Saturday, 15 July 2017

Cloughton and Hayburn Wyke

Cloughton Station
The last of our walks from the North Yorkshire Moors and another chance to explore some of the old Whitby to Scarborough railway line courtesy of this Pathfinder Guide walk from vol 28 North York Moors (walk number 4).  We decided that after an earlier trip to Scarborough we weren't quite ready to go home and so stopped off to complete this 4.5 mile walk on the way back.
Cinder Track
We did not park in the suggested place in the middle of Cloughton village but instead by the old railway station that has happily been preserved as a tea room and holiday accommodation.  One day I would like to stay here - it looks lovely!  Sadly the place doesn't  open for tea on a Friday so we couldn't try it out.  We did have a little look though - a more picturesque place it would be hard to imagine.

Cloughton Wyke
We headed north along the old railway line for a short distance before finding the bridge that took the official route over the old line.  We corkscrewed around to join the road and headed towards the sea, about half a mile further on.  There was a small car park at  the end of the road and it looked like this spot was a favourite haunt for dog walkers.  I am basing this on the fact that we saw one coming back from her walk with a very satisfied looking dog.  Actually if I owned a dog and lived locally I would probably come here a lot.

Heading Up Through the Woods
We reached the coast at Cloughton Wyke.  In this part of Yorkshire the name Wyke has a special meaning.  It refers to a beach where you can land a boat and access the interior by means of a path leading from the beach - I guess what I would normally call a cove.  It was a pretty little place almost devoid of people on this rather grey looking late afternoon.  I wonder of more come out when the sun is shining?  I guess most stick to Scarborough a few miles to the south...

Rodger Trod View
We turned left on to the Cleveland Way.  This has long been on my shopping list of walks that I want to complete so this would prove to be a nice taster.  As with all coastal walks there was quite a lot of ups and downs and to the annoyance of my children we had a bit of a workout to get to the top of Rodger Trod.  In truth though we only climbed about 200 feet - not exactly mountain climbing...

Painted Lady
All along teh route there was a profusion of wild flowers.  The last hardy bluebell was still in evidence but mostly we saw campion, buttercups and various types of hogweed/ cow parsley/ wild carrot that I can never quite distinguish.  There were also lots of butterflies, mostly Hedge and Meadow Browns but also Red Admirals and the rather more elusive Painted Ladys.  When we got to the top of the hill on the narrow path between high vegetation growth and then via some wooden steps in a wood we took a little breather.  Our view back now took in the bay to the north of Scarborough and the brooding castle that we had visited earlier in the day.  It was quite the view but better was soon to come as we headed slightly downhill to the north.

Red Admiral
Very soon Hayburn Wyke came into view and for my money this was the undoubted highlight of the walk.  We could see quite a way along the coast but it was down to the beach in the Wyke that it was particularly special.  Even the sun was trying its best to come out from behind the thick cloud now, raising hopes that we would finally see some after a steely grey day.  As we slowly descende into the Wyke the unmistakeable roar of a Spitfire came from some way away and before we knew it passed by just overhead.  I think there must have been an airshow nearby for we had heard it a couple of other times during the week without actually managing to see it.

Soon we reached aother wood and our gentle descent suddenly became quite a steep one as the path dropped almost down to sea level once again.  In fact I peeled off from the girls to take a little look at the beach itself.  The stream that had done its best to carve a valley down to the bottom finally gave up just before the beach and tumbled over a small waterfall to reach the sea.  I didn't hang around too long for fear of getting left behind but I needn't have worried for I caught them all up about halfway up the hill.  We had left the Cleveland Way at this point and headed back towards the old railway.

Hayburn Wyke
As we got to the top we could see the old station of Hayburn Wyke in the trees ahead.  I wonder how many people would use the station now if it were still functioning?  I imagine that the hotel that we passed nearby would welcome it for it would be another source of revenue.  It looked a lovely spot and had some activity about it; heartening to see for a fairly out of the way place.  We soon rejoined the railway line.  This would be our companion for the remaining part of the walk.  I reckon we followed it for nigh on 2 miles and it made for much easier walking than the path through the woods where we had come from.  Looking at the map it looked as if there were a lot of opportunities for these out and back walks using a combination of the Cleveland Way and the Cinder Track.  I think if I were to live locally I would be trying out all the permutations for this one was a delight.

