The beautiful Yorkshire coast: Robin Hood’s Bay and the Cinder Track (part 2)

It’s time to finish our grand 8.5 mile walk along the Yorkshire coast from Ravenscar.  If you recall, in part 1 you left Ruby, Chris and me pottering on the beach at Boggle Hole after a refreshment stop at the Youth Hostel Association’s cafe.  Here’s a link to the walk we are in the middle of!

With a farewell to beautiful Boggle Hole we left the beach behind and climbed the steep steps through trees back up to the cliff tops, emerging into the sunshine of what was to be a beautiful afternoon.

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It was easy walking now to Robin Hood’s Bay and we took time to admire the impressive concentric rings on the beach, giving us a clue to the past and how the bay has been gradually carved out over millions of years.  It’s so interesting to see geology in action.

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We have found many fossils on the Yorkshire coast, mostly on the beach between Hornsea and Mappleton which is much further south of Ravenscar.  But the whole of the Yorkshire coast, particularly around Whitby, is great for finding fossils.  Just like the Jurassic Coast in Dorset, fossils from the Jurassic era can be found here because both coastlines have a similar geology.  Both coastlines also have chalk cliffs and downland.  I think that’s why we love holidaying in Dorset so much – it’s a home from home!

A fossil aside

Back to our fossil collection – here’s a little sample…

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We got a bit obsessed with fossil collecting the first few years we were together and for our first Christmas together Chris and I bought each other the exact same fossil hunting kit!  It was good to know we were as weird as each other in our love of nature!  Now we tend to leave fossils on the beach for someone else to enjoy as our collection is large enough.  In the photo above you might recognise what are a couple of lovely spiral ammonites, plus a smaller fragment.  These finds will be between 400 and 66 million years old which is hard to get your head around!  The two pointed fossils are belemnites – kind of straight ammonites and also related to modern squids and octopuses.  The two round fossils at the top left are echinoids or sea urchins, which still exist today.  The curled fossil (top middle) and the one below it are gryphaea but amusingly known as ‘devil’s toenails’ as they really do look like giant toe nails!  They were actually a kind of oyster.  The shell right at the bottom is pretty similar to a shell we can find today with two halves locked together.  And finally the remaining fossil with visible lines running along it (next to the small belemnite) is a piece of fossilised coral.  Fascinating eh?

I learned a lot about fossils when I worked at the Yorkshire Museum in York, over 10 years ago now.  Working with knowledgeable curators I devised and taught education activities for groups of visiting school children, showing them the museum’s amazing geology and natural history collections.  To try and get across just how rare it is for a creature to be fossilised, because conditions have to be just right, I made up the ‘Fossil Lottery’!  It was actually a tombola barrel in which I had placed little slips of paper, each with a message on.  You had to pick out your ‘fate’, with the aim being to get fossilised.  Most of the slips were losing ones, like ‘sorry, you fell into the sea and were eaten by sharks so you failed to get fossilised!’ or ‘bad luck, you died in a forest and your body quickly decomposed!’  But a few winning slips read something along the lines of ‘Congratulations!  You sank to the bottom of the ocean and were quickly covered by sediments, preserving your body and enabling your bones to fossilise!’  It went down very well – children do love the gruesome side of nature!  I also created a workshop I called ‘funky fossils and super bugs’ about animal adaptations and evolution.  I picked up so much from the museum’s curators and we produced a little computer game, Super Bugs, which you can still play today as I’ve just checked!

I hope you didn’t mind my little trip down memory lane.  To finish my fossil aside, I do love holding fossils, not just because of their interesting texture and physical coolness, but because it’s a great way of putting things into perspective.  We humans are so unimportant in the planet’s (and universe’s) constant evolution, yet we seem to have such illusions of grandeur and a lack of respect for how to treat this world we are temporarily inhabiting.  It will be here long after we have gone but sadly we will have left it much worse for us having been here.  I just hope it eventually recovers.

But let’s not dwell too much on the distant future right now and instead get back to admiring the beauty of the moment.  Watching Ruby running around and having fun is a great way to enjoy the present, and it seemed like she was enjoying the stunning view to Robin Hood’s Bay as it got ever closer.

