Day 17. Wednesday, 22nd June, 2016. Hawsker to Robin Hood’s Bay

The North Sea!

Breakfast was served in the farmhouse itself at Long Leas. The dining room was self-consciously old-fashioned. We ate but lightly as we were anxious to set off fairly early. We planned to complete our walk (somewhat less than five miles) before returning to Long Leas Farm to pick up our heavy gear for the journey home.

It was a clear steel-blue sky. The firmament of air and sea were hardly separable in that all-pervading azure; only, the pensive air was transparently pure and soft, with a woman’s look, and the robust and man-like sea heaved with long, strong lingering swells, as Samson’s chest in his sleep. I wish that I had written the preceding text, but I didn’t. I stole it; from the beginning of chapter 132 of Moby Dick if you must know. It seemed apposite; no harm in a little copy & paste; no point in re-inventing the wheel. In any case, my words cannot possibly match Melville’s (although I’m not sure about the business of assigning gender to the elements!).

In truth, it was a magical morning to be strolling on the coastal path. It mirrored our first hour on the C2C at St Bees some sixteen days beforehand. But there was no oppressive heat, and we enjoyed a light on-shore breeze. Before reaching Robin Hoods Bay (RHB), we passed a curious pole. This was a rocket post, or at least a replica of an old rocket post. It is difficult to convey the function that these posts used to fulfil. There seems to be absolutely nothing about them on the World Wide Web, and so I’ve transcribed the following from the North York Moors National Park’s fascinating information board placed in the Rocket Field:

Rescued by Rocket. Rocket posts were once used by the coastguard to practice rescuing shipwrecked sailors. Rockets enabled life saving equipment to reach ships stranded off this treacherous stretch of coast and people to be brought back to dry land.

An endless rope. Rockets created an endless rope connection between the ship and the shore. They (presumably the rockets) carried a thin line out to the vessel and the crew tugged on this to find the whip (endless rope). A thicker rope (hawser), strong enough to carry people, was then sent out along the whip and secured to the mast.

Stand by to fire! This “iron monster” sprung into the midst of the wildest storm with a tremendous gush of fire and smoke and a hissing shriek. A bright arc of light marked its path through the dark night sky. The rocket’s force was so great that the person had to light the fuse and run for cover.

Saved by a pair of shorts When everything was ready, a “breeches buoy” was sent to the ship along the hawser. This circular cork lifebuoy had a pair of canvas shorts (breeches) hanging underneath, in which individuals were hauled ashore.

A true story On 25 January 1936 a steam ship called the Heatherfield became stranded off Robin Hood’s Bay in low visibility at low tide. By the time the rocket reached the ship, several people had already swum ashore but the rest were rescued in the breeches buoy. The captain was the last to leave and gave a huge cheer as he was hauled up the cliff, carrying a canary in a cage! The coastguard received the Rescue Shield for saving so many lives.

The Rocket Post

Practice rescues Rocket posts were once common along North Yorkshire’s cliff tops. They were used by the coastguard and life saving volunteers to practice rescues using the breeches buoy. A coastguard would climb the mast to act as a stranded mariner and other members of the rescue team would play the part of the stricken ship’s crew.

This post is an exact replica of the original, which was removed after suffering the effects of time and weather.

I’m sorry for that diversion, but I found the rocket post and its history very diverting! Moving on, we were soon in the leafy outskirts of Robin Hoods Bay (RHB). RHB is very much a two tier town, and indeed the town’s website refers to Upper Bay and Lower Bay. Our entry was into Upper Bay with spacious properties, often within sumptuous gardens, perched high above the North Sea. However, as we followed the coast south, the terrain and its road dropped precipitously towards Lower Bay and the sea; cramped and cozy with its narrow alleyways and doll’s house cottages and shops.

The road ends at a concrete slipway, known locally rather grandly as The Dock. We stood looking out to sea on this glorious June morning, cursing our luck that the tide was out. If we were going to deposit our Irish Sea pebbles into the North Sea, we had a further 150 metres or so to go to truly complete our C2C. The shingle beach beneath our walking boots made a noise not unlike rapturous applause as we approached the water’s edge. To my horror, I couldn’t find my pebble! Luckily, Julia had anticipated my incompetence, and collected two pebbles from the beach at St. Bees 16 days beforehand.

Back at The Dock, The Bay Hotel (incorporating the Wainwright Bar) had not opened, so we celebrated with ice creams, before the short but steep climb (New Road is thoughtfully provided with a hand rail) back to Upper Bay, and the ‘bus stop to await the X93 to take us back to Hawsker. At the ‘bus stop, we met a younger couple who were finishing their holiday in the area, having abandoned the C2C in Borrowdale. The young man had slipped on the wet rocks on the banks of the River Derwent that had caused us some concern during a heavy downpour back on day 3. He had cut his scalp badly, and lost consciousness. His wife alerted the emergency services, and he had to go all the way to Carlisle to be hospitalised and patched up. The story made us shudder at this illustration of the fact that mishap is always lurking, just around the corner.

Time to go home

The journey home was surprisingly straightforward: the X93 once again, this time travelling south from Hawsker all the way to the railway station at Scarborough; a snack in the station cafeteria; a train journey back across England to Manchester; and finally, the short hop to Stoke-on-Trent. Arriving at Piccadilly Station (Manchester) was unsettling; so many humans in a small confined space; it was even busier than Richmond! The connection to Stoke turned out to be the commuter train stopping at every lamppost, but by Congleton, there were very few passengers besides ourselves. We were back at chez-nous soon after six o’clock. Once again, public transport had worked like clockwork.

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