Cleveland Way: Day 4

Wednesday 15th September 2021

This day began after a sleepless night of wild camping in my tent. Pitched above the disused quarry of Guisborough Woods, I’d endured the constant wind and heavy rain through the night. My tent improperly pitched; water having pooled beside my sleeping mat.

It was time to get up, get out, get packed away and get on, with the promise of reaching the coastline. There was time for breakfast… I just didn’t have enough clean water left to justify a single bowl of porridge or cup of tea.

In spite of all I’d endured that evening, night and in to the early morning, my spirits could’ve been far worse than what they were. I was up and walking shortly before 7am – the zips of my rucksack secured moments before a local trail runner passed by. Minutes further along the trail and I passed another runner. Then a third.

Splashing through the puddled water and mud, I soon left Guisborough Wood. Next, I navigated my way through Spa Wood and it’s squeezer stiles, heading for the A171 near Slapewath.

This adventure along the Cleveland Way had brought me as far north-east in to the UK as I had ever been. Yet I knew I was still a fair distance from the most north-eastwards point of England.

I crossed the A-road, somewhat busy with commuters. Also feeling somewhat grateful to not be heading to work myself on this week. There was another potential wild camping spot in a flatter disused quarry near Spring Bank. Immediately after this, a series of steps signalled the start of the next steep climb.

It wasn’t raining on this morning but everything was wet – not least, the contents in and around my rucksack (much of which had been secured in dry bags). I was surrounded by mist and fog on this morning. Visibility, very poor. But the forecast had promised a brighter day further ahead.

I remember passing a horse rider near Airy Hill Farm, as I followed an otherwise solitary walk towards Skelton.

I didn’t have an awful lot to say about my walk through Skelton Green. I’d spotted that the cafes and pubs marked on my app were still closed at 9am or 10am in the morning. I exchanged friendly hellos with one or two passing locals. I could almost see the sea.

It was only when I got in to Skelton itself that I met the diversion, which I’d spotted in advance on the National Trails website.

It was quite easy to follow with the clear waymarking. Following the original route was never an option, as dozens of new houses are slowly being built across its way. Quite the shame, for one of the UK’s favourite long-distance walks. I hope the original Cleveland Way will be preserved in some way… Passing between houses may still be preferable to following paved roads.

I wonder what it was like previously? Looks like it was just green fields.

I did notice how some of the local roads were named after parts of the Lake District and Yorkshire Dales. I wonder why they didn’t keep things in the north-east?

Skelton Beck was all that stood between me and the next town of Saltburn-by-the-Sea.

When I’d planned for that wild camp, I’d always imagined that I’d be able to collect water from here in the morning, should I need to. When I got down to its edge, I realised that it didn’t smell very nice and, to be honest, it looked quite filthy. I’m not sure why… Plus, there was the fact that my water filter had packed up twelve hours earlier!

There’s an impressive viaduct in this valley, which is still used to suspend a railway line over the river (beck) today.

Beyond the beck, I soon arrived at Saltburn Valley Gardens and the many undulations to the path network surrounding this space.

There were plenty of benches to choose from and I settled for one with a table, overlooking the gardens below. I had a mat to sit on and keep my backside dry. I tucked in to a portion of my daily snack rations, sipped on what was left of the water I’d collected at the campsite the previous morning… And spent a good amount of time writing in my journal, re-reading and replying to the latest latter from my friend.

It was also around this point that I noticed I’d already crossed the halfway point along the Cleveland Way that very morning. Another good feeling!

As I climbed up and away from the gardens, the sun was beginning to shine brighter and without restriction, as the fog continued to rise and clear. I could clearly see the sea from the roadside.

I was looking forward to everything that was ahead of me. Before carrying on any further, I treated myself to a luxury hot chocolate (with marshmallows) from one of the seaside cafes. It wasn’t perhaps as filling as a true breakfast could’ve been. Neither did it last more than thirty seconds!

This water was so clear and blue. I’m not used to seeing this in my native south-west, where our seas are combined with mud the mud and silt of large estuaries.

I soon left the town, climbed up on to my first cliffs of the Cleveland Way and put sun cream on for the first time since Day 1… Just to be safe!