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As we descended onto the beach I was already pleased we were only passing through.  I always find it fascinating that whilst the beach and little village of Robin Hood’s Bay are busy year-round, the coastal path is so much quieter.  It’s the same with so many places we visit.  People tend to gravitate to the main tourists spots and not venture much further I guess.  I’m so glad we are a little more adventurous and that Chris has as much of an aversion to crowds as me (if not more!).  Not that the beach was particularly busy today.

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We briefly explored the pretty little side streets with their endless photo opportunities…with Chris being an excellent ‘man walking away’ model!

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It is a shame that wheelie bins were lined up along the paths and alleyways.  They served as a reminder that modern life, along with toursim, has swept into what was once a small fishing village and, in the eighteenth century, a top spot for smuggling.

Without stopping for a pint or even an ice cream we climbed the steep hill out of the village and looked back to enjoy the view we were about to leave behind.

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At the top of the hill on the north side of the village we headed inland for the first time since we had joined the coastal path at Ravenscar.  We would still enjoy sea views on the return leg of the walk however, a leg which took us onto the old railway line, also known as the Cinder Track.  It is so named after the blackened cinders which formed the track’s ballast – I love walking on the cinders as they make such a lovely crunching sound beneath my feet and that makes me very aware of the act of walking, which I find comforting, odd as that might sound.  The line, which ran for 80 years between Scarborough and Whitby, sadly closed in 1965 along with so many other railway lines that would have been well used today had they remained.  Instead, nowadays it is at least a lovely, crunchy walking/cycle path!

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Before leaving the village however we passed Robin Hood’s Bay’s old station with its bright red door and proudly displayed station sign.  Chris, an enthusiastic railway man in both work and hobby, took a few more photos and we lamented the loss of this little station.

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Ruby was itching to be let off the lead again and we obliged as soon as we got onto the safely enclosed track.  After racing up and down on the Cinder Track, tiring herself out, she relished the opportunity for a cooling dip in Mill Beck.  We watched her, full of envy as the afternoon heat had built.

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I was delighted to see wildflowers and butterflies on the sheltered, sunny verges as we approached the beck.  There was lots of bright purple knapweed which was clearly very popular with the butterflies – first I watched a painted lady, then a small tortoiseshell enjoying a late summer feed.

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Bright white yarrow was blooming along the verges too, though not in such quantities as we had seen it on the cliff tops at Peak Alum Works in part 1 of this walk.

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Then I spotted a flower I thought was common valerian.  Having looked it up I have learned it’s actually called hemp-agrimony.  It has really long white styles – part of the female bit of the flower.

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Then a reminder that autumn was around the corner with ripening blackberries…

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Another reminder that the summer was coming to an end was evident in the fields as straw had already been gathered into bails.

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As we walked on, the lovely views ahead of us were to Stoupe Brow which we would later climb back up to Ravenscar…time to perhaps regret the extra mileage given the return leg would end with a climb!

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Ruby wasn’t put off by the prospect of the climb though.  I think she was looking forward to it.  She surveyed the scene from a field as we briefly left, then rejoined, the Cinder Track.

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Our diversion onto field paths meant the chance to watch swallows skimming impossibly low for flies.  It also meant plenty of insect-attracting cow pats – I even saw a small copper butterfly feeding on the nutritious dung!  They are such a bright shade of orange and I don’t see them very often so this was a treat for me just as the poo was a treat for the small copper!

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Walking through the fields and gaining more height made our legs start to feel the miles we had put in and was a good excuse to stop and look back at the scene.  Robin Hood’s Bay was already fading away in the distance (and under a big cloud!).

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I like a walk where, from the outset, you can see most of what you are about to do and then, at the end, you can survey what you have just done.  It gives me a sense of achievement and a good feeling.  I love that I can look at the scene above and know what it’s like to walk through that woodland and those fields.  It’s not just a beautiful view but a place I have explored and got to know on foot, the best way to explore!  I also feel incredibly grateful that I’m able to go for grand walks as I’m very aware that lots of people can’t for different reasons.  My mum, who suffered with severe M.E. for most of her life, was one of those people.  I know it’s nothing like actually being there, but I hope my little walking blogs take you on a sort of virtual walk with me.

