Excursion to Hummersea with the Tees Valley Wildlife Trust
Beached at Skinningrove. My ancestors fished from these cobles, out of Hartlepool, from 1570 to 1914. Skinningrove (valley of the skinners) would be a sail across Tees Bay for those men. The build of these craft is said to be unchanged since Viking times.
The coble men had these homes, facing the cold North Sea from which they drew their living.
Skinningrove sleeps beneath the great cliff of Hummersea, the highest on England’s east coast. When the Viking Danes settled this part of North Yorkshire they called it ‘Cliffland’. The name has become, ‘Cleveland’.
Later men tunnelled the cliffs for ironstone. There are nodules on the shore that are almost pure iron, laid down when this was a tropical Jurassic sea-bed.
In the 19th century iron miners and alum workers cut these tracks so that the horses and carts might reach the luggers beached and waiting for cargo. The Jurassic shale was burned here and slaked with urine (shipped by lugger from London pubs) to reduce it to alum – a valuable mordant.
Most of the alum works has been destroyed by the North Sea – but this still hangs on.
All is quiet, except for the hiss of the sea. The barnacles sleep and wait.
Limpets huddle, clinging tight, fearing the dog-whelk and his rasping tongue.
Can the sleepers understand these geologists, historians and naturalists, pronouncing Latin names upon them?
But like the Danes and the iron miners, the scientists will soon go away and leave Hummersea to its dreams.
Perhaps Tom Fleck came this way, and certainly Peter Tindall on his way home from Flodden Field