Up the Topping and under the viaduct. From moors and scarps to suburbs and the sea. Sleeping in the Nineteenth Century.
A quick lift up the hill from Great Ayton to Gribdale Gate and I am climbing again. Up onto Great Ayton Moor for a brief kilometer or so and I am, at last, face to face with the landmark which has been on the horizon repeatedly over the last two days.
The distinctive cone of Roseberry Topping is a prominent landmark on the North Yorkshire Moors standing 320 metres above the plain. Its peak is only 20 metres or so higher than where I am, so to get there I first have to descend 300 metres to its base before climbing back up again and then doing an about turn to get back.
Once at the top with my lungs and knees complaining, it’s blowing a knock-me-down gale and I struggle to stay upright. I search for the site of a well that a certain person back home has become excited about (she’s a holy well hunter ), but can’t see anything that fits the bill so begin my descent while noting that the 18th Century graffiti carved on the rocks is much finer than the more recent attempts.
There is a sense of coming towards the last pages of my adventure. Roseberry was a destination as I made my way over the moors and my next few days will see a different environment as the Cleveland Way swings eastwards to meet the coast before following it south down to Scarborough and eventually to Filey.
The views become filled with the conurbations of Guisborough, Middlesbrough and Stockton-on-Tees to the west with the coastal industrial areas around Teesside to the north. The vast ranks of turbines above Redcar stand to attention with their feet in the grey sea and there is traffic noise drifting on the breeze. Nevertheless, my route still has some morland to traverse: Newton Moor; Highcliffe Nab; stands of old beech trees at Highcliffe Farm; Guisborough Wood’s gorse and bluebells where I pass a grass snake who needs a new tail and dusty quarries near Stapewath criss-crossed by mountain bike trails.
I cross the A171 where there has been a traffic incident: flashing blue lights, sirens and a tail-back. Up wooden steps around the edge of a quarry (I read later that there are nearly 200) and on up to Airy Hill Farm before steadily descending towards the terraced streets of Skelton Green. I pass the end of ‘Manless Terrace’ and wonder if the women keep it that way. I negotiate a pedestrian crossing and follow the roads of a housing estate before walking over shabby scrubland between old and new developments. Along a path between the high-fenced back-gardens of new housing, each with its UPVC sun-room, and through an underpass of the A174. It’s the weekend: people are washing their cars on concrete driveways and kids skid around on skateboards and BMX’s. I can hear a football crowd somewhere. The culture-shock is tangible and I feel conspicuous in my hiking gear as I pass hooded youths loitering on a corner near the off-licence.
Soon I am surprised to find myself on deep, garlic-scented, woodland pathways leading down to Skelton Beck and there, soaring high above the trees are the magnificent red-brick arches of Saltburn Viaduct . The path twists and turns along the tumbling beck but instead of following it all the way into Saltburn I have plotted a route on my GPS to take me to my B&B for tonight.
I am at the Victorian Guesthouse by 3:30 so have plenty of time to explore the town. I like Saltburn-by-the-sea. It is quiet and respectable with wide boulevards leading down to the sea-front. It still has its fine wrought-iron pier and a quaint cliff-lift. The small hamlet of original buildings sits almost on the beach under the cliffs with its mortuary house still in situ. The promenade is pleasantly warm in the afternoon sun and I sit to sketch.
The Victorian Guest House is a gem. The owners had an antique shop next door which was hit by the change in fashion after Ikea’s ‘Chuck out the Chintz’ campaign and now its stock adorns the rooms in splendid profusion. I like it a lot, sleep well and, at the communal table over breakfast, have a great chat with a Belgian couple also hiking the Cleveland Way. I meet them several more times over the next few days.
11.5 miles (18.5km) in about 5 hours
I was quite excited about the Topping too. Love the sketches of the pier and cliff-lift. The Victorian Guest House looks pretty special – I believe chintz is now back in!