In 447AD Germain was invited to revisit Britain, and went with Severus, bishop of Trèves. It would seem that he did much for the Church there, if one can judge from the traditions handed down in Wales. On one occasion he is said to have aided the Britons to gain a great victory (called from the battle-cry, Alleluia! the Alleluia victory) over a marauding body of Saxons and Picts. Source
Boulby Alum Quarries
I needed to unravel a few knots and put some ground under my boots. I was undecided as to where to go…time for the coin. A flip of the coin as to whether it would be moorland or coastal, a second flip to decide on a old favourite on a new site. The outcome, coastal/new.
A while ago I was reading about the Boulby Alum Quarries, I’d never visited the place, I did once try to get there via the the Loftus quarries but failed. I had read that Boulby was one of the best examples of its kind in the country, so that was that, Boulby was the place.
I walked along the Cleveland way to Rockhole, looking for a path into the quarry. All I could find was the trace of a track heading towards Rockhole Hill. I followed the track which got fainter and fainter and took me deep into the quarry. The vegetation got higher and thicker and the track eventually petered-out completely at a large pile of droppings. I’d been following a rabbit track which had led me into a deep thicket of gorse and brambles. I looked for a way forward but couldn’t seen anything that resembled a path.
I had a choice, try and push forward through the quarry or retrace my steps back up to the main footpath and start again. I decided to push on and look for another path. I thought that if I could skirt around Rockhole hill towards the cliff edge I would come across a path, a simple enough plan. The problem was that the foot of the hill and the quarry floor is covered in chest-high rosebay willowherb, bracken, gorse, brambles and boulders, there are also a number of small, steep-sided beck channels concealed beneath the vegetation. The flanks of the hill are steep but less treacherous, they are covered with deep heather and large, impenetrable patches of gorse and brambles. It took me about half and hour of constant scrambling and slipping to cover the short distance to the cliff edge.
Much to my relief, my efforts eventually led to an overgrown track that looked as though it was heading towards the main quarry and alum works. After that it was fairly plain sailing, there were still patches of gorse and brambles to get around but the ground was fairly level and the surrounding vegetation was fairly low.
Moving along the track I began to noticed low walls, the remains of a building, a stone-covered culvert and two beautiful circular stone-lined tanks. The production of Alum started here in the mid 1600s, the Rockhole quarries and structures are the oldest part of the site.
I continued to walk north into the later sections of the works and suddenly found myself standing in the quarry, an amphitheatre of alum, ruins of massive stone walls and heaps of alum shale, facing the sea and backed by the massive sandstone cliffs, a wonderful sight.
The cliffs are never static, large blocks litter the site, some bearing fossils.
Walking around the ruins, the mind starts to wander. It is easy to forget that this was a place of industry and imagine that these are the remnants of a cliff-edge citadel whose myths are still waiting to be discovered.
These cliffs are the highest point on the east coast of our island. The land above the quarry has been occupied for thousands of years, its soils contains the evidence of the district’s earliest house. Archaeologist Steve Sherlock has also found evidence of prehistoric salt production and jet working on the land behind the clifftop, evidence of early industry, albeit on a small scale. Our prehistoric ancestors performed rituals and buried their dead on these clifftops. It is also the location of the famous Saxon Princess burial.
I left the quarries and followed the path that runs between Rockhole Hill and the cliff edge. The track is becoming overgrown, an indication that this site doesn’t see many visitors. A couple of short sections of the path have eroded away, this is not a place for anyone who is nervous of walking along a cliff edge. The track leads back to the Cleveland Way via a couple of lovely tiny woods, shoehorned into the short valleys running down to the cliff tops.
If you are going to visit the quarries I would advise that you avoid following the track down into the Rockhole Quarry, my legs are covered in small cuts, pin-cushioned by brambles and gorse and it took a fair bit of effort to escape the quarry. The cliffs along this part of the coast can be unstable, the track around Rockhole Hill is difficult to find but definitely the one to take, however it is not without danger and should be approached with great caution.
