North York Moors CAM


Wednesday 31st January 2001

Weather: Mainly sunny - another lovely day

Today's walk: Sandsend - Kettleness

( 6 miles )


The stone walls and red pantile roofs of the old cottages of Sandsend more resemble those found
in a North York Moors village - the newer houses and hotels are to be found on the seafront promenade

Sandsend's economy these days relies mainly on tourism, especially in the summer months, when hundreds of visitors
enjoy the facilities of a fine beach and lovely bay for sunbathing, sailing and wind-surfing
As its name suggests, Sandsend lies at the north-western extremity of a stretch of golden sands
that begin 2 miles away at the popular fishing port of Whitby

Looking at the sleepy village today, it's hard to imagine that it once had a thriving alum industry
dating back to the early 17th century and lasting until 1867 after over 250 years of production
- as you will see during our walk, those times have left many scars and grotesque shapes on the landscape


We begin at the large public car park (Grid Ref: 860 128) that lies at the bottom of steep Lythe Bank
which will feature later on as the last leg of today's walk

Here we look north-west to the cliffs at Sandsend Ness where we will head for first
- go through the 'kissing-gate' in the far corner of the car park and up the steep steps onto the old railway trackbed

At the top of the steps you'll see a few remains of the old railway platform - this is where, in days gone by,
thousands of excited summer visitors alighted from the old steam trains to begin their annual summer holidays by the seaside
The Saltburn to Whitby railway line carried you on one of the most spectacular journeys in the country


. . .

Follow the track straight ahead towards the cliffs - take care not to go too near the edge as they are very unstable
The first three miles of our walk are on part of the Cleveland Way long distance trail


Soon you'll begin to see the obvious signs of a long gone industry

From the early 1600's to the end of the 1800's, alum was a vital ingredient for two industries - textiles and tanning

In the textile industry it was added to fix dye in cloths, while in tanning it helped make the leather supple and durable
- part of the alum making process required the addition of an alkali and so urine was used in vast quantities,
but local supplies (left in jars on the doorsteps) wasn't enough so more was imported from Hull and London!
The first public urinals in Hull were purposely built as collecting points for this trade!


So now we are left with these weird, grotesque-shaped heaps of waste material from the mines and quarries . . .
. . . the excavated alum shales have completely changed the whole cliff profile of Sandsend Ness


. . .

After about a mile of walking we arrive at the partially bricked-up entrance to the railway tunnel
There were actually a couple of tunnels on this particular stretch of line - another arch can be seen on the undercliff face
from the cliff-top path further on, the other end of it is easy to see from our path nearer Kettleness at Grid Ref 838 154

Turn right just before the tunnel and climb steeply up both the stone and wooden steps in Overdale Woods


On emerging from the woods over a stile at the top of the steps, go straight ahead with the stone wall on your left

It's worth pausing and taking a look back at the lovely views south-east as far as Whitby in the distance
Here we see another walker sitting on the fence with the same idea in mind


Keep going straight ahead on the cliff-top path - again I must warn you to take care not to go too near the edge
- in parts there's a sheer drop and it's a long way down to the rocks below!

Soon you'll begin to see the prominent cliffs ahead near Kettleness


As there wasn't a breath of wind today, the North Sea was as calm as a millpond
- you could even see the clouds reflected in it


I particularly like this part of the walk - the path changes from being worn and partly muddy to a soft, grassy surface
- it's not far from here, on your left in a railway cutting, that you'll find the other tunnel entrance that I mentioned earlier


Another glance back towards Sandsend Ness and distant Whitby


Continue along the cliff-top path and soon you'll see, far down below to your right, even more mounds of alum shale

Similar to what we saw earlier at Sandsend Ness, the strange contours left behind by the alum works here at Kettleness
almost resemble some kind of lunar landscape


On reaching the tiny village of Kettleness we found this perfectly situated seat to sit and enjoy our packed lunch

Here Jean relaxes and enjoys the magnificent views across to Runswick Bay, its white painted cottages glinting in the sun

In the very far distance you can just see Boulby Cliffs which at 679ft are the highest in England
- you could spend all day at a place like this, they're hard to leave behind

Still, we're only halfway on today's walk so we must continue on - turn left along the surfaced road


Today, the present stone cottages at Kettleness looked safe and sound
However, on the night of December 17th, 1829 the original village was completely destroyed, along with the alum works,
when after torrential rain, subsidence of the cliff caused the whole lot to plunge into the sea
- fortunately, the villagers were rescued and taken aboard by an alum ship, the 'Little Henry' which was lying offshore

Before we leave I must mention I was surprised to read recently that Kettleness is officially the remotest village in Yorkshire
due to the distance it lies from the nearest form of public transport (thanks for the information Reet!)


That wouldn't always have been the case though as the village at one time had its very own railway station
- the building is now used as an outward bound centre for 'scout troops', etc


Follow the road for about another 300 yards then go through the gate just before this derelict chapel
and then cross the stile and head up the hillside aiming for the top corner of the field just left of the farm ruins


Here's the view back down to Kettleness from the stile at the top of the field


After crossing the stile you will see an information plaque with details of a 4th century Roman Coastal Signal Station
which was situated where there is just a grass mound at the crest of the next hill
- the site was one of five built as part of a system of coastal defences
The others are at Huntcliff (near Saltburn), Ravenscar, Scarborough and Filey
- the site was excavated in 1918 and over 300 coins were found, but disappointingly it is now all grown over again

The route we followed today passes just to the right of the grass mound and heads for the top left-hand corner of the field
- it became very boggy and the lane at the top leading up to the farm was impassable - not with mud, more like glue

In hindsight, having been so disappointed of what little there is to see of the Roman Signal Station,
I would have carried on past the chapel up the narrow, quiet road for the next half mile or so into Goldsborough
- that's the route I would advise anyone to take other than in very dry spells


On reaching Goldsborough (by whichever route you choose) stay on the road past the Fox & Hounds pub (B&B available)
and 50 yards after a sharp right-hand bend, turn left along this farm track leading to Overdale Farm

Carry on through the farmyard and then go through a gate and cross the field heading for the bottom right-hand corner
where a gate leads down into a wood - follow the track as it curves and crosses the beck then climb it up the other side
- part of the path is an old stone trod

After emerging from the wood, follow the wide lane towards the church on the horizon


St Oswald's Church, Lythe, catching the last of the afternoon sun's rays


Turn left and walk down steep Lythe Bank (1 in 4) with more good views over Sandsend to Whitby, 2 miles distant


We finally reached the beach at Sandsend just as the sun began to lose its strength


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