The Journey Part 7 – Middlesbrough to Scarborough
“What? You’re walking through it? Oh no, you can’t. Tell you what, I finish my shift at 2pm, I can drive you past.”
“You’re kidding, right?” I asked. “Is it that bad?”
“Well I wouldn’t want my daughters walking through it,” the man in the local shop said, “and I live in the town next to there!”
I smiled, it was likely to be a protective parent thing, something I’ve never believed in nor understood. If a Scouser can survive three years in Salford, I thought, then I can walk through Middlesbrough. Albeit rather quickly.
High Rises and High Fives
I’d had warnings for the past week, before which I’d never even heard about the city’s reputation. By this stage, I was expecting monstrous high rises, an ocean of litter, barbed-wire on rooftops and boarded-up windows. Yet, what greeted me was the contrary; on the edge of Middlesbrough lay a serene wilderness. And within it, the ambrosial fragrance of honeysuckle sailed through the warm August air. Even the natives welcomed me; birds chorused while dogs tap-danced around my feet, hesitant of my unusual shape.
“That’s brilliant!” the first two residents chimed as they high-fived me. “I love it!” They were amused by my buggy I was pulling through Britain. “Let me shake your hand!” I instinctively checked my watch was still there (all £8 of it from Amazon). It was. A pang of guilt swept through my body for not trusting them. Then I plodded on.
The hills behind the city provided the perfect solitude for wild camping. Their gaze rested upon the factories to the north and the heather-studded moors to the south. The next morning I scampered down to Redcar, keen to find a rather famous resident.
Princess and the Sea
“She’s upstairs,” the ladies on reception told me. I walked into the light-controlled room and physically gasped in awe. Before me was a huge gold and garnet pendant. Glimmering in the low light, it could be mistaken for something modern. Yet the jewel belonged to an unknown Anglo-Saxon princess some 1,400 years ago. She and her grave goods were discovered not far away in a Yorkshire field near the coast. If I were found buried in a field in several centuries, I’d probably still have my cheapo watch on, I thought.
It Goes Pear-Shaped
Beyond the museum, the heavens opened. Looking slightly bedraggled, I met a family outside the RNLI museum on Redcar seafront.
“What on earth are you doing?!” they smiled as I wandered up with wheels attached to me.
“Hiking through Britain with my new sidekick,” I replied as I wiggled the buggy. After lamenting about the lack of fresh water on my route and trying to find places to wildcamp near towns, the lovely Millings offered me their garden to pitch in. Hoorah! I was fed fresh home-grown veggies and tasty pear crumble.
“We’ve got 28 kilos of pears to get through,” they chuckled as they stayed up beyond 11pm dehydrating a batch. “We’ve got pear chutney, pear jam, pear crumble. Now these!” I went back to my tent, all clean, and woke up to a squished pear under my roll mat. At least now they’d have one less pear to deal with.
The adorable East Yorkshire coast was my route for the next 50 miles. Rolling hills, alluring red-brick villages and a rugged coastline kept me company. “The Rainbow Coast, that’s your new name,” I whispered to the elements as the fourth one in as many days appeared over the sea.
“We’ve got the weather up here, haven’t we?” a couple said, “there are storms everywhere else.” For once I had the best of the weather. After spending a fair bit of the summer dodging rain and heavy winds while everyone else basked in 30-degree heat, this was music to my ears.
I arrived in the charming seaside resort of Whitby to be greeted by 199 steps. I’d forgotten about these badboys. “It’ll keep you fit,” a man said as I snarled at step number one after my 22-mile day. If only he knew. On top of the heart-pounding staircase stands Whitby Abbey, its roots entwined in Anglo-Saxon England and with St Hilda.
I carried on to Scarborough, never tiring of the arresting coastal view. The coastguard team were out looking for a potential suicider. I said I’d keep my eyes peeled and my stories humorous if I came across him. And hoped I wouldn’t knock him over the cliff with the buggy.
Scarborough welcomed me with fair weather, fish ‘n’ chips and the craziest ninja wasp sting ever. Being rather melodramatic I thought I might be hospitalised. Or at least get lots of sympathy. Neither. Instead, I hobbled along with a sore leg, hives from head to toe and scratched like a flea-bitten dog. And people still said hello to the mud-covered woman dragging a buggy. Oh, how I do like to be beside the seaside, I thought, as I convinced myself my portion of chips must be at least four of my five a day. If only I had a pear to make it five.
Jane Batchelor finished hiking 3,500 miles through Britain in May 2018, looking at the history of the country in chronological order.
The Journey Part 1 – Shetland
The Journey Part 2 – Orkney to Ullapool
The Journey Part 3 – The Outer Hebrides
The Journey Part 4 – Oban to Glasgow
The Journey Part 5 – Glasgow to Newcastle
The Journey Part 6 – Newcastle to Darlington County
The Journey Part 7 – Middlesbrough to Scarborough
The Journey Part 8 – Winter
The Journey Part 9 – The End