Robin Hood's Bay
The final leg of my Coastal Tour of North Yorkshire was at Robin Hood's Bay, a small town, again with lots of history surrounding its past glory as a haven for fishermen. In the 18th century, Robin Hood's Bay was reportedly the busiest smuggling community on the Yorkshire coast. Its natural isolation, protected by marshy moorland on three sides, offered a natural aid to this well-organised business which, despite its dangers, must have paid better than fishing. Smuggling at sea was backed up by many on land who were willing to finance and transport contraband. Fisherfolk, farmers clergy and gentry alike were all involved. Fierce battles ensued between smugglers and excise men, both at sea and on land, and Bay wives were known to pour boiling water over excise men from bedroom windows in the narrow alleyways. Hiding places, bolt holes and secret passages abounded. It is said that a bale of silk could pass from the bottom of the village to the top without leaving the houses. The threat of the excise men was not the only danger to Bayfolk. In the late 18th century and early 19th century, the Press Gangs were feared and hated. Sailors and fishermen were supposed to be exempt but, in reality, rarely were. Once ‘pressed’, their chances of returning to their homes were not high. Village women would beat a drum to warn the men folk that the Press Gangs had arrived and it was not unusual for the Press Gang to be attacked and beaten off. The fishing industry reached its zenith in the mid 19th century and a thriving community existed in Bay. The townsfolk liked to amuse themselves in the winter and there were dances almost every evening. Church and chapel were well attended and funerals and weddings were occasions for a festival. Like other fishing villages, Bay had its own gansey pattern. From the early 19th century, Robin Hood’s Bay began to attract visitors from the outside and this has continued to the present day.
Like the town centre of Whitby, Robin Hood's Bay has two parts to it - old and new, or relatively new. From the top of the hill the main road suddenly turns into a steep bank, flanked by houses and shops, which is where the Old Town begins. It is here that you get a taste of what Robin Hood's Bay is all about. Similar to the period buildings I found at Staithes, RHB is almost an extension of that town - both have a steep bank, taking you down towards the residential area, a 'Lost in time' world from days gone by. The character of the place is wholly untouched, which is something that has been deliberately done to avoid moving with the times, and thus losing its identity altogether. I've walked these streets many a time, often hoping to discover something new, something that has me lifting the camera once again, and quite often I find it. The Old Town is maze-like, and more often than not I'll find myself in no-mans land, before attempting to retrace my steps in the hope of getting back to familiarity. It's very easy to become absorbed in these surroundings, like walking a tight alleyway and wondering who walked here in years gone by - what did they look like, and where were they heading, and why? Fascinating.
Today was very much another typical day in the life of. Tourists here and there, on land on sand, and even in the water. The Bay is quite small, but when the tide retreats its rocky shore becomes a magnet for families engaging in rock pool searches. We joined in but there was little or nothing of interest, so we headed back towards the Bay Hotel, which is the starting point of the climb back up the steep bank. The ramp which joins the beach from the back foot caught my eye, with its cobbled stones that made for an interesting foreground, with the backdrop of the hotel as my focal point. The Bay Hotel struck me as one of those creepy style residences - which wouldn't look out of place on the set of 'A League Of Gentlemen'. Are you local? My second photograph gives you an indication of where I'm coming from - Landlords, Edward & Tubbs! Can I have a pint of lager and a gum shield, please Barmaid!!!
Outside the Bay Hotel were a few punters, sitting supping their ales. The smell of a nearby Fish n' Chip shop filled the sea air around us. Temptation crept up on your writer once again, as I fumbled in my pocket for cash of the paper variety, in the hope of sampling the fried scran once again. I must add that my previous blog entries from my 'North Yorkshire Coastal Route' include my indulgence with Fish n' Chips - well they were on previous days during our mini-break, so don't be thinking I necked 3 portions all in one day. I might be a greedy get now and again, but not on this particular weekend! A sandwich board, tucked away to one side of the road, directed us up a narrow back land towards the Fish n' Chip shop. Tiny it was, with people huddled inside, but how do you form a queue inside a sardine tin? A five minute wait and I was at the front of the queue - it was more Fish n' Chips. Well worth the money. The little fella visited the Chocolate Fountain instead and enjoyed a 'Kebab Style' fudge and strawberry covering, and covered he was! The missus picked away at my Fish Lot, although your writer saw off the Lion's share, he he.
And that closes the 'North Yorkshire' blog until another visit - maybe next year, who knows. The whole 'Weekender' was great, and a nice time was had, so I would recommend this stretch of coast to all who have an interest in a break by the sea. Of course, there's a lot more to the North Yorkshire Coast than what has been written here - this was just a taster of what was on offer. Why not check it out for yourself. And on that note I shall now contact the North Yorkshire Tourist Board, Accounts Payable, to claim my 20% commission! Maybe it will subsidise more Fish n' Chips!!!
Until the next time..