Robin Hood’s Bay is less of a bay in the sense of English seaside resort and more of a crack in the edge of the smooth rolling Yorkshire Moors landscape down which the old town has slid into place. The arrangement of homes and shops at first glance, appear to be more in the nature of discarded clothes, dropped by a careless owner. On closer examination though, there is a more meaningful rationale behind the design. Old stone houses, set in irregular layers, like leaves on a tree, designed to capture the maximum light and air, for the minimum of the restricted steep-sloped surface area. Accordingly, most of these old fishing cottages are small, neat and attractive; because they still reflectthe eclectic style of the individuals, now long, long, dead who had built them. The cause of the ancient gully, around which these houses are arranged, is a small stream, which once must have been powerfully young, full of anger, fury and without control, but which now had dwindled away into its “lean and slippered pantaloon” stage of existence. In which state, because of its former impressive power to carve out the landscape for itself and its relative immortality, it will survive even through drought, for millennia yet.
We have an annual pilgrimage to Robin Hood’s Bay to celebrate the twinned events of my birthday (16th July) and the beginning of our life as a couple (12th July 1989). I never tire of it. Tide permitting, we set out across the beach and walk across this Jurassic coast treading on exposed fossils, mixed with the fronds of blue and green algae, bladder wrack, and rock pools filled with crab, shrimp and small fishes. Then past “Boggle Hole” over barnacle-encrusted rocks (much better for boot traction) and on to sparkling, small waterfalls and only after a couple of hours walking, to the wave cut platform to commune with seals. They sing to me and I sing back -usually snatches of Mozart – and I am in heaven. This year the seal colony seemed to have grown to several hundred and we spent ages there watching and being watched by them, until hunger pangs forced us to make the steep climb to the Ravenscar Hotel for lunch. Sitting on the castellated terrace in our boots and shorts, we were surrounded by wonderfully dressed wedding guests for yet another smart nuptial celebration – no one minded us. I drank my birthday champagne and once more we headed off, down the cinder track this time taking the high road, past the abandoned alum works (a once essential component in red dye for cloth extracted using human urine brought by boat from London – hence thephrase “taking the piss”) and on back to Robin Hood’s Bay.
The best, most mindful way to celebrate a birthday I can imagine!