The walk back along the railway line was quite relaxing although we did have a slightly scary moment when we found a car coming up the track.  I soon realised that it was an access road for a cottage that we soon passed.  It begged the question of how the residents got to it when the railway was functioning?  Eventually we got back to the station but before we did we took a moment to admire a fairy den that had been created under the roots of a fallen tree.  Now there is an awful lot of stuff there but it did make me wonder how it started?

View From the Cinder Track
This was rather modest walk but  packed a lot into the short distance.  A couple of stiff climbs, some expansive views of the coast, two of the old stations on the Cinder Track and plenty of nature in the form of flowers, butterflies and seabirds.  Not bad for an hour and a half walk!

Fairy Station

Sunday, 2 July 2017

The Cinder Track

Cinder Track
When we decided to go to Whitby for our Whitsun holiday I did think it would be fun to take the children cycling along an old railway for the first time and was pleased that we found a bike hire place at Hawsker so we didn't have to lug our own bikes there.  It wasn't particularly cheap though - probably the most I have ever paid for a day's bike hire.  The hire place is based at the old station at Hawsker.

Hawsker Station
The Whitby to Scarborough Railway was opened in 1885 towards the end of the railway building era and lasted until the Beeching cuts of the 1960s, eventually succumbing in 1965.  In truth it wasn't ever likely to survive due to the operational difficulties that the railway companies had.  It was built fairly cheaply and had some steep gradients along its length.  Perhaps the most difficult aspects though were the connections at each end of the line where trains had to be reversed to enter the stations at Scarborough and Whitby, disrupting other services considerably in the process.

Down Into Whitby
With this being the girls' first experience of riding such a route we decided to go towards Whitby to begin with as I thought that this would be a quieter prospect.  It would also give us the opportunity to take a look at one of the most impressive engineering features on the whole line, the 13 arch brick viaduct that spans the River Esk.  The route from Hawsker is largely downhill and this provided an opportunity for the girls to get used to the new bikes without too much difficulty.  What I hadn't banked on was the steepness of the descent.  One imagines that railway lines are largely flat but in my experience some of these closed lines actually have quite steep gradients, as in this case.  It was quite exhilarating riding down into Whitby and some of the views along the way were quite memorable.  This is not a railway largely confined to a tree lined tunnel.

Larpool Viaduct View East
At the bottom of the hill we stopped at Larpool Viaduct and admired the view across to Whitby Abbey.  Both structures are mentioned in Bram Stoker's famous novel Dracula and we had had that on in the car for the duration of the holiday.  The trail goes on a little way further towards the former station at Whitby West Cliff but we didn't venture further on.  By now the day was warming up considerably and the ride back to Hawsker was quite tiring.  When we met a very large rambling group three quarters of the way back we were happy to stop and wait for them to pass by so we could have a breather.

Larpool Viaduct View West
Hawsker station has been restored beautifully and hosts a couple of railway carriages that act as offices for the cycle hire business but also as rather novel places to stay.  Holiday accommodation of this nature used to be quite commonplace and it is good to see this tradition maintained here.

Whitby Abbey From Larpool
Any thoughts that Hawsker would be the top of the hill were soon dispelled however as the old line kept climbing.  It was also quite narrow in places, largely because the original track formation was only a single line and with encroachment from vegetation we sometimes only had the width of cycle + rider to work with.  Just beyond Hawsker we crossed the road via a pedestrian crossing.  When the railway was operational this would have been crossed underneath the road and frankly it would be very welcome if that style of crossing could be restored, for both drivers and cyclists.