For the next few days, I’d feel blown away by how beautiful and well-maintained the coastline is up here. Again, I’m just not used to it where I live. We would still have to fight for our right to walk beside or above the sea in too many areas.

Far behind me, I could still make our the witch’s hat of Roseberry Topping. A highlight of the previous afternoon and one I might like to revisit on a brighter day.

I was also walking beside a railway line that’s still in use today and almost runs parallel to this section of the coast. One could certainly make better use of it for competing sections of coastal walking in a linear fashion.

From the heights of these initial cliffs, my walk soon dropped down to Cattersty Sands near Skinningrove.

There were signs pointing towards a shop and cafe, a short distance inland. I could’ve gone to buy food and water there. Instead, I made use of the public toilets – even filling up my bottle from the handwashing sinks, which only offered warm water! But it was enough to keep me hydrated on my way up the next ascent.

Along these next clifftops, the walk would begin to feel a little bit busier. I saw a couple of walkers ahead of and a few familiar faces behind.

I found a wooden bench, somewhere ahead of Boulby and took advantage of this for my lunch stop.

By now, the weather was glorious. I laid my tent out around me so that some of the previous night’s moisture could evaporate while I rested.

Many minutes later, I was descending from the next row of cliffs and heading for the previously unseen town of Staithes. Beyond that, a few more cliffs and then a detour inland to Hinderwell, where I’d find my tent pitch for the night. I did look forward to the fact that I had a proper campsite ahead of me!

When I met Staithes, I thought of St. Ives in Cornwall. A place that might otherwise go unknown, nestled between two cliffs – as I was saying with someone only yesterday, before writing this. Narrow streets and un-car-friendly parking restrictions would await. Roads lined with pubs and cafes. Outdoor seating adorned with hot and bothered daytrippers, as if the cold breath of winter couldn’t arrive soon enough.

There was a really nice bay around Staithes Harbour and I think I arrived here (mid afternoon) at a good time. Although I did make the mistake of losing the trail and follow the coast to truly and to a vertical dead-end!

Because the Cleveland Way continues up a heartstopping hill of a road. Probably first gear all the way for many cars.

I overtook a group of walkers on my way around Old Nab. It wasn’t far now before I’d head off and in to Hinderwell.

I then left the Cleveland Way at Port Mulgrave, to return to this point the next morning.

In Hinderwell, I easily found my way to Serenity Camping from the main road. I think I paid £11 to stay here for the one night, which was very reasonable. With my outer tent pitched, door open and drying, I space the rest of my kit around my pitch for a thorough drying out session.

I was really impressed with the facilities here. Music playing from a local radio station in the men’s washroom. A working (if incredibly slow) kettle available to use in the washing up room and, for a small donation, you could help yourself to their tea, coffee and biscuits! This was quite a find for me, because I was beginning to feel as though my gas supply wasn’t going to be enough to see me through these final days…

For the first time on this seven-day trek, I didn’t want to go to bed. Having showered and changed my clothes, I was content with the feeling of sitting outside of my tent and watching the moon glow. No distractions. Even with the temperature continuing to fall.

I was in a very good place. Better than I’d felt for a very long time. I did tuck in to bed by 9pm. Read my next letter and looking forward to the next day of walking the Cleveland coast.

Length of this walk = 17.5 miles

Thanks for reading.

Author: Olly Parry-Jones

I live in Weston-super-Mare, close to the Mendip Hills in Somerset and I enjoy time spent outdoors, whether that's walking, camping or backpacking. My day job involved making furniture from recycled wood (I'm a furniture maker and carpenter by trade). I have two blogs: Olly Writes (woodworking, DIY, baking) Walks With Olly (walking, camping and kit) You can also find me on YouTube, Twitter and Facebook. My second YouTube channel is titled 'Walks with Olly'.

3 thoughts on “Cleveland Way: Day 4”

  1. Hi Olly, just catching up with your progress on this trek. Sounds like a dismal night and gloomy morning, but then you found the sea and everything got better, yay! This is a section of the coast I haven’t tackled yet. Thanks for an interesting read.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Ruth,

      Thank you for catching up. After such a wet and sleepless night, the fog clearing was both metaphoric and deeply rewarding. I’m surprised to see you’ve not already covered this section – I haven’t seen nearly as much as you but I felt it most be one of the most well-maintained stretches around the UK.


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