Tag Archives: Family Holidays

Staycation 2020 – Clifftop Walk to Port Mulgrave

The weather continued to improve.  Not enough to go to the beach which disappointed the children but enough to go for a walk which disappointed them even more.  I don’t know why I should be surprised by that, sixty years or so ago I expect I was just as reluctant to walk when on holiday with my parents.

From the cottage we walked down into the picturesque fishing village with its sash-windowed stone cottages with hanging gates and quirky names some bright with buoys and boat-shaped planters, seagulls squawking an unruly chorus on the rain shiny bird stained tiled roofs.

Staithes owes its existence to the fishing industry which, in its heyday, employed three hundred men and supported over one hundred boats. The whole village played an active part in the work, helping with repairing nets, baiting hooks and launching boats. When the railway opened in 1885, three trains per week transported Staithes fish to British cities. At the turn of the twentieth century steam trawlers from larger ports killed the locals’ livelihood, until only one full-time fisherman remained in the village.

At the Cod & Lobster pub, we turned on to Church Street and walked the steep uphill climb to join the Cleveland Way. I closed my ears to the complaints and offered the bribe of an ice cream upon our return.  Our legwork was amply rewarded at the top by breath-taking views of the coast and countryside and a spectacular view of the village and the harbour.

From there we continued along to Port Mulgrave, the path drifting dramatically close to the edge of the cliff top revealing continuous evidence of coastal erosion.  The problem is that this coastline really shouldn’t be here at all because it is made up of unconsolidated soft clay and small stones called glacial till that were scooped up from the sea bed by a glacier during the last ice age and dumped here as the ice eventually melted and receded north about ten thousand years ago.  It is just soft clay with the consistency and the look of a crumbly Christmas cake that simply cannot resist the power of the waves.

At Port Mulgrave the cliffs have been scraped away not by erosion but by industrial processes.  There’s a different reason for the existence of Port Mulgrave – ironstone mining, which transformed this part of the coast in the mid-nineteenth century. There were ironstone seams in the coastal rocks laid down between 206 and 150 Million Years ago and the sheltered bay made a good harbour for boats coming to ship the ironstone out to Jarrow. The industry is long gone and little remains of the harbour, but the shoreline at Port Mulgrave stands as a reminder of the industry that once characterised this coast, one hundred years ago there were almost one hundred mines in North Yorkshire.

Rows of domestic properties and individual houses exist on the top of the cliff but Port Mulgrave is now derelict and the port itself is completely gone, destroyed by Royal Engineers during the Second World War to prevent it being used as a landing base for an invading army.

We had walked for just over two miles and I was happy to carry on but the constant complaining was beginning to wear me down so eventually I gave in and we returned by a shorter alternative route back to Staithes where the children remembered my promise of an ice cream.

Later on it started to rain again so we were confined once more to the cottage.  During the night the rain continued and became heavier so I wasn’t too disappointed when morning came, we could pack the suitcases and begin the long drive home.

As you can see,, I have perfected the art of standing on higher ground than my granddaughter…

 

Staycation 2020 – Saltburn-by-the-Sea

On the third day the rain had stopped but had been replaced by very strong winds. I had considered visiting nearby Boulby cliffs, the highest in the north-east of England but with responsibility for an adventurous grandson who cannot stop climbing I thought this may not be especially wise so we visited nearby Saltburn-by-the Sea instead.

Saltburn is an interesting place, a Victorian new town developed to provide seaside facilities to the emergng iron town of Middlesborough, it was designed and built in the space of only a few years in the 1850s and 60s.

After parking the car we made directly for the promenade and to the pier. The pleasure pier is characteristically English, a genuine icon and one that I have never really understood.

No one in England lives more than seventy miles or so from the sea but when they get to the coast they have a curious compulsion to get even closer to the water and as far away from the shore as possible without taking to a boat. The Victorians especially liked piers and by time of the First-World-War there were nearly two hundred sticking out all around the coastline. If there had been satellite photography a hundred years ago then England would have looked like a giant pin-cushion.

Construction of Saltburn pier began in 1867 with a traditional design of a metal frame (piles) and a wooden deck, designed principally to get people to Saltburn by paddle steamers from the nearby industrial towns along the River Tees.