A coastal walk with Graeme Chappell
Kettleness – Cat Beck – Randy Bell End – Hob Holes – Runswick Sands – White Stones – Redscar Hole – Hill Stones – Kettleness Sand – Kettleness Scar – Wind Hole – Long Sand – White Shoot – Maiden Wyke – Lucky Dogs Hole – Kettleness Alum Works
The Fairies long gone, the sound of Claymoor battledores no long ring over Runswick shores.
Hob has flit, kink coughs go untreated.
A whale lays headless and rotting on the rocks at White Stones. The stench of death and decay is all around, even the gulls avoid this place. We push on, scrambling over rocks, mouth breathing.
17th of December 1829. The village and Alum Works of Kettleness slid down the cliff to the sea. No lives were lost. The village and works were swiftly rebuilt.
Ore was gathered from these beaches when Teesside furnaces were still an idle dream.
Iron returns to its source, the sea reclaims its own
Shap Granite, batholith born, ice borne.
The sun is shining, we are bold.
We wade through whin following a cliff-top path to the Alum Works, we watch Gannets. A very good day.
Escaping the crowds of Saltburn we headed to Cattersty Sands. Skinningrove has none of the seaside amusements of it’s neighbour so sees far less visitors, what it does have is a beautiful beach and a very good fish and chip shop which sadly was closed today.
Iron was mined here before the discovery of the main seams in the hills at Eston and prior to mining, iron-rich stone was collected from the beaches at Hummersea. An ironworks was established above the town in the late nineteenth century to process the local iron ore with coal and limestone imported from County Durham. The slag from the furnaces was poured onto the cliffs and also used as a building material in and around the village. The cliffs are an impressive site and are now home to nesting Fulmars and Jackdaws.
The names Cattersty, Hummersea and Skinningrove are all Scandinavian in origin. The cliffs to the south of the village are the highest on the east coast. Archaeologist Dr. Steve Sherlock’s work at nearby Street House has revealed evidence of occupation since at least 3900BC.
The Skinningrove/Loftus area does not see a great many visitors compared to other parts of our district but it has a fascinating landscape and rich history, all well worth seeking out. If none of this interests you and you just fancy a walk on a mile of so of beautiful uncluttered beach I’d recommend a trip to Cattersty.
If you want to learn more about Dr. Sherlock’s work at Street House there is a video here of him giving an online lecture at the Royal Archaeological Institute.
Saltburn – Fulmarus glacialis
Skinningrove to Saltburn
Anyone who is unfamiliar with the history of Skinningrove may be confused by the cliffs that tower over Cattersty beach. The horizontally bedded Jurassic cliffs of the coast have been replaced by what appears to be the remnants of ancient lava flows.
The origin of the cliffs are not Volcanic, I guess they could be called Vulcanic. There was once a large iron works on the clifftop, slag from the blast furnaces would be tipped, by trains, over the cliff edge completely covering the existing strata. The blast furnaces have long gone, the cliffs are home to nesting fulmars and the occasional peregrine falcon.
Vulcan – God of Fire, Volcanoes and Metalworkers
Skinningrove, a little creek formed by the Liverton Beck, has gained a weird picturesqueness by its ironworks on the verge of the cliff and its mountains of spoil from an iron mine. The Cleveland ironstone is used in conjunction with imported ironstone and if access can be obtained to the dressing-sheds – where the Cleveland ore is picked over by boys for the elimination of unprofitable stone – characteristic fossils, particularly the ammonite Amaltheus spinatus, can be obtained.
Geology of Yorkshire. PF Kendall & HE Wroot. 1924
The train from Boulby potash mine skirts the edge of Warsett Hill passing the fan house that used to ventilate the ironstone mine. Mining has existed in North Yorkshire for almost a thousand years, steel tracks for railways are still made at Skinningrove.
Tragically, two young local men were recently found dead at the foot of the cliffs at Saltburn.
Low Tide 12:55 (O.58m)
Cat Nab – Penny Hole – Cranedale – Stone Ridge – Huntcliff Foot – Bird Flight Goit – Seal Goit – Old Tom Foot Way – Jackdaw Crag – Blue Nook – Clay Shot – Cattersty
harvesting the meandering molluscs
clusters of proto-dolmen litter the wave-cut platform
A war-era concrete cist tumbled and upturned. The ice sheet long gone, boulder clay maintains its ten thousand year momentum