From its ancient origin, Whitby has in different periods prospered from monasticism, fishing, shipbuilding, whaling, jet jewellery and tourism. Reminders of this heritage abound: Whitby Abbey; the 199 steps which link it with the Old Town; Church Street; the harbour and pier; the Captain Cook Memorial Museum; and Pannett Park where you will find Whitby Art Gallery and Museum. Even the railway station deserves to be looked at.
Before George Hudson (“The Railway King”) had his vision, to bring visitors to Whitby by train, people could travel to and from this town only by sea or across the vast North Yorkshire Moors, either of which had its perils. Hudson superintended the building of a railway line from Pickering, which opened in 1836, and commissioned George T Andrews to design the station at Whitby, which opened in 1847 (it is now a listed building).
The Endeavour, the ship on which Captain James Cook discovered Australia, was a Whitby-built collier – solidly constructed, flat-bottomed and capacious, therefore suitable for an epic voyage on the high seas.
Ruswarp is a village on the boundary of the National Park. It has a range of shops and a pub. Crossing the River Esk downstream is an impressive viaduct, 120 feet high, which was built (using 5,250,000 bricks) to carry the Scarborough-to-Whitby railway line, which was closed in 1965. The viaduct is now owned by Sustrans and carries “The Cinder Track” (a walk/cycleway along the former Whitby-to-Scarborough railway line).
Sleights is pronounced so that it rhymes with ‘heights’. It has a ‘salmon leap’, a small weir that enables the salmon, between October and December, to swim upriver to their spawning grounds. The Esk is the only salmon river in Yorkshire.
Grosmont developed mainly as a centre of ironstone mining, which flourished during the nineteenth century. From here the rock was taken to the Teesside blast furnaces. Grosmont also produced the ‘Grosmont brick’ from 1870 until 1957, a particularly dense brick which defies being drilled.
Egton Bridge sits below the village of Egton on the River Esk and this is where the station is. There are two pubs here, one right next to the station, where the game of quoits is still played in the summer, one round the corner and two more up in the village, a 15 minute walk (see below).
Egton is famous for its large agricultural show (July) and its annual gooseberry show (August).
Almost next to the station is Beggar’s Bridge, the famous packhorse bridge built by Thomas Ferries in 1619. An ancient pannierway, made of stone trods, passes up through Arncliffe Woods from here.
The small settlement of Carr End is next to the station. The main village of Glaisdale is a mile away. Like Grosmont, in the late nineteenth century Glaisdale was an ironstone-mining village, similarly recognisable by its terraces of slate-roofed cottages.
The Sunday Times recently described Lealholm as “the prettiest village in Yorkshire”.
The River Esk runs through the centre of the village. Its stepping stones, over the bridge and beyond the Board Inn, have provided hours of fun for generations of children. The heights of the severe floods which took place in 1840 and 1930 are recorded on the wall of the Wesleyan Chapel close by.
The quickest route into the village is to turn right at the eastern end of the platform, across the railway track and down the footpath and stone steps.
The village of Danby has an excellent shop selling organic fruit and veg, The Stonehouse Bakery and cafe, two pubs – one just up the hill from the Station and the other, less than a mile away in Ainthorpe and a Village Hall and Church within 200m.
There is now an extra evening train down to Danby that leaves Middlesbrough at 20:34 and arrives Danby 21:33.
The village of Castleton is a short walk uphill from the station. it is one of the largest villages on the moors and used to be the main market for Upper Eskdale. There are shops and cafes and a pub on the main route through. Next to the station is The Eskdale pub & restaurant which is due to re-open soon.
The church on the edge of the village houses oak furniture designed by Robert Thompson, “The Mouse Man of Kilburn”, hallmarked with his distinctive carving of a mouse.
Commondale today is a quiet farming-based village. Before 1947, it possessed a brickworks, which explains why some of the houses, the church and the school are, unusually for this area, built of this material. The Esk Valley Railway freight services played a vital role in transporting the bricks and tiles beyond this locality and the fire bricks were used for lining the blast furnaces in Glaisdale and Grosmont.
John Crossley, who owned the brick, clay pipe and pottery works is commemorated by an inscripton on the prominent brick built village institute building. The Crossley works closed in 1947.
The first railway station, built in 1880, is on the other side of the railway bridge.