The one thousand, five hundred foot pier opened in May 1869 with a steamer landing stage at the head of the pier and two circular kiosks at the entrance. The first steamers left the pier on 14 May 1870, with a service to Middlesbrough. In the first six months of operation, there were fifty-thousand toll-paying visitors. Steamer excursions added to the company’s revenue with new seasonal trips to Hartlepool and Scarborough.

But stuck out at sea as they are English piers are rather precarious structures and constantly exposed to danger and one night in October 1875 a gale struck the pier removing three hundred feet of the structure at the seaward end, including the pier head, landing stage and part of the pier deck. In the middle of an iron trade slump, it was decided not to replace the missing section or reconstruct a landing stage, leaving a redeveloped pier two hundred and fifty foot shorter.

In the 1880s there was further development but after suffering slight storm damage in 1900, the pier was struck by a china clay ship in May 1924. The collision left a two hundred foot gap in the promenade leaving the bandstand inaccessible. The gap was replaced in March 1929, with a new theatre, completed in 1930 enabling the full length of the pier to open.

When my granddaughter was born in October 2008 it didn’t occur to me that twelve years later she would be taller than me…

It seems that Saltburn Pier was destined for perpetual misfortune. Purchased by the council in 1938, the pier was sectioned during World War II by having part of the deck removed to guard against Nazi invasion. Due to its poor post war condition, repairs were not granted planning permission until 1949 and due to a shortage of steel not completed until 1952.

That didn’t last long. In 1953 gales did more serious damage which took a further five years to complete but soon after in 1958 two piles were lost in a storm.  In 1961 another twenty piles were twisted in storms.  After severe gales in 1971 and 1972, piles were lost at the seaward end leaving the pier in a perilous condition. Further damage in 1974 culminated in October when the pier head was lost and the deck damaged, leaving a length of only one thousand feet.

In 1975 the council had had enough of the pier and proposed to have the structure demolished but a “Save the Pier” campaign led to a public enquiry which concluded that only the final thirteen piers could be removed and it should remain. This left a seven hundred foot length of refurbished pier, less than half the original length of 1869 which reopened in June 1978.

In 2009, the National Piers Society awarded it with the title of pier of the year.  Other finalists must have been seriously disappointed I imagine.

This is the pier that in a howling gale we walked today over a turbulent sea and into a misty gloom. It was cold at the pier head so we didn’t stay long and after successfully directing the children away from the amusement arcade we resumed our walk along the sea front.  William inevitably found things to climb on.

In the afternoon the wind dropped, the sun made a belated appearance and we managed an unexpected hour at the beach.

Staycation 2020 – a Washout in Staithes

We had arrived on a glorious sunny day which had made me rather optimistic for the remainder of the week.  But the forecast wasn’t at all promising. I don’t always take much notice of the weather forecast but this time the Met Office had got it spot on and when we woke in the morning there was heavy rain and a storm and it looked disappointingly permanent.

So we spent the morning in the cottage, the children didn’t seem to mind, they had their phones and devices to keep them occupied but by afternoon I was beginning to get bored so pulled on my rain coat and ventured out into the wet streets.

It was a different place completely today, empty pavement tables abandoned and dripping, the occasional visitor soaked and unhappy, a deserted beach and empty tourist shops.

Even in the rain however Staithes is lovely, a muddle of whitewashed cottages squeezed between towering cliffs on the North Yorkshire coast, it sits on either side of ‘the Beck’ which is a meandering creek which cuts through a dramatic cleft in the rocky landscape and emerges into the sea between soaring cliffs. A footbridge crosses the beck, the south side is in Scarborough Borough Council and the north is in Cleveland and Redcar. At one time it was the largest fishing port in the north-east with a side-line in minerals and mining and there is still a potash mine nearby.

Boulby Mine is a large site located close to the village which at four thousand six hundred feet deep it is the deepest mine of any kind in Europe and has a network of underground roads extending under the sea totalling over six hundred miles in length. It mines for potash and polyhalite both used as fertilisers and this is the only place in the World where polyhalite is mined in a seam three and a half thousand feet below the North Sea.

In its heyday Staithes had around fifty sea captains, most famously of course, Captain James Cook who came here as a boy to work in a chandler’s shop, but then caught sea fever and abruptly left. The shop is long gone but the cottage is still lived in, unlike many others which have become holiday lets but its place at the heart of ‘Captain Cook Country’ now underpins Staithes’ busy tourist season.

