5495 miles already walked

Industry and Heritage of the North East

This has been a week of complete contrasts defined by engineering excellence, industrialisation, mining, regeneration and charming little fishing ports clinging to cliff edges.

South of the river Tees along the coastal fringe I’ve witnessed the remains of various mining industries.  Alum (used in textile manufacture and tanning), was extensively mined, as was ironstone and jet. Whitby is still famed for its jet gemstone, often regarded as the jewellery of mourners.

I walked into Whitby on a chilly foggy evening. The Abbey remains looked decided ghostly as I walked down the 199 steep steps into the town.  It was easy to see how Bram Stoker had gained inspiration for his Dracula novel from this town.

Bright sunshine was with me when I climbed up Boulby Cliffs, at 213 metres it's the highest point on England’s Eastern coast.  From this lofty spot I had excellent views back towards several pretty fishing harbours such as Robin Hood’s Bay, Runswick Bay and Staithes.

At Saltburn-by-the-Sea I parted company with the Cleveland Way as it veered inland. Saltburn’s fortunes had been built on the iron trade where it boasted the first iron pier on the north east coast; both this and its renowned cliff railway still exist. From there I walked on to Redcar, known for its expansive beach and race course.

Leaving Redcar’s beach behind me I spent a depressing afternoon walking the first few miles of the Teesdale Way. The Way runs parallel to ancient looking pipelines and railway tracks, channelling me through a corridor of security fences, brambles and rubbish. The sad sight of decaying industries was everywhere. The steelworks on Teeside, between Redcar and Middlesbrough looked forlorn and dejected, its glorious Sydney Harbour Bridge production days long forgotten.  Teesport, once used for raw material imports and steel exports has only survived by moving to the container industry.

Arriving in Middlesbrough I was dismayed to see that the historic Tees Transporter Bridge, on which I hoped to cross the River Tees into County Durham, was closed because of high winds. I’d a sleepless night parked-up in the Teessaurus Park wondering if I’d get across the next morning.  For once, luck was on my side and I crossed the River Tees on this engineering masterpiece in the Transporter’s gondola.  This saved me a six mile walk – yippee!

En route for Hartlepool I took time out in Seaton Carew to enjoy the atmosphere and food of Gladys’ Vintage Tea Rooms.  It’s a unique spot themed on WWII, with memorabilia, military photos, and Vera Lynn as background music.  Even the toilet is called the (air raid) Shelter and is decked out accordingly!

Long before I reached Hartlepool’s old shipbuilding centre I could see the three masts of HMS Trincomalee poking above the skyline of buildings. She is the oldest naval ship still afloat, something that the older HMS Victory cannot claim! While wandering around the marina area it was good to see one of the Royal Navy’s younger ships, HMS Example bobbing at her berth and I had the good fortune to bump into her friendly CO and crew.

Durham Coastal Path (12 miles) took me along the cliffs through an area that has been transformed.  From closed collieries, slag heaps and beaches once covered in filthy colliery waste, the area is now badged as the Durham Heritage Coast and has won many awards. I never knew it as it was before, but talking to local people I’m struck by how proud they are of their mining heritage, and the regeneration that has taken place since the coal mines closed.

Bright sunshine at the end of the week brought my shorts out for their first airing since the walk began. White legs soon became strawberry pink!

See Photo Album No 29 – Industry and Heritage of the North East