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1A The Avenue,
Horsforth,
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Staithes and About

You meet the old part of the village of Staithes as you follow the road as it plunges steeply down from Bank Top – cottages start to line the road, you turn a corner and there before you is the cobbled High Street with its collection of cottages, old inns and fascinating little shops. Following along the street you catch glimpses along alleys and pathways to the cottages, houses, chapels and workshops that are packed in apparently higgledy-piggledy fashion on either side in the steep valley running down to the sea between the dramatic cliffs. Further along, just before you reach the Cod and Lobster, you get a sudden burst of sea view - the sky above the horizon is always different and lively here and you quickly realise why Staithes has attracted so many artists to its many and varied vistas for the last hundred years or so. A few yards further on and you are on the front with the full view of the beach and harbour there before you, framed between the sheltering cliffs. Time to explore…

History and Information

Fishing

Staithes was established in the mid 15th C simply as a landing place for a settlement known as Seaton Garth a little further inland. But from the 16th Century it developed a reputation as shellfishing village. By the early 1800s Staithes was the largest east coast fishing port north of the Wash. Boat building, especially the traditional cobles and five-man boats, also took place in the shelter of the beck and many workshops once lined its banks.

The auction of fish on the harbourside was apparently a lively affair with hundreds of buyers from far afield competing for the best catch. Those fish not carried off in panniers by teams of packhorses to market towns in the region would be cured for long keeping and Staithes was once buzzing with this as an associated industry. However, by the 1860’s the last of the Staithes fish curers had been put out of business by the coming of the railway that could take fresh fish to distant markets.

Decline of both the fishing and the boat building industry at Staithes came with the coming of steam trawlers following the fish down from Scotland and the eventual collapse of the herring stocks. Although the bigger boats had ceased their trade by the early 20th Century the smaller cobles continued fishing right up to the current day. Today a small amount of line-caught fish and some fine lobsters and crabs are brought ashore by local fishermen and can be sampled at local eateries.



Smuggling

This was a less orthodox industry that thrived all along the coast at the time of high taxes on many imported and luxury goods in the 18th and 19thCenturies. Activities were literally underground at times as contraband was shifted up through the village from the sea to be spirited away from the sights of the customs officials - who apparently had a particularly hard time of it trying to get the better of the Staithes locals!



Tourism and Artists

Although the coming of the Victorian railway put paid to the fish curing industry it also brought new visitors to Staithes in the form of tourists and, more notably,artists who were drawn to the village by its picturesque views, its characterful people and its quaint customs. For 30 years from 1880 a collection of artists known as the Staithes Group lived and worked in and around the village and played their part in revolutionising the British art scene. In this period the place was host to artists of international stature as the group’s work evolved from realism to impressionism. One of the best known was Dame Laura Knight who met her husband-to-be, Harold, here in 1897 – the couple later making it their home for many productive years before heading south to join the Newlyn School in Cornwall. There is a collection of the Staithes Group works in the Whitby Museum in Pannet Park.



Things To Do

Visit the beach - Sheltered behind the harbour there is a small beach much enjoyed by families in the summer months.

Captain Cook and Staithes Heritage Centre - Located in one of the many old chapels in the village this charming small museum charts the local connections with Captain James Cook who as a young man in 1745 was apprenticed to a village merchant in a shop down on the harbour. (The shop has since been washed away by storms!) The museum also offers a fascinating insight into other local history and customs and has a small shop.

Explore the village! - With the help of a useful leaflet available locally you can follow an intriguing guided tour round the backways, along the narrow passages and through the cobbled yards of Staithes. There’s much more of it than meets the eye at first sight!

Go on a fishing trip - The local shops and pubs advertise local people offering fishing trips out to sea in local boats.

Visit the Lifeboat Station - Located on the north side of the beck the lifeboat station houses the modern inshore lifeboat and tells the stories of many heroic sea rescues over past years. In the summer Lifeboat Weekend is a lively affair with many events, people in traditional local dress and firework displays over the water.

