would usually stretch for miles; as it was I was only left with a slightly misty view over Guisborough and surrounding areas, sitting damp and forlorn-looking in the valley below. Again, with nothing worth hanging around for, it was straight into the beautiful woods for a long stretch of walking through the autumnal trees. It was really lovely walking. Flat, a decent track to keep the mud off, and quiet.
However, once back on slightly lower ground, though still in woodland, keeping the mud off proved spectacularly troublesome. At least in the initial woodland earlier it was open to the sky. Down at Guisborough Woods it was through sheltered ground that was a mud-bath, and with few distinguishable paths, too. My boots and trousers turned brown and furthermore, and what enraged me the most (yes, enraged) were the narrowest of walkthroughs that split the regular lines of fencing. Grateful for the occasional national trail acorn sign on each one as I was, the gaps to walk through were only a couple of feet apart at best and practically impossible to squeeze through. There were several of these and I was becoming more irate upon reaching each one. I was too broad to pass through front-facing, and turning sideways my large bag had to be squeezed through and by using my hands on the posts for added pull. Whoever planted these seemingly had no thought at all for walkers with bags, and a video I made during this section was, I admit and without pleasure in saying it, found to be X-rated. Just planting the posts a few more inches away from each other would make all the difference.
That bad mood soon quickly wore off with the knowledge that despite the fact I’d reached a busy and noisy main road once emerging from the woods, were the options of a pub or cafe visit at Slapewath. Fancying a tea and cake of some kind, I plumped for a stoppage in the Chase Cafe and walked in at around 4:00, wet, bedraggled and muddy to find I’d gatecrashed the tail-end of a christening party, with all the guests appearing happy, smart and most noticeably, clean. I was on the verge of turning away when the lovely ladies who ran the cafe told me I could stay, and I sheepishly sat away from the crowd and got stuck into a pot of tea and a delicious and disgustingly unhealthy but equally pleasurable slice of lemon cheesecake/meringue with added whipped cream. As the christening party filtered out, several of the guests kindly said hello and stopped for a little chat before I was left as the only customer, and with the ladies cleaning up around me. One of them, upon learning I was planning to camp that night, very kindly presented me with some of the leftover buffet from the afternoon. She also alluded to the fact I am a nutcase for planning to camp in these conditions - something I could only wholeheartedly agree with.
The tea and cake prepared me nicely for the last stage of the day, and one which finally led to the coast at Saltburn-On-Sea. Of course, once I’d peeled myself out of the cafe and into the dry but gloomy and grey afternoon air, I looked up to see woodland perched on top of a one hundred foot climb that even with the recently added petrol inside me, something I could easily have done without. Nevertheless, I wearily headed up the steps and then through more trees to find myself in the empty and wide expanse of Airy Hill Farm and from here, the view I could see of the North Sea was only a long descent away. First stop was the civilisation half an hour away of Skelton Green, where I stopped at the Coop for camping supplies and naturally weighed my bag down with the addition of a couple of litres of water, noodles and treats. By this stage, the thought of camping up on the gloomy cliffs out of Saltburn was a less than appealing one. It had started to rain again and not knowing whether I’d find a decent and secluded pitch added to the sobering thought, but I put that to the back of my mind with the hope that by the time I’d reached Saltburn, there might even be some late afternoon sun to enjoy. The walk though out of Skelton was less than picturesque with a short spell spent navigating myself through a housing estate where walkers through here would be ten-a-penny but I still felt somewhat self conscious walking through with a big bag on and in my hiking gear whilst the locals were getting on with their usual Sunday evening activities.
It seemed to take an eternity to reach the sea, admittedly some lovely woodland was walked through and a highlight of the day was upon crossing Skelton Beck where I was met by a beautifully huge victorian viaduct that I took some time to admire from both underneath its massive arches, and then just later on from a distance on the other side of the field. The trains that pass over there head to the coast, and it was there that I eventually reached at around 6:00 when I emerged on the quiet road that headed past the trees on the edge of the meadow I’d recently passed through and an old bandstand in the town. The road to the southern end of Saltburn opened up views to the high cliffs that lay beyond, with no sun to enjoy, and in fact more rain came my way. The staying in a damp tent became even more of a less than appealing prospect, and upon checking my phone did I see a lovely hotel on the sea front that was only three minutes away. Isn’t spontaneity a great thing? I headed to the Spa Hotel, confirmed that the room and breakfast deal was still applicable and within minutes I was laying in a lovely warm room, on a soft clean bed and running myself a beautifully hot bath. From the prospect of a damp and cold tent and a bowl of noodles, to sitting in the conservatory that housed the dining room, and a massive roast lamb dinner with an oversized Yorkshire pudding, many vegetables in a cheese sauce and several other delicious delights. When you’ve spent a day in the grey and the damp and the wind, you feel like you’ve really earned it.