I visited the local museum which has three main themes, Captain Cook of course, the long gone railway line which once served the coastal fishing and mining industries and tales of smugglers. This section of the North Yorkshire is almost as famous as Cornwall as a location for smugglers. I used to like tales about smugglers when I was a boy, this is a booklet that I bought in with my pocket money in Cornwall in about 1966…

The Yorkshire coast is just two hundred miles from Europe across the North Sea. Ships taking sixteenth and seventeenth century exports to the mainland continent often returned loaded with contraband and other items that was destined to avoid the revenue duty. 

It was the most unlikely of contraband that drove the trade – tea. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, Yorkshire folk loved a cuppa no less than now, but tea was one of the most expensive commodities because of punitive levels of taxation, which at one point reached nearly one hundred and twenty per cent.

Just look what happened in the American colonies as a consequence of a tax on tea!

It cost up to thirty-five shillings a pound – but in the Netherlands it was only seven old pence. Smugglers seized the opportunity to buy it for next to nothing and sell for many times more than what they paid and a trade sprang to life that operated from 1700 until about 1850.

Yorkshire’s coastline was ideal for smuggling, with miles of deserted beaches where contraband could be landed and caves for its storage. Villagers were insular and wary of customs men from the outside, so they kept their mouths shut and took the smugglers’ backhanders. Ships would lay off the coast, their cargoes being run in by smaller boats. The trade flourished, with Staithes, Robin Hood’s Bay, North Landing and Runswick Bay the favoured landing places, the contraband being moved inland by pack-horses or on carts with their wheels muffled by rags.

And so I soaked up the history and later I soaked up more rain as I walked the steep hill to the car park to buy more time and to visit the local store to buy more provisions for the lock-down evening: nothing to do with Covid, just the abysmal weather.

Yorkshire, A Return Visit to Bridlington and an Apology

Bridlingtonn Harbour

This post is going to be about a retraction and an apology and a very large slice of Humble Pie!

I first visited the East Coast seaside town of Bridlington in October 2015 and I didn’t enjoy it one single bit and ever since I have been rather harsh and scathing about the place. It wasn’t an especially nice day with no sunshine and  at the harbour the tide was fully out leaving it a horrible muddy mess with boats stranded on the clay and silt. Three children pestering to visit the beach front amusements didn’t help either so we had a very poor portion of fish and chips and an overpriced ice cream and then promptly left and moved on to nearby Filey which as I recall was a lot better.

I vowed that I would never ever return to Bridlington and ever since I have shared my unflattering reviews about the town and warned friends about going there – even those just thinking about going there.

Now I was in nearby Skipsea Sands and looking for something to do for the morning before inevitable beach time in the afternoon and I suggested to Kim that we take a ride to nearby Bridlington so that she could see for herself just what a dirty, ugly place it is.  Based on what I had said about the place she thought that I was crazy but agreed anyway.  It took about thirty minutes to drive there and then another thirty to find a car park with spaces available and I wondered why so many people would visit this place which from memory was somewhere to be avoided at all costs.

Bridlington Ganzee

Anyway, we parked up and walked to the harbour and I was shocked to discover a really charming waterside, the tide was in and the boats were lolling in the water, children were crabbing and people were strolling around the walls in the sunshine. Kim wondered if I had ever been to Bridlington before as it certainly didn’t match my unfavourable review of the place. It helped that the sun was shining, the tide was fully in and the children are older now and weren’t too bothered about visiting the funfair.

So we spent an enjoyable hour around the harbour, had an ice cream (still expensive but I was ready for it this time), watched the boats coming and going, rows of unsuccessful fishermen optimistically casting their lines and people avoiding the seagulls plotting attacks and looking to thieve fish and chips from unwary seafront diners and then we moved on.

The Old Town is about a mile away inland and I didn’t even go there on my last visit so we went there now. Free Parking! Where can you find Free Parking these days? Answer – Bridlington Old Town and by now I was feeling so guilty about what I had said previously.

Historical Bridlington

The historical centre of Bridlington is absolutely wonderful.

A cobbled street of rapid decay locked into a bygone age, the shop windows are grubby, the displays are many decades out of date, the window frames are flaking and pock-marked, no wonder then that they choose this location for filming the remake of the comedy series ‘Dad’s Army’ in 2014. Being a huge ‘Dad’s Army’ fan I was really happy about wandering along this special street and made a note to watch the film when I was back at home. And I did!

