Robin Hood’s Bay

4.45 p.m., Friday, 5th October.

We had a couple of nights at the Raven Hall Hotel, Ravenscar, earlier this month. This is the view through the fanlight window of our third floor room, room 303, which is the one up in the pediment of the Georgian facade, looking out across Robin Hood’s Bay.

Grey Seals

4 p.m., Wednesday, 4th October: From the ramparts of the cliff-top gardens of the hotel, we had some difficulty spotting the seals below because, from six hundred feet above the grey sea, it was the similar-looking bobbing knots of seaweed and diving sea-birds that caught our eyes.

But we did see one grey seal which appeared to be relaxing, floating on its back, while another seal bobbed up its head nearby . . . or was that another knot of seaweed?

At the time that it was built, at the beginning of the nineteenth century, Raven Hall overlooked a scene of industry; we looked down over the hotel’s golf course to the preserved ruins of an Alum Works that stood on the cliff top.

Bay Ness

5 p.m., Wednesday, 4th October: The promontory of Bay Ness, beyond Robin Hood’s Bay village, vanished as the mist rolled down the slope and out across the headland.

Next day, in complete contrast, we sat out in the sun at Swell’s Café in Robin Hood’s Bay village. As I drew the cliffs of Ness Point, the tide came in surprisingly quickly, covering the black rocks that I’d been drawing before I could add a watercolour wash. Six or seven holidaymakers and dog-walkers were caught out and had to pick their way over the sea defence boulders to get back to the village from the cut-off bay.

Hackness Valley

The sides of the Hackness Valley, which I drew from the Everley Country House Café, are topped with conifer plantations, with broadleaved hedgerows and sheep pasture on the slopes below. The flat valley floor is given over the arable farming.

The land use corresponds to the underlying rock: the conifers are planted on poor soils on the steep upper slopes of Jurassic gritstone while the gentler lower slopes and the flat valley floor have been cut into the underlying Oxford Clay.


Raven Hall Country House Hotel

Swell Café Bar, Gift Shop, Robin Hood’s Bay

Everley Country House Café

Devil’s Toenail

I can never resist picking up a Devil’s Toenail when I spot one on the beach and, although this one is more worn than others I’ve found, I decided to draw it and, in the process, have a change from my usual pen and watercolour approach. For the initial pencil drawing I used a Uniball Shalaku mechanical pencil with a 0.5 mm lead. No pencil sharpener required, just a touch on the side lever to advance the lead.

The Devil’s Toenail is a species of fossil oyster, Gryphea, a bivalve mollusc. Usually, as here, it is only the lower (anatomically the left) valve that is found. The smaller right valve was hinged to it like a lid.

Fossils of the Whitby Coast

I’ve got several field guides to fossils at home but I was still tempted by Fossils of the Whitby Coast, a photographic guide, by Dean R. Lomax because it’s so specific to this particular stretch of Jurassic coastline.

It includes more that two hundred photographs and illustrations, photography by Benjamin Hyde and illustrations by Nobumichi Tamura.

In most cases, colour isn’t necessary for the identification of a fossil, but it’s useful way to get familiar with the physical appearance of the odd fossil that you might spot amongst all those pebbles and shells on the beach.

Tamura’s illustrations intrigue me: the majority appear to be the digital equivalent of a watercolour illustration but a number have been created using a 3D modelling computer program.

Lomax and Tamura went on to produce Dinosaurs of the British Isles, hailed as ‘the single best reference on British dinosaurs that has ever been produced’.


Fossils of the Whitby Coast by Dean R Lomax, published by the Siri Scientific Press

Dean Lomax, palaeontologist