Dave Barlow © Cleveland Naturalists’ Field Club. 3rd October 2018
As the popularity of the area increased there was a demand for leisure areas. The Skelton Beck valley running inland from the beach towards Skelton was the obvious choice and this was cleared and paths laid down. Grassy areas were left for picnicking sites. A special Italian Gardens area was established and a bandstand was built. Tests on a local spring established that the water was comparable to that of Harrogate so a stone fountain with metal drinking cups was erected.
The gardens were very popular but a toll was charged to use these so it was chiefly the visitors that benefited from this scheme. In order to provide a free park for all the local people, in 1896 at a local Saltburn Council Meeting it was decided that Hazel Grove should be acquired and turned into a public park. As a result of this, Lord Zetland, the owner, kindly presented 8 acres of land at Hazel Grove for the project. Unfortunately the cost of establishing the park was estimated at two thousand pounds. This gave rise to disputes within the council and it was 1904 before paths were laid and the undergrowth cleared. At the entrance to the park a bandstand was built and this can be seen in old photographs.
Over past years the valley became rather neglected. The bandstand disappeared, the paths were in disrepair, the beck polluted. The ravine runs parallel to the coast and is separated from it by fields which are part of Windy Hill Farm. On the inland side of the ravine are allotments and a caravan site. Although this wooded area is close to the sea front at Saltburn and the centre of the town it remains very much a hidden valley used mainly by the local residents and the people using the caravan site.
In recent years serious attempts have been made to repair the footpaths, prevent tipping of rubbish from the allotment areas and clean out the beck. Steps are now being taken to raise sufficient money to restore the original Victorian footpath to Hazel Grove, which in recent years has become neglected and overgrown. In 1995-6 the banks near the end of the promenade at Hazel Grove were considerably disturbed owing to the laying of pipes for a new sewerage scheme. This destroyed some of the coastal vegetation but when the scheme was completed the area was reseeded and steps were taken to prevent erosion of the banks that had been disturbed.
Apart from the footpath from Marine Parade and the promenade, access to the woods can be gained from the caravan site and from the Parkway off Marske Road where there is a tunnel that passes under the railway line. Cutting across the far end of the wood is a footpath and cycleway. There is also a footpath from the Marske – Saltburn Rd. which crosses the railway line and joins this. The horses from the local stables often use this but there is no bridle path down the valley.
Prior to the C19th century the growth of hazel for coppicing was extremely important. The hazel rods had many uses. They were woven into hurdles to fence in pigs, cattle and sheep. The trees also produced the wattle for wattle and daub buildings. The brushwood was bundled into faggots that were used to fire bread ovens etc. In this area many were woven into ‘corves’ or baskets which were used in the Durham pits. It is possible that hazel in this valley was put to some of these uses. Today the predominant trees are Sycamores, Scots Pines, Corsican Pines and a few Ash trees. New species have been introduced in recent years alongside the path from Marine Drive. These include Whitebeams, Norway Spruce and a few Oak trees.
In the valley the understorey is dominated by Bramble, Hawthorn, Dog Rose and Elder. Interspersed with these are a number of Gooseberry and Red Currant bushes. The last two mentioned have probably been introduced by birds from fruit collected in the nearby allotments.
The Sycamore trees form a very dense canopy. The water draining down this valley from the surrounding hillsides also creates a rather damp atmosphere in the woods. This has given rise to a very rich fern flora. This is one of the best sites in this area for Hart’s Tongue Fern. The plant lists also show there is quite a rich ground flora although this is restricted to a certain extent by the dense canopy formed by the Sycamore trees.
The top of the valley near the allotments and railway line opens out into an area of scrubland dominated by Hawthorn, Gorse and Dog Rose.
The Flora of Hazel Grove, Saltburn by the Sea
Hazel Grove is a small narrow wooded ravine lying to the north of Saltburn GR. NZ655215. There is a beck running through the ravine known as Pit Hills Skell. Water drains into this from an area known as Pit Hills near Marske End Farm. Since the Middles Ages ironstone was mined here from the surrounding hills but it was not until 1851 that the true importance of the ironestone seams was discovered and the ironstone mining industry became established.
As a result of all this industry large numbers of people moved into the area. Some came to work here but many were wealthy people who were willing to invest their money here. Henry Pease, one of the local ironmasters, realised the potential of the area and as a result of this the town of Saltburn was built on the cliff tops. This was a spa town with a few large hotels to cater for the wealthy and a network of boarding houses for the workers who could afford a holiday. The bringing of the railway to Saltburn established its success.
Arctium minus ssp. nemorosum
Carduus crispus ssp. Multiflorus
Cragaegus monogyna ssp. nordica
Crocosmia x crocosmiiflora
Heracleum sphondylium ssp. sphon.
Hordeum murinum ssp. murinum
Lapsana communis ssp. communis
Pinus nigra ssp. laricio
Quercus x rosacea
Ranunculus ficaria ssp. bulbilifer
Ranunculus ficaria ssp. ficaria
Rubus fruticosus agg.
Sanguisorba minor ssp. minor
Sorbus aria agg.
Taraxacum officinale agg.
Veronica hederifolia ssp. lucorum
Vicia sativa ssp. segetalis
Opposite-lvd. Golden Saxifrage
Common Bird’s-foot Trefoil