Bridlington Dad's Army

At the end of the High Street in the historical centre we found ourselves at Bridlington Priory soaring high into the blue sky and my burden of guilt got a whole lot heavier. What a wonderful place this was with a patient guide that helped the children with a hunt for difficult to spot mouse carvings, a prize even though they didn’t find them all themselves and a free cup of tea for Kim and me and lemonade for the girls.

In the days of its medieval glory, Bridlington Priory was one of the great monastic houses of England. Its wealth and possessions made it a key monastery in the North, one of the largest and richest of the Augustinian order.

The Priory is just a church now and a fraction of its previous size courtesy of the insistence of Henry VIII that it should be demolished in 1537 to remove the potential Catholic pilgrimage site of Saint John of Bridlington. St John enjoyed a reputation for great holiness and for miraculous powers and was the last English saint to be canonised before the English Reformation and Henry didn’t like that.

Saint John of Bridlington 1

We eventually left Bridlington and made our way to nearby Flamborough Head which, where it happens, is where the final scenes of the ‘Dad’s Army’ film were set. The fictional Home Guard platoon is based in the South of England and Flamborough Head provided a good alternative because it has the only ridge of chalk cliffs in the north of England. We spent an hour or so there down on the beach and climbing the cliffs before leaving and returning to the holiday park.

As I started this post I finish it with an apology to Bridlington, it is a fine place and I was completely wrong in my first assessment four years previously.

Flamborough Head

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Yorkshire, Skipsea Beach

Skipsea Beach 03

I fell in love with Skipsea almost immediately.  I liked the caravan, I liked the holiday park, I liked the countryside and I liked the beach and the sea.  The exceptionally fine weather helped of course.

On the first day of the holiday we went to the beach.  The park owners said that due to severe coastal erosion there was no direct access to the sand and the sea but someone helpfully told us that there was but it was quite dangerous and the park owners didn’t want anyone taking legal action against them for having an accident.

We found the steps and made our way to a wide sand and the sea almost two or three miles long and only a dozen people on it.  It was empty, it was wonderful, it was wild, it was a millionaires private beach.

Skipsea Beach

I didn’t really expect to be swimming in the English North Sea but it seems that children don’t feel the cold and have no fear so they were straight in and I was obliged to follow.  Surprisingly it wasn’t too cold. The exceptionally fine weather helped of course.

Whilst we frolicked and swam in the waves I was taken back as though in a time machine to my childhood family holiday memories.

Bad weather didn’t stop us going to the beach and even if it was blowing a howling gale or there was some drizzle in the air we would be off to enjoy the sea.  If the weather was really bad we would put up a windbreak and huddle together inside it to try and keep warm.  Most of the time it was necessary to keep a woolly jumper on and in extreme cases a hat as well and Wellington boots were quite normal.  As soon as the temperature reached about five degrees centigrade or just slightly below we would be stripped off and sent for a dip in the wickedly cold North Sea in a sort of endurance test that I believe is even considered too tough to be included as part of Royal Marine Commando basic training.

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After the paddle in the sea we would cover ourselves up in a towel and making sure we didn’t reveal our private parts struggled to remove the sopping wet bathing costume and get back to our more sensible woolly jumpers.  Then we would have a picnic consisting of cheese and sand sandwiches and stewed tea from a thermos flask – no fizzy drinks or coca-cola in those days.

If the sun did ever come out we used to get really badly burnt because when I was a boy sunscreen was for softies and we would regularly compete to see how much damage we could do to our bodies by turning them a vivid scarlet and then waiting for the moment that we would start to shed the damaged skin off.  After a day or two completely unprotected on the beach it was a challenge to see just how big a patch of barbequed epidermis could be removed from the shoulders in one piece and the competition between us children was to remove a complete layer of skin in one massive peel, a bit like stripping wallpaper, which would leave us looking like the victim of a nuclear accident.

Beach holidays in the fifties and sixties were gloriously simple.  The whole family would spend hours playing beach cricket on the hard sand, investigating rock pools and collecting crabs and small fish in little nets and keeping them for the day in little gaily coloured metal buckets before returning them to the sea at the end of the day.

I Spy At The Seaside

There were proper metal spades as well with wooden handles that were much better for digging holes and making sand castles than the plastic substitutes that replaced them a few years later.  Inflatable beach balls and rubber rings, plastic windmills on sticks and kites that were no more than a piece of cloth (later plastic), two sticks and a length of string that took abnormal amounts of patience to get into the air and then the aeronautical skills of the Wright brothers to keep them up there for any decent length of time.

