Pocket Britain

A fishing port on the North Yorkshire Coast, known for its catches of lobster and crab

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As with many of England's coastal villages, this is a former fishing port, where business has declined over the last century or so. Here though, there has been an unusual upturn in the last few years. The fleet is still much smaller than it used to be, but Staithes is still known for its catches of lobster and crab.

Lobster Pots
Photo keithloaf1961
The village's harbour is surrounded on both sides by tall cliffs. The rocks here are of great interest to geologists, because of the fossils that can often be found within it. Ammonites are plentiful, but other creatures have been found too - including the skeleton of a Jurassic dinosaur!

Boats in the Harbour
Photo keithloaf1961
Today, the most common animals that can be found on the cliffs are gulls, and other seabirds. Their calls are quite loud, even at night. Some visitors have complained about the noise, but the residents barely notice it any more. Even more unsettling is the story of a lonely young girl, who would often walk along the cliffs at night. On one particularly cold and quiet evening, part of the rock came loose beneath her feet, and the girl slipped over the edge to her doom. When the weather turns cold, and the day turns dark, the young girl's ghost can still be seen, stalking the cliff edge.

The Cliffs in Staithes
Photo keithloaf1961
During the day though, the rocks are decidedly less creepy. In fact, they frame the village perfectly, helping to make Staithes the beautiful, picturesque place that it is. It's full of eye-catching features, from the sandy beach, to the cobbled streets, to the scattershot, Mediterranean-style houses. A waterway called Roxby Beck runs through the middle of the village. At low tide, this seems like a tiny, insignificant little stream, but when the high tide comes in, it rises into a full river.
The perfect views have drawn in painters and sketchers for many years now, from all over the country and beyond. In the early 1900s, the village was home to around twenty or thirty artists, who were known as the "Staithes Group". Between them, they produced dozens of beautiful works, showcasing the features of the village, and its harbour. Here in the 21st century, artists are still a common sight. If you've got your own pens, paints, or pencils, feel free to join in!

Cottages in Staithes
Photo John Leach
Another famous person to have lived in the town was James Cook, who worked at a local grocer's. While living on the coast, Cook began to develop a love of the water. He joined the Navy, and from then on, he spent almost his entire life at sea. This young greengrocer's apprentice would go on to become Captain Cook, the legendary explorer. Together with his crew, he visited destinations as far and wide as Australia, New Zealand, and Hawaii.

Captain James Cook
Photo in the public domain
The grocer's shop where Cook worked was unfortunately destroyed in a fierce storm, many years ago. It has however, been recreated in full, at the Captain Cook & Staithes Heritage Centre. The museum also contains all sorts of manuscripts, maps, coins, and other bits and pieces, which give an idea of what Captain Cook's adventures might have been like. Who knows, you might even develop an interest in sailing yourself - and then, who knows where you'll find yourself!
Visitor Information
The Captain Cook & Staithes Heritage Centre is open daily from 10am to 5pm (weekends only in January). Entry costs around £3 for adults, £1.50 children. High Street, Staithes TS13 5BQ. Tel: 01947 841 454

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