14 Oct 2015

Runswick Bay one of Britain's 'best winter beaches'

according to the Daily Telegraph. Our very own Kettleness headlines the piece. You can tell the writer has never actually visited or she would have issued dire warning about how relatively inaccessible it is. You either have to climb down the crumbling cliffs on one of two ropes that have been secured by someone who is not you and doesn't care if you fall, or walk from Runswick. It's quite a hike, the last bit of the walk involves some pretty hard rock-scrambling and you have to beware the tides. This is a very easy place to get cut off by a fast-rising tide and Kettleness headland is very exposed. Get stuck there and it's a job for either Runswick Bay Rescue Boat (a splendid local charity, go and donate), Staithes and Runswick RNLI or the Coastguard rescue helicopter.

Ms. Krestovnikov (mentioned in the Telegraph's piece) paddled from Runswick to Kettleness as part of her Coast programme, because despite what various writers in the national media have said, most of the easily accessible bits of Runswick Bay beach actually aren't very good for beach combing.  Look at the sandy beach below, as published in today's Telegraph: smooth and clean as a whistle. You might find the occasional very worn fossil oyster (Gryphaea), a crescent of a smashed-up ammonite, worn sea glass or blue furnace slag. Kettleness is a good site for ammonites and larger fossils; the Natural History Museum's plesiosaur (Rhomaleosaurus cramptoni) was found at Kettleness in the 19th century.

I've been walking this beach for 25 years now, writing about it for eight and I know where things are and aren't found; the crumbly cliffs between Runswick and Kettleness are mostly barren of fossils and those you do find are heavily flattened, highly mineralised and so fragile as not to be worth collecting.

The rocky siderite flats before Kettleness are so hard that it is almost impossible to get any of the numerous belemnites out without shattering them although there are some very beautiful things to be seen (and, in my opinion left intact) like this:

The flotsam you will find on the strand line is mostly rubbish. The best place for rockpooling is in the seaweedy rocks below the thatched white house at the far end of the village here:

Your best hope of a fossil for the inexperienced collector is at the foot of the cliffs beyond there but beware; seaweed covered rocks are very slippery and the cliff is constantly crumbling and dropping stones quite capable of making you as extinct as the fossils you want to find. Here's a quick summery of the main fossil finds:

Runswick is a wonderful place, I have spent half my life on its beach and hope to spend the rest of my life studying it. But it's not as great for casual beachcombing as journalists who obviously have never visited the place would have you believe.

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