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There are lovely views over Robin Hood's Bay as you walk down from Ravenscar to the old Peak Alum Works.

Presumably they are still there on the steep climb back up again, but I was too busy trying to catch my breath to notice.

After parking on the roadside in Raven Hall Road, it is worth popping into the National Trust's Visitor Centre to pick up a copy of Simon Rhodes useful Ravenscar - The Town That Never Was leaflet, before following the way-marked route to the Alum Works.

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Retracing your steps, it is possible to divert via the site of the old brickworks. There is not much to see there, but the walk back along the old railway line adds a bit of variety.

The Works


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The National Trust in association with Heron Recreations have produced a set of display boards for the site that do an excellent job of explaining what would otherwise be a jumble of old walls.

Up until the mid 19th century, alum (potassium aluminium sulphate) was vital to the dyeing industry as it helped fix the dyes and prevent them from washing out.

However, back in the sixteenth century as a result of Henry VIII's break with Rome, English cloth makers could no longer get hold of supplies of alum, as the Vatican had a monopoly on the trade.

Our whole textile industry went into decline until, in 1650, one Thomas Challoner worked out a highly complex way to extract alum from rocks quarried from the hillside above these works. Production continued in this site for over 200 years, the works closing in 1860.

It seems sad that such a hive of activity, employing up to 150 men at its height, can almost disappear in so short a time, leaving only a few walls as testimony to what was the Birthplace of the British Chemical Industry.

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There is plenty else to explore in the area, not least the failed seaside resort of Ravenscar.

Laid out in the late 1890s, the roads, gardens and house plots can still be traced. Unfortunately for the developers they had overlooked the fact the people like their seaside resorts to be beside the sea, not on top of a 400ft cliff exposed to the biting north east winds.

As I said much to explore but, after the long haul up from the alum works, on top of a morning wandering around nearby Robin Hood's Bay, no legs with which to do the exploring. One to go back to.

That said, photographing something that doesn't exist has its challenges.