Stathes & Redcar - Eastern England - CycleBlaze

June 7, 2018

Stathes & Redcar

too north and then west to Guisborough

There're only a couple of other guests downstairs hanging around in the carpeted foyer waiting for the dining room doors to be unlocked. Once they are opened, a member of staff aged about 30-something looks at my paper token and asks me to 'please come this way' and I say he sounds like a policeman taking me in for questioning and we laugh but I'm sure he thinks I'm a felon. He sits me at the far end of the room for some reason.

It doesn't take me long to scoff my breakfast and it's only 8:30 when I leave the Royal, wheeling my bike outside into the cool air to see the sea is the same grey as it was yesterday around this time.

Whalebone Arch in Whitby
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The Whalebone Arch is just across the road and I pose for a snap before riding north beside a row of Victorian homes facing east. There's no real choice but to join the A174 after a short while and it takes me past the deserted beach at Sandsend and with a little kick, turns inland and starts to climb.

Soon a  squat stone sign tells me this is now the North York Moors National Park and I keep riding as far as I can but eventually have to get off and walk. It's steep and cars zip along and when I glance back the outline of Whitby Abbey is there and the sun briefly reflects off the sea. As I get to the top, the spire of St Oswald's Church pokes skywards on my right, then the tarmac levels out and I'm on what is undoubtedly the Moors, with an uninterrupted view for miles in every direction.

The road dips and when I spot the old frontage of Lythe Stores in the village of that name I pop in to get a drink. It feels like I've cycled a fair way, yet this has barely scratched the surface. I've only covered a handful of miles and five miles in a crossroads appears and I look at my rear view mirror to see that behind me the road gently crests and it seems like I might be able to get another self-timed shot of myself, but the A174 seems to have got busier and I settle on taking one of an old cast iron milestone sticking out of the grass.

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It's another five miles to Staithes and on the way I make a right off the A174 to visit the village of Runswick Bay because it's just nice to get off the main route for a while. I ride down a dead-end street and get to a vantage point and take a photo, but it doesn't really capture the scene - it looks flat with the sky being monotone and the sea a sheet of matching grey.

Staithes isn't far away and it doesn't take very long before I'm dropping down in to the quaint village. I've got a couple of sketches by Frank Patterson that I want to replicate and I follow a lane to its very end at the water's edge but then realise this is not one of the locations. The narrow cobbled lane take me back past the small shops and cafes but I don't bother stopping as it seems too touristy, even though there are very few people about right now.

Staithes Beck
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An alley leads me to a footbridge which spans the estuary and I walk my bike across and see where one of the drawings was done. The scene is a bit different as you might expect after 80 or more years. The tide was out when the sketch was done, but it seems pretty high now.

The road that goes up out the village is very steep and it's a matter of walking and as I make my way up the view captured in another sketch becomes clear. Again, a bit of architecture has changed, but I get a snap that comes close to what Patterson drew and then keep pushing to the top.

The lane follows the cliff edge and I take a path that hugs its top. There are a couple of places where the soft rock face has tumbled into the sea and the tarmac has gone. I'm surprised it's not been closed off and the path bends and basically comes to an end as it leads me back to the busy A174.

Thankfully it's just a matter of getting to a right turn just ahead - a lane that rises up where I can spot a couple of cyclists in bright yellow, walking up the single track, with gorse and grass forming the verges.

Eventually I catch up with the two riders as I walk faster then them. We have a chat and I recognise them for the cafe in Ravenscar yesterday and they tell me that they're on a long trip up the whole coast - from the Cambridge area - and are camping wild. We wish each other well when I ride on ahead just as we get to the top.

Dropping back down to the sea at Skinningrove
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I ignore a left turn which is signposted as the bicycle path and after going round a tight bend left end up in Skinningrove, which is a one-street place with some horrible looking industrial buildings. I spot a chippy, so stop, walk inside and sit at a table after ordering a portion of chips and curry sauce. As I look out the window, the two cyclists in yellow ride by and we give each other the thumbs up.

From Skinngingrove, the lane takes me inland and the A174 reappears, with a sign saying the nation cycle route goes straight across it, which seems like it'll lead to a serious climb, so I make a right and follow the main road to Saltburn.

On the southern edge of town the national cycle route is signposted again, so I make a right off the main road and follow the signs to a dirt track. It's narrow and is edged by nettles and tall grass and it clearly drops quite a lot to the sea, which looks to be less than a mile away. My brakes get a decent workout as this is not a real cycle route - it's just a hiking trail - with the surface bumpy, making riding very risky. There's a drop-off on my left and going down is bad enough and there's no way you could ride up it on a regular bike. 

It's good to be back on a tarmac road and I follow it as it runs right beside the beach for a few hundred metres before reaching the long pier just as the sun makes a rare appearance. It's now one o'clock and as I walk around taking photos, the two cyclists in yellow arrive and we give each other a nod. I bet they went on the cycle route and had a big climb as they should have been here long before me. They're likely wondering how I got here sooner than them.

Pier at Saltburn
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Before heading further, I go back 100m to a continental-looking cafe that I'd spotted and order a cappuccino and a brownie and sit in the sun for 15 minutes enjoying the seaside ambiance wondering if I'll see the two cyclists again up the road somewhere.

Scarecrow beside the cycle path near Saltburn
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From the top of Saltburn there are signs for a cycle path so I follow them and go past houses and other buildings until I eventually hit the main road again. I want to visit Marske and reach the coastline where the sea looks nice in the sunshine and there's a wide concrete promenade to cycle along. Teenage pupils are going home and are straggled across the concrete path, chatting making it hard to ride past them. 

What it's like for them during winter, when chilly winds must whip in off the sea and rain comes lashing down. 

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It's a nice today and it's an easy ride into the centre of town which I assume is Markse and I find the High Street and visit a charity shop and pick up a yellow checked summer shirt for a couple of quid. The place is much bigger than I imagined Marske to be and in another shop I ask the clerk where I am and she tells me Redcar. Once outside I get the map out and see I've cycled too far north and have to make my way back to the seafront and retrace my tracks.

At the end of the promenade, it's just a matter of following signs and I generally head for Upleatham as I have another Patterson drawing of a church there but the roads going inland are horrible, full of very fast traffic and with no shoulder. It must be about rush hour. 

The dinky church catches my eye as I speed along and after climbing over a low stone perimeter wall, I find the exact spot from which the sketch was done. The church is one that claims to be the country's smallest and I take a few shots in bright sunshine before heading back on to what I thought would be a quiet road as the map shows it as a minor route. 

Church in Upleatham, which dates back to the 12th century
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The traffic, however, is fierce and driving me crazy and it doesn't get any better after a junction where I make a right to go into Guisborough.

There's a pub that does B&B here and on the way two female police officers confirm The Fox Inn is just around the corner and the woman behind the bar tells me they have a room, but at 55 quid it seems a bit pricey. There's no TV or en suite - just a shower cubicle in the corner - but it'll have to do. 

I tell myself to have a pint and dinner elsewhere and the woman sorting out the keys tells me there's a Chinese and an Indian to choose from just around the corner. I end up having a veg korma.

B&B at the Fox in Guisborough
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Today's ride: 58 km (36 miles)
Total: 297 km (184 miles)

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