Chugging Through Hawsker Station
The line continued to head uphill for a further half mile or so.  As we climbed the view back towards Whitby opened up and a mighty fine view it was.  At the top we crossed a smaller road the track widened considerably as we passed through a shallow cutting.  The surface though was not agreeable.  The line is now known as the cinder track due to the nature of the surface but here the cinder pieces were quite big and that led to rather a rough ride for a while.  Further on we turned away from Whitby for good and had a new perspective on the coast.  For railway passengers this must have been delightful to travel.  On a warm early summer's day by bike it was a pleasure too and soon the line began to descend again this time for quite a long way down into Robin Hood's Bay, the next station on the line.

As we rounded the coast the view across the bay was quite magnificent.  The gradient got a lot steeper too and it wasn't difficult to imagine the struggles of the trains coming along this route.  I don't remember a railway line with such steep gradients (with the possible exception of the High Peak Trail in Derbyshire - but that had inclines) and I certainly wasn't looking forward to the return journey.

Approaching Robin Hood's Bay
We got to Robin's Hood Bay in time for lunch.  The track ran out as the houses started; it plots a course through the housing and crossed the road although the bridge is now missing.  There is a large car park in the area that was once the station yard and we left our bikes there while we explored the town and the beach.  I hadn't been here since I was a boy but it was pleasing to see how little had changed from how I remembered it.  The only thing that was different was the amount of visitors - the place was rammed.  We spent a good deal of time on the beach as it was low tide and the children really enjoyed looking in all the rock pools.  I watched one in particular and was rewarded when I saw a very large crab wandering along trying to stay out of sight by hiding in the seaweed.

Robin Hood's Bay Station
After a lengthy  break we got back on our bikes at Robin Hood's Bay Station and headed on towards Ravenscar.  The station itself is intact and looking in splendid condition as a set of holiday accommodations.  I think it would be a great place to base ourselves if we came again.  The track proper recommenced further on after crossing a main road and we soon resumed the winding track.  Now the track was more wooded and there were only brief glimpses of the surrounding countryside.  We were noticeably going uphill too - this was something we had to contend with all the way to Ravenscar.  We passed by a farm and a caravan site and I wondered where it was that we camped when I was a boy - it was around here somewhere.  Too many years have passed though for me to remember.
Narrow Streets

As we got towards Fyling Hall Station a couple of the bridges had been removed and we had to cross roads.  I always find this slightly annoying on railway lines.  The short term gain of the scrap value of the bridges mean that we all have to pay decades later.  Fyling Hall Station is still just about intact although I had to pay attention for the erstwhile platforms are being absorbed back into nature.  The station masters house is in rude health though and it is that which you should look out for to give you a clue about the platforms.
Robin Hood's Bay From Beach

We crossed more roads and continued our plod uphill.  The line was becoming more rural than ever now and it is interesting that this is the only route that directly linked Robin Hood's Bay with Ravenscar.  All the roads head inland and it is quite a lot further between the two settlements by road than it ever was by rail.  The 13 minute rail journey has now been replaced by a bus journey requiring one change and taking more than an hour.  That's progress?

Robin Hood's Bay Beach
The route gradient increased markedly as we got closer to Ravenscar before the trackbed is left for a short stretch while the line heads through a tunnel (this is off limits).  Apparently trains used to often struggle when they got to the tunnel as the climb up here was 1 in 39 and engines would stall as they git inside the tunnel. We continued on to the station which is clearly visible although only the down platform remains.  What is more remarkable is the station approach.  This is a grandly laid out square, upon which there is a set of buildings that hint at something grander following their construction.

Sustrans Pointer
In fact Ravenscar is often billed as the town that never was.  Back at the turn of the 20th Century developers laid out plans for a much larger town and streets and infrastructure was laid out.  Much of the speculation did not materialise though as the trek down to the rocky beach deterred visitors who preferred other nearby places.  Developers never built the buildings that would have ensured the growth of the town and it was left as a backwater.  It is a most curious place to wander round now as a result.

Fyling Hall Station
At Ravenscar we headed back.  It is possible to continue on the Cinder Track all the way to Scarborough but none of us had the energy to proceed and in any event we were on a timescale with the hired bikes.  We also remembered that the way back was going to be quite a slog especially leaving Robin Hood's Bay.  We had slow progress going back but the girls had a thoroughly good time and I have no doubt that we will be doing something similar again in the near future.