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We’d spent six action-packed hours with Sean and his family, and it had truly been an education. Sean had made us look at the area in a different way – we could have walked across the beach and past the cliffs without his expert guidance and neither seen nor understood the treasures the landscape had to offer. For anyone interested in the fishing and mining heritage of Staithes itself, or in exploring the natural wonders of the shore with experienced and passionate guides, Real Staithes is ideal. Sean and his family brought the area to life, and as we staggered back up to the carpark, our pockets full of beach treasure, we were already planning our return.

Real Staithes offer day and residential courses throughout the year. Upcoming dates for day courses include 28th February, and 2nd, 17th and 30th March, while the first residential course of the year is planned for 26th-29th April. Day courses cost £50 per person, which includes lunch (minimum course size is four people, maximum is ten, and the minimum age for the course is 12). Residential courses cost £245 per person for a three-night course (including accommodation in a Grade II listed fisherman’s cottage, group size limited to eight people).

Real Staithes, White House, Church Street, Staithes, North Yorkshire TS13 5DB 01947 840278 www.realstaithes.com

Unfortunately, so did the pieces of Victorian shoe leather that turn up frequently on the foreshore. ‘If it bends,’ Sean grinned, ‘It’s not jet!’

Several pieces of jet (and rather more coal) later, Sean encouraged us to press on to avoid being cut off by the tide. We rounded the headland and headed for the cliff face to look for more fossils. Sean pointed out rounded lumps of stone. ‘Those nodules are what you want to look out for,’ he explained, pouncing on one released by a recent rockfall. He borrowed a hammer from Luke, and tapped the edge sharply. It split into two halves, revealing a perfect ammonite. ‘You’re the first person to see that for millions of years.’ The whole area is renowned for its wide range of well-preserved fossils, from dinosaur to marine remains, and in this part of the cliff, close to Port Mulgrave, the remains of scallops and mussels combine with pyrite or Fool’s Gold to create incredible golden fossils.

‘Sean scooped up several glistening black lumps from a rockpool. Could they be the famous jet, we wondered? No, they were sea slugs!’

Port Mulgrave was once a port where the locally mined ironstone was shipped. The harbour is no more, but the cove is full of fishermen’s huts, and a delicious smell was wafting from one of them. We followed our noses to find that Tricia had produced a seafood feast: lobster claws, creamy seafood chowder and crusty bread, potted salmon and potted lobster roe jostled for space beside homemade kelp crisps and winkles. An iron kettle boiled merrily over the campfire, and we sat and soaked up some unexpected sun. Some time later, after probably the best picnic lunch ever, we nibbled slices of homemade cake and contemplated the hike back up the cliff. At the top we waved Denise and George off as they started their journey home, while we walked back along part of the Cleveland Way, admiring the view from the clifftop as we dropped down into Staithes again.

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