I love Robin Hood’s Bay. We’ve been here before when the boys were smaller, walking along the beach, searching for fossils and ammonites. And the village has so much charm, its crooked houses with mullioned windows almost stacked against the steep cliffs; The cobblestone steps with black metal railing and steep road down to the slipway where the ships are launched. It’s all very quaint and lovely looking.
So I would like very much to stay a bit longer in RHB and decide to book another night in the same hotel and just have a wander around to Ravenscar and back. Ravenscar is the high cliff at the other end of the Bay.
Because the tide is high when I set out this morning, I can’t walk on the beach yet. So I will walk the first part along the Cinder track. About halfway I’ll walk to the beach, see what the coast path looks like and then decide if I will continue on the ECP to Ravenscar or along the beach. But before I get to the Cinder track I pass St. Stephen’s church which turns out to be open! So I spend some quiet time inside and sing an old Irish hymn ‘Be Thou my vision, o Lord of my heart… Be Thou my soul’s shelter… Thy presence my light.’ It feels like a renewed intention, to let God guide my steps, here and wherever I go.
The weather is clouded, but with some patches of blue in the sky. I feel light hearted and the walking is easy on the level Cinder track. To get to the beach I have to continue onto a narrow road that dips deep down into a river valley. I come across a ford with a footbridge next to it, thankfully. The babbling brook through the woods makes it a very peaceful place where I linger for a while. But then it’s up the steep bank again on the other side, and through a field until I reach the beach. The sea has receded far enough for me to walk on the rocky beach now.
The sun is shining on the tip ends of the horseshoe shaped bay, but doesn’t reach the parts where I walk. Towards Ravenscar a sea mist clings to the cliffs. Every now and then I hear bits of stone and soil falling onto the beach. So I stay away from the vertical cliffs. But I stop every now and then to marvel at the water that comes tumbling down the rocks from high above me.
It’s a beautiful sight, but also quite damp and chilly, so I move on. I would like to reach the sunny patch at the end of the bay. But every time I think I’m getting close, it moves further away from me. It makes me feel a bit sad, as if the warm and good life are kept out of my range. But just when loneliness starts to creep up on me, a female voice behind me asks: ‘Have you seen the seals?’ I hadn’t seen a single soul on the beach this far, let alone seals, so I’m a bit startled and answer I didn’t even know the seals would be here, so no, I haven’t seen them. We talk a little about the beauty of this place and then we hear something moving on the sand, just ahead of where we are. We look up and there they are, the seals, very well camouflaged between the rocks. Although we are still about a 100 metres away from them, It seems we have disturbed them by our talking. Which is probably reflected and amplified by the rocky cliffs behind us. The whole flock seems to go on the move towards the sea. We start to whisper and duck down in an attempt to calm them down again, but once going they keep moving their clumsy, bulky bodies towards the sea. We feel a bit guilty for that, but I really hadn’t seen them (or didn’t even know they were there).
My initial plan was to climb up to Ravenscar from the beach (there should be a path according to the map), but when we walk a bit further, we see another group of seals still lying high on the beach. I decide not to go there and disturb them as well. So I return together with the woman I just met, Sue is her name. She comes from Hebden Bridge in Yorkshire and is on her way to visit her father, who lives further up North. She just wanted to spend some time on her own on the beach of RHB to look for seals. I tell her I’m walking the coast path and this is my third trip. I started walking right from the ferry in North Shields along the coast to the North in October 2021. This time I started walking to the South about a week ago. She tells she has been thinking about doing something like that, but was worried there would be too much planning involved. So she asks me all sorts of questions, about where I am staying and if I plan ahead. Well I do now (booking ahead for 2 or 3 days), but I didn’t on my first trip. That is doable, but my experience is, you pay more for accommodation, because the cheaper options are often not available anymore, especially during weekends. On the other hand, no planning gives you a lot more freedom to go as far as you would like (or hang around longer somewhere you like). And in most spots there are busses that can take you to and from the coast path and your accommodation. It also depends on the season, in summer you will need to plan and book ahead I think, because it will be very busy at the seaside towns and villages.
I also tell Sue I was very nervous before I started my first coastal walk. So much so, I’d almost cancelled it and at times, when I sat down thinking it over, I was shaking all over my body in sheer terror. In the end I did go and have never been happier, but the first step really was the hardest. Sue is very grateful I tell her all this and when we part ways, she thanks me for giving her inspiration of going on a solo long distance walk herself some day. That really lights up my (otherwise rather grey) day. I’m very pleased to be an inspiration to someone else and I hope to be to many more!