May 2014.

I've bought a campervan as a 60th birthday present to myself, made some curtains and a patchwork quilt, waved goodbye to my family, and set off. My aim is to explore the coastline of Britain, anti clockwise, starting in Kent. I have no idea what will happen.

Saturday, 7 June 2014

Seaton Carew

Saltburn-by-the-Sea is impressive, approached from the south; winding down a small road I could see the crashing sea below and the impressive Victorian iron pier, and handsome hotels on the cliff above. Fishing boats were lashed down on their trailers by the sea wall.
The pier is the only remaining iron pleasure pier in the north east. When it opened in 1869 it had 50,000 visitors in the first six months! This was quite a place in the 19th century but over the years its fortunes, largely connected to the iron industry, have been mixed. The pier has suffered numerous catastrophes, mainly due to the battering effect of the North Sea, and once it was hit by a ship which took a 210ft bite out of it. It has been restored and repaired countless times, and is now half its original length.
Saltburn Pier on a nicer day
I climbed (1st gear) up the hill and wondered if I had time to see Redcar race-course. No. I needed to find fuel, and it was raining hard. And then, in the time it took to fill up, and listen to the Archers, I fell into the industrial north. I was still wondering about Redcar, when I came down a hill on a wide dual carriageway. Traffic lights offered Thirsk, Middlesburgh or Teesport. I had never even heard of Teesport. (though, yes, I could work it out). I pulled over and called on Diana, my satnav. She pointed me towards Jedburgh, and past the Wilton Centre (a vast, modern, waste processing plant the size of a small town) and the Riverside Park Industrial Estate.

I wove my way along small roads, through endless industrial works: largely petro-chemicals and a few remaining steel works. Diana wanted me to cross the Tees via the huge meccano blue Transporter bridge which kept appearing between the factories and chimneys as I got nearer to the river. But it was closed.
A glimpse of the Transporter Bridge
Diana wouldn't accept this, so I switched her off and went to Middlesburgh and out again and picked up the A178. Between the road and the north bank of the river there are acres more industrial factories and marching pylons converging on the power plants. It was grey and grim at nearly 9pm. Cattle and sheep were grazing round the legs of the pylons.
I stopped at The Staincliffe Hotel at Seaton Carew and the kind receptionist took pity on me and said I could park for the night in the hotel car park. It was a dark and stormy night and I lay in bed thinking of John Darwin. He was the man who was thought to have come to a sticky end after setting off in his canoe in 2002.. from Seaton Carew! (He bobbed up again five years later in Panama.)
Baa outside the Staincliffe Hotel
The next day I had breakfast at the hotel and then went to find seals at the nature reserve I had passed the day before. It's amazing that they (harbour and grey seals) are living here in the Tees estuary again, having died out at the end of the 19th century. But sadly I didn't see any.

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