Explore the north side

Explore the north side

OUR PARKS and gardens walk this week, returns to Scarborough's North Bay area. Naturally it has to be Northstead Manor Park.

The great news this summer is the re-opening of Scarborough's Open Air Theatre!

The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh opened the 3.5m restored Open Air Theatre on Thursday May 20 2010. The glorious event was attended by more than 6,000 people. It's part of the 150 million Sands Development. Following demolition of the old Corner Cafe - replaced by 100 apartments and retail units and bars, other changes have been made.

A total of 500,000 was spent transforming the Miniature Railway's old station buildings into the Glass House Cafe and Bistro. The railway runs from Northstead Manor Gardens to Scalby Mills - home of the Sea Life Centre and Marine Sanctuary. All these centres of interest feature in this superb walk, and much, much more. First, let's take a glance back to this area's history.

The Manor of Northstead

The ancient boundary of the Borough of Scarborough on the northern side, was Peasholm Beck. Immediately beyond that was the Manor of Northstead, although modern boundary extensions have brought it entirely within the town boundary. The site of what may have been the manor house is now covered by the lake in Peasholm Park, one of Scarborough's most attractive gardens. We'll start from there.

Start from the foot of Victoria Park near the road junction, shops and cafes. A sign ‘Welcome to Peasholm Park,' guides you between ticket offices towards Peasholm Lake's jetty and the Buttercup Kiosk. Between the jetty and Buttercup Kiosk is a small ‘island' - planting of bushes etc. Here is a plaque, reading:- ‘The Manor of Northstead, held by Richard III Lord of Scarborough, stood on this site,' etc.

Proceed with the lake to your left, past the kiosk, to the northerly end of the lake. Here leave Peasholm by turning right on to the roadside near traffic lights. Cross in safety to a bold sign: ‘Welcome to Scarborough's Open Air Theatre.'

Ascending the broad walkway, keep to the left, to North Bay Railway and Peasholm Park Station. Opposite is the Glass House Cafe and Bistro, both very popular with visitors.

Going back in time, 1928 saw the development of North Bay Pleasure Gardens as the complex was first named, and by 1929 a cafe selling refreshments too. A section of the lake was allocated for children's paddle boats and rowing boats, and another for a water chute.

The Open Air Theatre you see before you has undergone a change as you'll appreciate. Walk at the side of the lake, overlooked by the smart, elevated auditorium, with toilets and shops etc close by.

The original Open Air Theatre was opened on July 28 1932 by the Lord Mayor of London, who, on the same night attended the first performance of Merrie England. The orchestra played on the floating raft in front of the island stage. Seating for 5,000 was erected, and this later increased to 7,000. The final stage of the development of Northstead Manor Gardens came in 1935 with the complete transformation of the neglected area into an elaborate layout of gardens and classical style shelters.

Keep to the broad walkway which accompanies the Miniature Railway to the left. Very shortly the ‘pyramids' of the Sea Life Centre feature ahead. Reaching the sea-front, turn left to follow the North Bay Promenade but only as far as a concealed turning left as signed: North Bay Railway Ramp Access. Leaving the promenade before the Sea Life Centre, don't miss this impressive ascent. Zig-zag your way by rocks and rails punctuated by seating, to access Scalby Mills Station with its ticket office and platform.

Why not await the next train back to the Glass House Bistro and Cafe if you've never had the experience of this most popular scenic route? It's very historic. Preparations for the laying of the miniature railway's track were in hand as soon as the lake was completed.

The line is almost a mile in length (7/8 ml to be precise). All the normal features of a railway, ie tunnel, bridge, signals, station and gradient boards were made to scale. It was opened on May 23 1931 by the Mayor of Scarborough, Alderman JW Butler, who also drove the first train.

Leaving the stone-built ticket office, descend the black-railed steps into the car park and keep alongside bushes to your left. Head for the white, red-roofed Old Scalby Mills for refreshment beside Scalby Beck unless you wish to spend a couple of hours at the Sea Life Centre. Then cut across into Scalby Mills Road to begin the return route. Seats on the grass verge present glorious views of Scalby Mills, and southwards to the Castle headland and Oliver's Mount.

Reaching white properties to the right, walk only as far as a row of individually-designed homes and turn left along a well-defined path between lawns and rose-bed etc. Follow this path to the far end, passing the North Cliff Golf Club. This was formed in 1910 and then extended in 1912 by another three holes to the course, covering the site that was to become the North Bay Pleasure Gardens.

The golf course was part of a 27 acre site known as Hodgson's Slack which the Corporation bought from the Duchy of Lancaster in 1921. The North Cliff Golf Club moved to its present site in 1928 - the year which saw the development of Northstead Manor Park as we now call it.

Leaving the golf course, descend a few steps, and a rustic fence leads to a level crossing via gates. Crossing the miniature railway line descend to a flag pole, and keeping dis-used chair-lift cables to your left, return to the fine walkway returning you to our grand Open Air Theatre with its facilities. What a great way to spend a full day in Scarborough's North Bay with its many attractions!

Refreshment: Buttercup Kiosk (starting point in Peasholm Park)

The Glass House Cafe and Bistro (opposite mini railway station)

Open Air Theatre Complex and Old Scalby Mills Hotel (beside Scalby Beck).

ABOVE ... Visit the historic and popular Miniature Railway on your walk, and maybe even take a journey on the train. 081884f