Walk the Cleveland Way - You can get on to the Cleveland Way going both north and south from the village for a variety of there-and-back or round walks taking in the spectacular cliff top scenery and destinations such as Runswick Bay village to the south where you can take refreshment at a number of local pubs before continuing on your way. A number of leaflets and local walks books give details of walks of various lengths and using local ordinance survey maps will enhance your expeditions.

Browse through the shops - The village has some delightful small shops ranging from the highly practical to attractive gifts and souvenirs, including antiques and locally made arts and crafts. A number of shops sell useful food items to keep you going through your stay and there is a also a post office. At the top of the bank in the newer part of the village is a small branch of the Co-Op that stays open long hours and stocks a large range of goods, including wines and spirits. There is also another post office, a newsagent and a handy store in the new village.



Places to Eat and Drink

The old village is well provided for with three pubs, several cafes and bistros. The increasingly renowned Endeavour Restaurant (01947 840825) specialises in fish, especially the local catch. The food is really excellent and it has become a destination restaurant so you need to book a few weeks in advance (www.endeavour-restaurant.co.uk/).

The Surrounding Area

Places To Visit

The area around Staithes and Whitby contains many other fascinating and beautiful places to visit. The North York Moors National Park (http://moors.uk.net/) covers 550 square miles of varied and unspoilt countryside, including the largest extent of heather in England and Wales. The Moors Centre at the inland village of Danby contains a host of information about the Park.

Between Staithes and Whitby there are two pretty coastal villages, Runswick Bay and Sandsend, which both have wide sandy beaches, cafes and pubs. Just South of Whitby there is the picturesque former fishing village of Robin Hood's Bay. Inland from Staithes there is the beautiful Esk Valley with many lovely walks and charming villages.

Runswick Bay - is a picturesque coastal village which is 2 miles South of Staithes along the cliff tops (3 miles by the main road). There is public parking at the bottom of the steep hill that leads to the lower part of the village. Runswick Bay has a large sandy beach, a pub which serves food, a sailing club and an old lifeboat station.

Sandsend - lies at the bottom of a steep hill (Lythe Bank) 7 miles South of Staithes on the road to Whitby. It used to be associated with alum mining and remains of the quarrying can still be seen on the cliff face at the North of the village. Now it is a picturesque village with an excellent sandy beach which attracts surfers and kite flyers from miles around. There is a pub, two hotels, a cafe and a newly opened art gallery.

Robin Hood's Bay - is a charming former fishing village 5 miles South of Whitby. There are only one or two active fishing boats and tourism is the main activity but this has produced a wide range of interesting shops including several secondhand bookshops, an art gallery, and interesting curio shops. There are three pubs, two of which serve food, and a bistro which is currently open at the weekends. When the tide is in it washes right up the launchway to wash the bottom of the main street, but when it is out there is a lovely rocky beach spread out over a magnificent wave cut platform.

North Yorks Moors Railway - this is only 20 miles South of Staithes and is well worth the journey. There are 18 miles of preserved railway track running from Grosmont to Pickering, through the unspoilt countryside of Newton Dale which isn't accessible by any other means. A number of different steam trains pull coaches up and down the lines, including the famous Sir Nigel Gresley. There are trains running almost every day of the year, they are very frequent in Summer and at weekends. 01751 472508 or see www.nymr.demon.co.uk/main/home_1.htm

Esk valley and railway - the Esk valley contains a string of pretty villages which includes Grosmont, Egton Bridge, Glaisdale and Castleton. The railway runs from Whitby through this with a regular frequent timetable, the local people use it to go shopping and to travel to work or school. There are 11 stations in the Esk valley making it an ideal way to explore this beautiful countryside

Activities

The National Park

Walking – The Cleveland Way passes through Staithes and can be followed along the cliff edges to the North and South, there are many circular routes which return by inland footpaths and minor roads. The reliable bus service along the A174 at the top of the village can be used to cover one leg of longer walks, you could for example catch the bus to Whitby and walk back to Staithes along the Cleveland Way passing through the picturesque villages of Sandsend and Runswick Bay. There are also many lovely inland walks in Eskdale a few minutes drive from Staithes.