I remember beach shops before they were replaced by amusement arcades with loads of cheap junk and beach games, cricket sets, lilos, buckets and spades, rubber balls and saucy seaside postcards.  I can remember dad and his friend Stan looking through them and laughing and as I got older and more aware trying to appear disinterested but sneaking a look for myself when I thought no one was watching.  I knew they were rude but I didn’t really know why.

What a glorious day this was and with the weather forecast predicting more of the same I knew that I would be doing the same thing all over again the next day.

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East Anglia, The Fishing Boats of Aldeburgh

Fishing Boats set sail from Aldeburgh but there is no port, the boats are hauled onto the beach when their work is done.  The catch is sold fresh from the sea from wooden sheds that line the shingle beach.

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East Anglia, Poster Art of Southwold

 

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Family Holiday Memories

Mundesley 1959

In the 1950s about twenty-five million people went on holiday in England as life returned to normal after the war. Most people went by train but we were lucky because granddad had a car, an Austin 10 four-door saloon, shiny black with bug eye lights, a starting handle, pop out indicators and an interior that had the delicious smell of worn out leather upholstery, which meant that we could travel in comfort and style. Although there were not nearly so many cars on the road in the 1950s this didn’t mean that getting to the seaside was any easier.

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Kessingland Family Holiday

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Looking Back, France 2017

A year ago I spent a week in Northern France with family and friends.  Click on an image to scroll through the pictures…

My Holidays in Malta – Mellieha Bay Hotel

Mellieha Bay Hotel 4

Enjoying an exclusive location close to Malta’s largest sandy beach and graced with acres of beautifully landscaped gardens. The Resort is a regular meeting place for repeat guests from all over the world who have come to refer to the Resort as their ‘home away from home’. Mellieha Bay Hotel Website

Once a year I go on holiday with my daughter and grandchildren.  Twice sometimes like last year for example.  In 2016 we went to Malta and they enjoyed it.  Early in 2017 I began a debate about where we should go later in the year.  This didn’t take too long and the vote was unanimous – MALTA!

I am never really certain that it is a good idea to keep going back to the same place but Malta is one for which I will gladly make a regular exception.

I have been to Malta several times before.  I first went there in 1996 and liked it so much that I returned the following two years.  Each time I stayed at the Mellieha Bay hotel in the north of the island.  These were family holidays with two teenage children, beaches, swimming pools, banana boat death rides and Popeye Village.

I liked it so much that I had always wanted to go back.  I had repeatedly told Kim that Malta is special and that I was certain she would like it as much as I did.  In 2015 the opportunity arose and I was able to find a combination of cheap flights and a hotel deal at Mellieha Bay Hotel for just £200 for four nights and five full days.  A bargain absolutely not to be missed!

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I have heard it said that you either love Malta or you hate it, there are no half measures, there is no sitting on the fence.  I love it but upon arrival I could tell almost at once that Kim wasn’t overly impressed.  The hotel was opened in 1969 and at nearly fifty years old and almost twenty since my last stay the place was showing its age and to be honest you would probably have to say a little beyond its best and in need of some attention.

But what the place lacked in style was more than compensated for by the welcome that we received at check in and then a wonderful five days by the end of which Kim was fully paid up member of the  “I Love Malta” club, so much so that two years later she would have been bitterly disappointed if the children had chosen anywhere else.

The Mellieha Bay hotel is now the Mellieha Bay Resort and although it now has foyer shops and a fitness centre it has still retained the essential characteristics that made me fall in love with it twenty years ago.  The restaurant is no longer waiter service, it is a buffet but it still has the Limelight Lounge, which has hardly changed a bit.  This is where I used to play bingo, this was where there was children’s entertainment and this was the place where they played groovy disco music – and they are still doing it!

Maybe I will get to break the ‘don’t go back’ rule again next year – who knows?

Where is Mellieha Bay Hotel – Mellieha Bay, Malta

Official Rating – 4 Star, TripAdvisor Rating 4/5, My Rating – Fabulous!

How do I get there? – scheduled plane service and then taxi or bus ride (taxi recommended)

Booking a room – Don’t pay extra for sea view, all rooms have sea view anyway

Top places to visit – Mellieha, Valletta, the Silent City of Mdina, Island of Gozo

Mellieha Bay Sea and Pool