I’ve been invited to share something with you. (no, not secrets- don’t worry!)  The Works Stores are hosting a competition for travel bloggers who love to read.  Inspired by the film release of Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road“, the idea is to post about a memorable read you’ve had whilst travelling.  My good friend, Richard, of A Bit of Culture must be a contender for the prize of a £250 book voucher, with his excellent Trainspotting post.  Nip over and have a read to get you in the right frame of mind.

Meantime, I’d better get on with it.  The closing date for entry is 30th November.  I don’t have a hope of winning, but I do like to entertain.  The book I’ve selected is Freya North’s Secrets.  I can’t pretend that it’s a classic, but it does have a setting which is close to my heart, and funnily enough I was there just the other day, gathering up Autumn leaves.

Huntcliff Nab, from Saltburn beach

Leaving an unhappy life in the south of England, Tess fetches up in Saltburn-by-the-Sea, on the north east coast, in search of a new beginning.  She delights in the panoramic views of Huntcliff Nab, and is just a little taken with her landlord, Joe. I’m a bit of a romantic so I was one hundred percent behind the liaison. Mingled with the story is an exploration of Saltburn and it’s history.   Joe is an engineer who builds bridges, and is passionate about the area.

View from halfway up the cliff, with “Old Saltburn” in the background

Old Saltburn started life as a single row of smugglers cottages down by the shore. In the 1860s Henry Pease, a local industrialist, had a vision for a cliff top town to cater for the wealthy, with formal gardens sweeping down to the sea.  Its crowning glory, the Zetland Hotel, was the world’s first railway hotel. The building still commands wonderful views out to sea, but sadly today the hotel has given way to flats.

Pease’s father was a founder member of the Stockton and Darlington Railway– the first passenger railway in the world- so it’s no surprise that a miniature railway was constructed to run through the Valley Gardens.  It still runs in the Summer time, with its little steam engine, “Prince Charles”.  You can follow the “Sealt Burna”, for which Saltburn was named (a salty stream, coloured brown by alum in the soil) back through the gardens to meet the sea.  It’s a captivating spot.  Beneath the low mound of Cat Nab nestles the corner cafe, Camfords.  Warm purple blankets sit on the chair backs, so you can still enjoy the outdoors, even on a nippy north eastern day.

Tess and Joe explore their relationship within this nurturing backdrop.  I love that Tess plays “Poohsticks” with her daughter under the same bridge that my son sometimes used when small.  And that the Transporter Bridge in Middlesbrough has a minor supporting role.

The “Poohsticks” bridge

The most striking features of Saltburn are the Victorian Pier and water-balanced cliff lift, both of which have been photographed and painted numerous times.  “Pier Arts and Crafts”, next to the lift entrance, has many examples.  So too does “Artsbank” in Milton St., a short wander through the faded grandeur of the jewel streets (Diamond, Ruby, Pearl, etc).  This beautifully restored building needs strong legs to climb its many stairs, but you can pull up a chair to watch video footage of the town and its history, and relax in the cafe afterwards.

View of the pier from Pier Arts and Crafts

A peak into one of the rooms in “Artsbank”

I hope I’ve saved the best till last when I tell you that Saltburn lies at the end of the Cleveland Way.  Ascend the steps to some of the most beautiful cliff top walking our coastline can offer.  This is also the point at which I tell you that my memorable read began on a days hiking along the Cleveland Way to the pretty village of Staithes.  I stopped to browse a book display, and there it was.  I fished the book out, started to read and was immediately entranced that I had walked those same streets.

Clifftop walking on the Cleveland Way

Dropping down into Staithes

The village of Staithes, North Yorkshire

Freya North has an obvious fondness for Saltburn, which she describes as “quirky and enchanting” in her notes and photographs at the end of the novel.  I finished the book in next to no time, and always now think of Tess whenever I return to Saltburn.  I won’t spoil it for you by telling you the outcome.  Where would be the “secret” in that?

Looking back along the pier as the sun sets over Saltburn

To enter the competition, as detailed in I now need to nominate 3 bloggers who might like to take part:

Hobby Fabulous is a Canadian living in London and seeking diversion from the hum drum.

Vics Pics and More I hope Vicky won’t mind this nomination.  We have covered much of the same ground in the UK, and at one point even found ourselves in the same place at the same time. (but we didn’t know it!)

Lorna’s Tearoom Delights is an exquisite looking blog I can highly recommend.  I’m on the skinny side but if I’d tried out as many tearooms as Lorna, I’d be huge, but highly satisfied.

All the details about hashtags, etc are in The Works website.  Finally, everyone needs A Bit of Culture in their week, so don’t forget to say “hi” to Richard.  Good luck everybody!


  1. What a fantastic story, Jo! I really enjoyed this post while sipping on tea! It must have been surreal to step on the same path as the romantic novel you read! Almost as cool as exploring DC through Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol! If I can find those photos you’ve inspired a future post for me! THANKS JO!!!


      1. Just finishing it off now – I’m on the pre-holiday blogging backlog! Been reading everyone else’s for inspiration. I’ve struggled to think of one as normally I read so fast that it’s in one ear and out the other to make room for the next!


  2. Your photos always make me want to don my walking boots and trot off on an adventure. Lovely pics, and a really interesting entry for the competition, it makes me want to pop down to Saltburn and read the book myself. Thank you kindly for the nomination, I would love to enter if I get the chance.


      1. I may have to read that book too! I LOVE to read but am slow. Life is busy with the kids, blogging and everything else I do. I’m reading a fabulous book right now on a Vietnamese-American who returns to Vietnam after 20 years to find himself. Called Catfish and Mandala. I can’t put it down.


  3. Go for it and good luck. Enjoyed reading and seeing your photos. It is nice to walk the street and over the bridges referenced in a book you are reading.



    1. That’s worth knowing, David. Many thanks! I would not dare compete in the photos stakes. We have a friend (Trevor Camp- do you know him?) who is semi-professional and he was there the other day to take some into Pier Arts and Crafts for sale. There was a snowy one of the cliff lift by his partner, Cass, which I thought was really beautiful.


  4. Oh no!
    Jo I can honestly say, I could count on one hand the amount of books I’ve read in my whole life, and not one has been while travelling.
    If me not taking part ruins you chance in the competition, please re-nominate someone else!……..there is one blog I read who would make an excellent choice.


    1. No problem, Vicky. I wasn’t too sure if it was appropriate, but I discovered that I don’t follow many UK blogs, and 3 of those had already been nominated. As I said in the post, I’m not in with a shout for winning, but I enjoyed writing the post anyway. It’s quite funny, cos my response to Richard (who nominated me) was “oh, heck”! I had already been contacted by The Works to see if I wanted to take part. Turned out to be more fun than expected, but I don’t know how well I fulfilled the brief.


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