If anybody ever tells you that seaside towns are struggling, don’t believe them. The British may no longer be sat on a deckchair on Blackpool beach clutching an ice cream in one hand while fending off a rabid seagull with the other – kiss-me-quick hats on their heads and an uncomfortably offensive comedian on the pier – but they are out there. And this week it seems they are all in Whitby…
Whitby is packed with tourists, as in fact were Holy Island, Seahouses and Beadnell on the way down. The focus may have shifted away from the the old Victorian resorts but up here, business is booming. And so as is my natural persuasion, I immediately went off in search of something else.
I found it in the shape of Staithes, a beautiful smaller version of Whitby just a few miles north but unspoiled by the hoardes of people that make Whitby on a summer’s day such an alarming prospect. Wandering down in to the harbour town at low tide, an air of serenity that was lacking down the coast filled its quaint cobbled streets. It felt civilised, easy going, and I stepped into a tea-shop-come-antique-store called Dotty’s Vintage for a cream tea, opting to take it at one of the tables out front. The locals were friendly and welcoming and it would all have been perfect had a passing shower not abruptly ended the affair.
Evenings in Whitby are much more bearable but I had business down in Saltwick Bay to attend to in the shape of shipwreck the Admiral Von Tromp. One of the true nautical mysteries of the North Sea seems to be how this trawler from Scarborough foundered on the rocks at all, and all evidence suggests that it was deliberately driven in the wrong direction on a path to ruin. Although under a thick fog it seemed that even with nobody at the controls it wouldn’t have gone near the cliffs, and the only man that could have cleared up the mystery died in the sea that night. That was back in October 1976 and all that’s left of the vessel is what you see here today.
Two evenings running I did battle with the turning tide to get the shot I wanted, but the sea was angry and it made getting near it a challenge in itself. On the first attempt I picked my way across the boulder-strewn shoreline with waves breaking to the left of me and stones tumbling down the eroding cliffs to the right. The washed out scene offered virtually no differentiation between sea and sky, and I came back with a ghostly image, a plan for a second attempt and some overly damp wellingtons.
The night after, the turning tide coincided with the setting sun and resulted in more of a colourful scene. Ideally there would have been more water swirling about the wreck but the ten-stop filter that had seen so much use on this road trip lent a surreality to the final image, wet rocks glistening in the pale evening light as the causeway to Black Nab is revealed in the background. Ghosts of the Abyss.
Having got what I came for I retreated to Whitby for fish and chips and a couple of beers. I really do like it here, it’s just better without the tourists.
Once again I didn’t go over old ground – you can see a selection of pictures from the last few years in the North Yorkshire album.
And with that I head back over the moors to Lancashire.