Day 19. Tues 24th Jan. Port Mulgrave to Saltburn-by-the-Sea.
That was probably the best sleep I'd had so far in the tent. A lovely peaceful night with no rain, no wind, it was 4C when i went to sleep and still 4C when I woke up... Dare I dream about the spring ?? We're not out of January yet so i might be getting a bit carried away... 😬 What a beautiful view when I climbed out of the tent, the sun just coming up over the cliffs basking the shoreline in light. My mate was back, up on the hill watching me as I packed up but if he did venture down after I had gone, he wouldn't have even known I'd been there. Leave nothing but footprints, take nothing but memories...
Staithes was a pretty little place, I'd never heard of it and entering via the coast path rather than by road made it all the more attractive. It was just a shame I was walking through before 9am, there was nothing open so I couldn't enjoy the place, sitting outside a cafe with a warm brew and a bacon butty... maybe next time, I'd arrive at a more sociable hour.
I stopped for lunch in the next cove, a little iron mining village called Skinningrove, not a lot happening now since the mining stopped and like all of these little coves, the fishing stopped a long time ago. I walked the length of the little village to get up to the cafe for some lunch and I could see it was once, not that long ago a vibrant little place.
The cafe/pub/campsite/cottages, the Kaskane was thriving though, in fact, the whole of Yorkshire and his mate was in there for lunch !!! I was grateful that the owner could see that I was wasting away and clearly starving so she squeezed me in.... 🥰
The climb out of the cove was a steep one. A chap coming down stopped for a chat but I was in serious need of an iron lung so the conversation was very much one way !!! He explained that the path I was struggling to drag my arse up was the highest point on the east coast, he could be right, my arse was working hard with my gob trying to suck in the oxygen so I already knew it was a high one. He also said that from the top, it was the most painted view on this coast, again, he could be right, it certainly was a stunning view from the top. Warsett Hill at 545 feet, I'll let you know if I find anything higher.
I've noticed as I have walked past villages and towns that is has become quite normal for benches and monuments to have become places of personal remembrance, many of the benches I walk past have been donated and have a plaque on them remembering a loved one. A nice way to remember someone special who perhaps loved to walk or enjoy that particular spot by the coast. I'm not sure about these places then becoming memorial sites for bunches of flowers and other items, surely this becomes litter when the flowers rot and the packaging then blows around but who am I to say, this token of remembrance for loved ones passed is clearly important for lots of people.
Nearing my destination in Saltburn, I could see the seaside town coming into view along the cliff and I approached a bench on the cliff edge. At first, it was just another bench, with flowers left on and around it until I looked closer. I dumped my kit and sat on the bench to take in what lay before me. The flowers, soft toys, packets of sweets and a pile of cash. It was all very recently placed and as I sat, I read the messages left attached to the tributes.
What I read tore me to pieces, left me sitting on the bench sobbing, completely exposed and shattered. The note from Liams mum, explaining how her world was broken, Liams girlfriend saying how she didn't know how to go on, his best mate that sat next to him on the bus every day to and from college, a friend from a few years ago thanking him for helping him out at Scouts when they were kids....
I didn't know Liam, or any of the of the people that had written those heartbreaking messages. God knows, I wish I had approached that bench last week when Liam might have been sitting there, alone, upset, confused, angry, so desperately unhappy, thinking about that dreadful thing he was about to do. Perhaps our conversation might have prevented him taking that next step.
I didn't know Liam, I didn't know what had caused him to be in that terrible place in his own mind, but I did understand what he was probably feeling. What he was probably thinking because it wasn't that long ago that was in that god forsaken place.
I sat there sobbing, for Liam and for his heartbroken mum, his girlfriend and his friends but also because I remembered, the only thing that prevented me from doing what Liam had done, just over two years ago, were the thoughts I had of my family. I couldn't bear the thought of my mum, my wife, my children and my grandchildren not loving me anymore, for causing them the endless, relentless pain and heartbreak that I would have, if I'd have taken my life. That was the only thing that stopped me, the thing that made me reach out for help, I could stop my suffering, the constant, exhausting misery, I could end that very quickly but if I did, I would be condemning the ones I loved more than anything in the world, to the rest of their lives under that cloud.
I feel so blessed that I got help, help from professionals that understood, that knew how to talk to me. I couldn't talk about my feelings, I didn't understand them, I couldn't even start to explain how I was feeling or why. Yes we need to talk, but I couldn't and I'm guessing that Liam couldn't either.
There are lots of organisations that offer professional support, the one that saved me was the Masonic Charitable Foundations Mental Health Support Programme. I will never be able to fully explain how grateful I am to them.
If you can, please make a donation using the link below to help to make sure that this vital support programme is there to help others and please, look around you, does someone you know need that little bit of encouragement to speak to a professional. 🥰