Lots of hills and headwinds today, but I didn’t swear once. That once was at about 4 o’clock.
From the hostel it was all downhill into Whitby, some 100m away. Very steeply downhill, as you can see. The road, Donkey Track, is marked ‘Unsuitable for Motors’. Indeed. At the bottom, this photo suggests that the gradient is around 60 to 70 per cent. That would make it possibly the steepest in Britain, more precipitous even than the 40 per cent Fford Pen Llech in Wales. Wow. After climbs of max 6 per cent yesterday, and evening beers of about the same, that raises the bar for tonight’s drinking.
My early start was rewarded by this curious sight at Sandsend, just north of Whitby, around 8am. A bloke was out on the beach making circles with a rake into this splendid little art happening. Not a commissioned piece, just something he was doing for fun – though he is an artist, part of the small arts organisation www.responsiblefishinguk.co.uk.
I dropped into Runswick Bay, a fabulous little cousin of Robin Hood’s Bay with all the same sort of fishing cottages crammed up no-road-access steps, but without the twee tourist shops. I couldn’t show you the picture at first because I took it on my iPod which I then lost. But it’s now been returned thanks to the residents of Runswick Bay who found it, called up the first person on my contact list (Sue and Si, hello) who called me and I organised its safe return. People are great. I like People.
Next up the coast was Staithes, another delightfully quaint ‘fishing village’, ie a village full of artists. It has the narrowest alley in Britain: Dog Loup, just up from Captain Cook’s Cottage on Church Street.
It’s too narrow for my bike handlebars, and at 15.5 inches wide – I measured it – it’s comfortably narrower than the much-hyped Temple Bar in Port Isaac, Cornwall, usually cited as Britain’s tightest squeeze. Interestingly, this bit of Staithes is not on Google Street View, whose spy-cars evidently couldn’t get down the narrow lanes to the harbourfront. Ha ha! Yorkshire wins again!
Lots of hill-climbing, wind-bashing and train-cheating later, I got to Middlesbrough, home of the famous Transporter Bridge. Middlesbrough is the sort of place that makes you want to get on your bike straight away. And cycle fast as possible out of it.
From Middlesbrough to Durham I tried to go by National Cycle Route 1, which looked promising – with a very long railtrail going 20 miles or so north from Stockton – but most of it was too muddy, so I took refuge in the road. Still, as the old Yorkshire saying goes, ‘Where there’s muck, there’s a Sustrans route’.
Miles today: 53
Total miles so far: 104
Total miles since Flamborough: 94