Posted 25th Feb 2016
Nestled in the North York Moors National Park, Port Mulgrave is a hive of activity thanks to duo Sean and Tricia who have made the once bustling port into a fossil hunting and crafting haven
One step at a time, down the winding steep pathway of the cliffside, each step as uneven as the next and some slightly obscured by the overgrown greenery around it, make your way down to Port Mulgrave in Staithes. A tricky task, however the rewards at the end are enchanting as it is a treasure trove of undiscovered fossils, forgotten views and fascinating people.
As you reach the now disused port in this picturesque fishing village, a handful of colourful and rustic huts sit to the left, while several small boats lay nearby. The tempting aroma of fish cooking on a makeshift stove fills the air, intensifying the closer to the huts you get. Catching sight of the smiling faces that await, spot the table laden with homemade cakes, local fish, bread and a plump lobster. The stove boasts a pot of bubbling fish chowder and a large black teapot filled to the brim with boiling water ready to make a strong brew to warm up as the bitter winds whirl around the port.
The welcoming faces belong to Sean and Tricia, owners of Real Staithes and resident Port Mulgrave adventurers, who will guide you through the Jurassic Coast of the North York Moors National Park.
Sean, who is originally from Teesside, started charter angling at Staithes when his family moved to the village when he was a child. At the age of 14 he began fishing with a local fisherman, working with him for two years before acquiring his own boat. For 10 years Sean worked as a fishing consultant, before setting up shop on the shores of Staithes and putting his knowledge to good use helping visitors to fossil hunt along the coast, uncovering fossils that are 156 million years old.
Scouring the foreshore and the cliffs surrounding his cosy coastal haven, Sean's keen eye picks up the smallest of treasures including the sometimes elusive jet – small pieces of fossilised resin of the monkey puzzle tree that over millions of years have turned black – found predominantly in Whitby and Saltwick Bay. Uncovering ammonites, the most popular fossil found along the shores of Port Mulgrave, Sean's experiences over the years has helped him to find the best spots to pick up fossils, whether they are hidden in the cliffs or have fallen to the foreshore and are waiting to be uncovered with a hammer.
Back at the hut, Tricia's captivating tales of ancient days and how paint came to be will have you gripped, and her passion and interest in the wonders of colour shine through. Tricia talks in depth about the history of paint, how the colour indigo was produced using the wode plant, and how iron ore was one of the first paint pigments – iron ore is rife in Port Mulgrave as the port was originally used to collect ironstone. Taking her foraged pigments and grinding them with a pestle and mortar, Tricia uses binding materials to bring to life a crude paint, all distinctive natural colours that are representative of the striking scenery of the port.
Stemming from her love of colour, Tricia's ancient paint palette workshop takes you back to a prehistoric time when paint wasn't as readily available as it today. Having explained the history of the materials, Tricia invites you to collect the raw ochre pigments to make your own paints, and driftwood to create your own charcoal. She then shows you just how easy it is to turn your typical store bought palette into a prehistoric paint palette, bringing your watercolour masterpieces to life with earthy handmade paints.
After tucking into a delicious homemade mug of hearty fish chowder, and not to mention a slice or three of Tricia's lemon cake, you can admire the stunning surroundings of Port Mulgrave, whose history is as captivating as your hosts.
Sean and Tricia offer coastal craft, ancient paint, mackerel catching and wildlife trips on their boat trips from Port Mulgrave, for more information about their workshops visit www.realstaithes.com and spend a day uncovering the history of the Jurassic coastline.
By Lauren Morton