Runswick, East Yorkshire

PUBLISHED: 21:46 14 February 2010 | UPDATED: 15:18 20 February 2013

Runswick village

Runswick village

It is one of the finest bays on the East Coast. Penny Wainwright reports from Runswick. PHOTOGRAPHS BY MIKE KIPLING

The term 'picture postcard' is used to describe a lot of places that hardly merit the phrase, but around every corner of this pretty East Coast village and from the cliffs down which its cottages appear to have tumbled, there are any number of picturesque views.

'Runswick's charm,' according to Fiona Singleton, keeping one eye on her children playing on the beach and another on the sailing club where her husband Mick is currently commodore, 'is that there are no amusements, but the village has facilities.'

There's the beach that stretches round Runswick's curved bay, a caf, pubs, numerous holiday cottages and, of course, the sailing club. This blue-and-white wooden building, 'like something out of the Famous Five,' says Fiona, is currently being refurbished. 'Members travel up from Lincolnshire and South and East Yorkshire, but you don't have to sail,' she adds.

The club has recently reinstated its Commodore's Ball and summer events that raise money for charity; the season ends on Bonfire Night with a party on the beach.With a social programme like that, it's no wonder only a few members actually go sailing. Runswick holds a Quality Coast award and its sandy beach is a magnet for families.

'We also get walkers - we're on the Cleveland Way here - surfers and people looking for fossils,' says Fiona. You don't even have to look very hard to find them. Break open practically any of the easily split boulders on the beach and you are likely to find the coiled shape of an ammonite.

Conveniently near the shore is Sandside Caf, well stocked with beach paraphernalia and open for snacks and drinks every day between Easter and September. 'Mind you, Easter was so early this year,' said Anna Hargreaves, 'we had snow lashing against the windows!'

The caf has been a family business for 50 years. Anna, her brother Richard Cole and his wife Brenda have taken over the day-to-day running of the business from their father who, although now in his 80s, takes immaculate care of the gardens around the caf. So pristine does he keep their tractor and boat as well that you could just as easily eat your lunch off them as off the tables - not that many people do, of course.

Next to the caf is a rescue boat station but there is no mention of the RNLI. 'There was a lifeboat here until 1978,' explains Richard, 'but faster boats meant fewer of them were needed and we had to guarantee a crew of nine on a permanent basis. Ours is an inshore rescue boat, which isn't the same as an all-weather boat. It is used when people are unlucky enough to be trapped by the tide for instance, or when boats have broken down or dinghies blown out to sea.'

There's a neat stack of lobster pots behind the caf. Unlike the occasional anchor placed just for decoration around the village, the lobster pots are in regular use. One of the fishermen who launches his boat from Runswick is Johnnie Till. His craft is a traditional wooden 'double ender' going by the unromantic name 'JCL', but then Johnnie explains that it stands for 'Johnnie Come Lately'.

The lines of lobster pots are marked by flags in the bay. 'I've got 72 pots out there.We catch crabs and lobster in the summer, and in winter net cod and flatfish like brill, plaice and Dover sole,' he explained. 'Then they're sold at Staithes.' Johnnie thinks the best way to eat lobster is thermidor, while fellow fisherman Barry Smith prefers his with a Spanish sauce made with shallots, tomato puree and herbs, topped by gruyere cheese. The jury's still out on that one...

Once, this part of the coast earned its living from fishing, along with agriculture and alum mining. Today, its income is largely derived from the tourist industry and the vast majority of Runswick Bay cottages are holiday lets. It's a similar story in the hamlet of Ellerby, just inland from Runswick Bay, where attractive honeycoloured stone houses are mostly occupied by temporary visitors or retired folk.

The old schoolhouse, barns and granary are all now private houses edged by immaculate lawns. Paul Newsome and his wife moved here a couple of years ago from Sedgefield. 'When we retired, we looked for barn conversions but the ones we found weren't in particularly nice places. Here, it doesn't matter which way you go, it's three nice ways in and out of the village.'

There's no shop in Ellerby but Paul and his wife go to supermarkets in Guisborough or Whitby. And it's only a short stroll to the Ellerby Country Inn which serves food all day and has a delightful garden at the back. 'Our business relies on its regulars,' says owner Mark Alderson, 'and in the summer we have the extra holidaymakers.'

Many of these are from Leeds postcodes: 'We're ideally placed for short breaks,' says Mark, 'as it's a couple of hours' drive away.' Because there are few permanent residents, Ellerby gets together with nearby villages such as Danby, Lythe, Sandsend and Ugthorpe for its religious worship and community events.

Local housing needs and the future of Scarborough Hospital services are among issues aired at public meetings, and the village noticeboard advertises a renewable fuels service.It's hard to say how carbon neutral Ellerby is, but it has adapted to changing times and looks set to be sustainable it its own way.

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