Beaches and seashores - A day pottering on the beach, looking in rock pools, watching the waves and listening to the seabirdsis what we and other people do. There is a small beach within the confines of Staithes Harbour, 50yds from kildale Cottage, which is exposed from mid to low tide. It is gently shelving with no immediate strong currents so it is safe for children to wander around on. It contains a mixture of sand, pebbles and seaweed allowing the construction of fanciful sandcastles and other edifices. If you want a larger sandy beach then Runswick Bay has one and is only 3 miles South of Staithes, it is also a picturesque village and the pub does good food. Further South, at Sandsend, there is another wide sandy beach, eminently suitable for kite flying, where you can watch the surfers, or give it a go yourselves. Whitby has a sandy beach North of the harbour.

Cycling – the disused Whitby to Scarborough railway is now an excellent traffic-free cycleway and bikes can be hired from a shop on the trail at Hawsker, just South of Whitby, 01947 820207. They stock a wide range of bikes including childrens’ bikes and seats. There are also many bike friendly trails through the inland woods that border the coast.

Fishing – many people fish from the harbour wall at Staithes. For the more adventurous there are boat trips from Staithes and Whitby, you can usually hire tackle and bait from the proprietors. The River Esk is the only river in Yorkshire to contain salmon and sea trout and permits are available to fish some stretches of it.

Surfing – Staithes and nearby Sandsend are said to be the best surfing spots on the English East coast. We haven’t tried it ourselves but we do see lots of surfers in the waves, even in the middle of Winter.

Geology and industrial history – the sea cliffs present a wide range of geological formations from which many different materials have been mined. Remains of an ironstone mining operation can be seen at Port Mulgrave, a mile South of Staithes along the cliff tops. To the North of Staithes, at Skinningrove, there is the Tom Leonard Mining Museum where you can take a trip around an old iron mine and gain a fascinating insight into the iron mining industry that used to be so prominent around this area. Evidence of alum mining can be seen at Sandsend. Cowbar Nab at Staithes, the cliff on the North side of the harbour, shows Jurassic period strata. The harbour at Whitby is on a fault line which can be appreciated in the rock formations of the East and West Cliffs.

Painting and photography – Staithes was the centre of eponymous school of painting in the early 20th century and it still inspires many artists (some of whom have chosen to live in Staithes for immediate access to this source). You won’t feel out of place if you set your easel up anywhere in Staithes, and there are always likely to be some fellow artists at work. Frank Sutcliffe was a remarkable photographer of the early 20th Century whose work provides vivid documentation of life in Staithes, Whitby and the surrounding area. The Sutcliffe Gallery in Whitby displays his work and sells prints of them. An excellent art gallery has recently opened in Sandsend which displays work by local artists. The Pannett Art Gallery in Whitby has a large collection of paintings including many from the Staithes School.

Birdwatching – Staithes has a wide selection of sea birds in its environs. The harbour always has turnstones, redshanks, plovers, wagtails, cormorants and the obligatory seagulls. In Winter more exotic visitors can be seen including sea ducks such as eider. Whitby harbour has a fine gathering of gulls. If you come in the late April to June period and haven’t been before then it is well worth the 50 mile trip South to see the thousands of puffins, fulmars, kittewakes, guillemots, razorbills and gannets that breed on the sea cliffs at the RSPB reserve at Bempton.

Golf – Whitby Golf Club is situated on the cliffs just North of Whitby and non-members are welcome (01947 600660).

Railways – the North Yorkshire Moors Railway is based at Grosmont which is 20 miles South of Staithes. There are 18 miles of track from Grosmont to Pickering and beautifully preserved steam trains run along this with a regular timetable which is very frequent at weekends and in the Summer (North Yorkshire Moors Railway 01751 472508). The Esk Valley railway is the ordinary railway that runs from Whitby to Middlesbrough, it has 11 stations in the picturesque Esk Valley so it can be used to explore this and to join up the ends of walks.