As we gained even more height Robin Hood’s Bay, this time lit by the sun, was now no bigger than one of the sheep in the foreground!

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We admired this new view before rejoining the Cinder Track and approaching one of the old railway bridges.  Ruby, now off the lead again as we were away from the sheep, was the first to explore, getting distracted by interesting smells – other dogs or perhaps even the scent of a fox, badger or deer which had passed this way.

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Unsurprisingly (if you’re familiar with my blogs) I was distracted by an insect!  But this was a particularly beautiful insect.  A dragonfly whizzing up and down the track, going after flies that were themselves enjoying the afternoon sun on the sheltered path.  Photographing dragonflies in flight is pretty much impossible but lots of them do rest on fence posts or foliage and pose for a photo.  The really big ones however seem to stay frustratingly airborne, endlessly hunting, whenever I encounter them.  Not that it’s a bad thing as I love to watch their graceful yet urgent flight and handbrake turns as they almost crash into you but clearly know what they are doing!

To my delight this large blue and green striped specimen did land for a few seconds, only just long enough for me to take a quick photo before moving in for a better shot, at which point it took flight.

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This stunning beauty is an emperor dragonfly, the largest kind of dragonfly we get in the UK.  I think it’s a male because it has a blue abdomen – the link above says females have brown abdomens but that they can turn blue in warm weather…so who knows to be honest!  All I do know is that it was a treat to share the Cinder Track with it for a few moments before we went our separate ways.

From the track, which was at times fringed by blooming heather, we took in more splendid sea views and could see the ruins of Peak Alum Works (in the middle-right of the photo below) which we had explored near the start of this walk.

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Looking ahead, to beyond our starting point, we could see the Raven Hall Hotel with its perfectly manicured golf course in the foreground.  Golf courses get all the best spots don’t they?!

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With our focus back on the cinders, it wasn’t long before we came across a huge clue as to the heritage of this track…

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Whilst I took a single photo to record the partially buried railway sleepers, Chris spent several minutes photographing them from different angles…I am definitely (and very happily) married to a railway geek!!  Ruby, sniffing in the background, couldn’t care less about the sleepers but she did make a diversion to explore a small alum quarry which has now been taken over by nature.

This section of track was a delight to walk along, with bright greens and a lovely selection of wildflowers to enjoy in the sunshine.

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There was more vibrant pink/purple knapweed

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Cheerful little eyebright flowers dotted all over…

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And occasional sunny yellow bird’s-foot trefoil

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Added to these delights on the track, we had sea views and rowan and hawthorn trees ripe with red berries which contrasted so well with the blue of the sea.  What a feast for our lucky eyes!

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As if we hadn’t done enough uphill for one day, Ruby and Chris then decided to climb a huge pile of earth which was left there years ago from quarrying activity.  I was tempted by the prospect of a good view but put off by the knowledge that I would no doubt come a cropper trying to get down the slippery little hill.  A case of ‘four legs good, two legs bad’!

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We were almost at the end of our walk and a super day out with so many memories which have been happily reinforced by writing this blog.

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One last bridge across the old railway line to walk under and a last pull up the final section before we rejoined the path we had taken at the start of the day.  We followed it back to the National Trust visitor centre which, at 4.25pm, was five minutes off closing!  Hooray, just time to dash in and grab some tubs of ice cream as a (well earned?) treat…

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I could pretend that one of these was Chris’ and one was mine but I have to confess that neither of us could decide between chocolate and sticky toffee fudge, so we both had one of each…is that bad?  I did give some of my sticky toffee fudge ice cream to Ruby though so I think that makes it ok!

Thank you so much for joining me on what turned out to be a rather long ramble in more ways than one!  I hope you enjoyed reading. x

Author: Jo

Hello, I'm Jo. I live near Harrogate with my husband and our dogs, Ruby and Toffee. The most important things in my life are nature, my dogs, walking in the countryside and being creative - doing crafts and especially embroidery. I started my Cobblers42 blog to try and put into words (and pictures) some of my walks, to share my love of nature and being creative.

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