Follow Gristhorpe Man

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by Maureen Robinson

Walk in the steps of the Gristhorpe Man when you enjoy this short, easy route following the Cleveland Way or country lanes.

Who was the Gristhorpe Man? Well, for over 175 years his dark brown skeleton has resided within Scarborough’s Rotunda Museum. He has even been featured on BBC2 in Michael Portillo’s Great British Railway Journeys! The remains of Gristhorpe Man were found on Thursday July 10, 1834 on land owned by William Beswick at Gristhorpe.

This Bronze Age warrior chieftain was buried in an oak coffin in a burial mound or 
tumulus on the cliff. The water-retaining clay of Gristhorpe cliff is believed to have helped preserve him. We have recently located his tumulus seen on the map, on land now occupied by The Blue Dolphin Holiday Park.

Access. Take the A165 Scarborough to Filey Road as far as the petrol station near Lebberston roundabout. I suggest parking, adjacent to the Plough Inn on Redcliffe Lane, which continues from Stonepit Lane.

Start. Proceed along Redcliffe Lane in a north westerly direction towards Redcliffe Farm. Keep to the right hand side on the grassed verge.

You shortly reach a road turning off right between hedging. Follow this farm road with fields either side. Redcliffe Farm is to the left as you gently rise to High Dale Cottage. Go forward to an arrowed gatepost and turn left on a public footpath alongside a cornfield. Then go right down the side of this field with post and wire fencing.

At the corner of the field, climb over the wire barrier to discover descending steps 
beyond. Continue down the narrow footpath of the Cleveland Way towards the sea.

Halt to admire views – splendid at low tide. Ahead is a series of headlands towards Filey Brigg further south. Turn back and view the sheer majesty of Red Cliff, with Cayton Bay beyond, and Scarborough Castle proudly silhouetted on the headland. Keeping to the cliff-top path, beware of dangerous, eroding cliffs, and ignore any path deviations. Listen for calls of curlew and oystercatchers and seek seals on exposed rocks on the beach.

There follows a short, gentle ascent up Mel Casty Hill towards holiday chalets etc, and then the path skirts the edge of a caravan site. Follow the access road towards the south of the caravan site and turn right along a tarmac road which heads in the direction of Gristhorpe. Go down the road, and The Blue Dolphin camp and reception are to the right. Turn left, and first right to descend past Cliff House Farm and onwards, to join the old Bridlington to Scarborough road. This road, running more or less parallel with the A165, provides more peaceful walking than the main road! Turn right here, heading due west, along what becomes Stonepit Lane.

You’ll pass entrance drives eventually to Crow’s Nest Caravan Park, and The Flower of May, before reaching the petrol station, and your departure point near The Plough Inn.

If you wish to extend your route, explore the local village of Lebberston and Gristhorpe, just south of the A165. There’s the Ox Inn at Lebberston, and The Bull Inn, Gristhorpe, which is a country inn with a restaurant and beer garden.

Refreshment. Near at hand there’s The Plough Inn with food served daily Monday to Saturday, and a carvery on Sunday. The Fun Farm has a new interactive playzone for toddlers too. Close by is Redcliffe Farm Shop offering afternoon tea or breakfast, Sunday lunch, proper chips and a play area. With The Ox Inn at Lebberston and The Bull Inn at Gristhorpe, you have plenty of choice.

Distance of arrowed route: 3 miles, allow 1½ hours leisurely walking.

Gristhorpe Man. His bones were blackened by a reaction of the iron in the water with the tannin in the bark of the coffin. The bones were placed in a laundry copper and simmered in a thin solution of glue made from horse bones. They were then air dried for several days.

Radio carbon dating of the 1980s places the coffin between 1600 and 1400 BC.

The Bradford team deduced Gristhorpe Man was of a high status. His height of six feet suggested a tribal chieftain. He also had an almost complete set of good teeth. Isotopic analysis of a tooth indicated he was likely to have originated from Scarborough and ate a lot of meat! Researchers found he had a brain tumour growing on the left side of his skull. It may have caused him to suddenly collapse.

There were many artefacts. Fragments of a skin cloak, bronze dagger, a bark vessel, flint tools, hair from the hide, and a wicker basket containing food residue were recorded. He seems to have been of advanced age, and to have died from natural causes.

Do pay a visit to Scarborough’s Rotunda Museum to see this remarkable discovery.