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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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?
To enter the competition, as detailed in http://www.theworks.co.uk/travelbloggercomp 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.