It rained so much and was so windy early on Sunday that I half expected Saltburn Gill to have been washed out to sea by the time I arrived at 9.30am in the bottom car park. There was another 15 mins of driving rain and then suddenly it stopped raining and I got out of the car to face a bracingly cold wind straight off the sea.
Understandably, I was quite surprised to see people turn up for the walk; in the end, there were seven of us…and do you know what? We had a great time generally bumbling around the Gill looking at everything. Also, it stopped raining which helped.
We started just upstream from the water treatment works looking at a marvellous old photograph (see http://www.image-archive.org.uk/?s=Saltburn+Miners+Bridge&submit.x=7&submit.y=10 ) showing the present millhouse and then the old Saltburn Mill and to our surprise a wooden walkway across the top of the gill. So, we stood on the path near where the Mill buildings were and now grows bramble, bindweed and curiously a huge patch of Canadian golden-rod…a garden escape.
Off along the narrow path into the Gill between the blackthorn hedge, that is now tall enough to form a green tunnel and was bedecked with lichen, and we tried to work out just where that mill race (or mill leat) would have been. The First Edition OS map from 1853 showed it travelling a long way up the gill but at that time there was no path, so maybe at times it was under the present path or perhaps it had been washed away or if made of wood then rotted long ago.
As we walked by the beck we were sheltered from the howling wind above the trees and it was noticeably warmer. The theme of the day was very much ‘things eating other things’ with examples of fungi, galls, and the remains of a pigeon on the other side of the water. And lots of fallen leaves.
We followed to the point on the 1853 map marked with ‘sluice weir’ and thought we could detect the start of the mill race. Then, after a brief pootle around looking at the various fungi and where the wasp nests were, we walked up the steps for a chocolate stop at the top where all the large sessile oaks are, next to the wild cherry trees (Chocolate was mint & lemon, milk, and a surprisingly fruity dark raspberry).
Down the steep steps on the other side past beautiful golden yellow wych elm leaves to look at the rock outcrop where it ‘folds’ and then on round the corner to look at where there used to be a field in 1853 but now it just looks looks like the rest of the wood…a lesson in how quickly the trees can reclaim their land.
We returned to investigate the hollow tree and then, oddly enough, on the way back to the car park we kept seeing things we hadn’t noticed on the way up and everyone then followed that up by asking really interesting and pertinent questions of the walk leader that he couldn’t answer – so guess who now has homework before the next walk here?