End of the Pier: Promenaders outnumber the mackerel: Seaweed and grey skies await the visitor to Saltburn-by-the-Sea. Martin Wroe reports

A MAN'S face breaks into a childish expression of delight. His body tightens and he reels in a vigorously reluctant mackerel, flashing silver through the water below. Children surround him as he bashes the mackerel's head on the wooden pier floor. He pops it proudly in his Tesco's bag.

'Must be a loner,' rationalises a disgruntled colleague who has not caught a thing in hours off the end of Saltburn pier. 'I reckon they all commit suicide up at Redcar.'

Up the coast at Redcar, by all accounts, the fishermen pull in 30 or 40 mackerel in a session. According to a sign on the seafront of Saltburn-by-the-Sea, there may well be something strange about the water during the holiday months anyway: 'Mussels and cockles taken from this beach between 1 April and 31 August may be contaminated and should not be eaten.' Presumably the mussels and cockles clean up their act at the beginning of September every year. Despite the bleak prospects, optimists lean over the pier rail, lines cast out to be reeled back in, minutes later, weighed down with the false promise of a clump of dripping seaweed.

The pier's end at Saltburn is modest - two benches and a wide-screen sea view. To the east, the headland, Hunts Cliff, juts out fiercely. In olden times, the pier was twice as long and matched it foot for foot.

'When I was younger,' the woman in the gift shop said, 'boats used to dock at the end and, if you took a walk along the pier, you really went for a walk.'

To the west, the horizon offers the more depressing prospect of that place whence some of today's promenaders have escaped - the towers, cranes and grey industrial shapes of the British Steel works. The fishermen and promenaders have descended from ground-level and the pretty town of Saltburn, to sea-level and the mackerel, using the cliff tramway. There is a leaflet all about 'Saltburn's Inclined Tramway', constructed in July 1870 and carrying 70,000 passengers every year. There is no leaflet about the pier, built 14 months before, when Saltburn was 'a small 16-house hamlet situated upon the sea and under a mountain with quaint villagers engaged in fishing and seal catching but mainly smuggling.'

The pier has no claim to architectural or historical merit. David Bateman, the cashier in the amusement arcade built on the shore-end, acts as unofficial historian but has not managed to get his leaflet printed yet: 'It's the only pier we have on the north-east coast. There used to be two in Redcar but they were demolished donkey's years ago.'

Mr Bateman had to shut the arcade for 10 weeks in the spring after twice being ram- raided. But it is not just the young who run out of ideas on Saltburn Pier. So do the old.

'One old boy walked through here recently and then jumped off the end to his death,' said Mr Bateman. 'I've often seen people doing that down the years. I've seen a few cars go over Hunts Cliff too. I live at the top so I can see everything.'

Today, in the middle of August, the sun has not got his hat on and is obviously not coming out to play. The arcade is bustling but the pier-head is also busy. There is always someone out on the pier, Mr Bateman said, even during a stormy high tide when you can feel it moving.

'People still walk out to the end, they must be mad.'

(Photograph omitted)

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
Steve Shaw shows Kate how to get wet behind the ears and how to align her neck
healthSteven Shaw - the 'Buddha of Breaststroke' - applies Alexander Technique to the watery sport
Arts and Entertainment
The sight of a bucking bronco in the shape of a pink penis was too much for Hollywood actor and gay rights supporter Martin Sheen, prompting him to boycott a scene in the TV series Grace and Frankie
footballShirt then goes on sale on Gumtree
Terry Sue-Patt as Benny in the BBC children’s soap ‘Grange Hill’
voicesGrace Dent on Grange Hill and Terry Sue-Patt
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010
Arts and Entertainment
Twin Peaks stars Joan Chen, Michael Ontkean, Kyle Maclachlan and Piper Laurie
tvName confirmed for third series
Cameron Jerome
footballCanaries beat Boro to gain promotion to the Premier League
Arts and Entertainment
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine