A fishing boat slips quietly back into harbour after a day at sea, the rooftops in the background bathed in the watery sunlight of a winter’s afternoon.
This will be a familiar sight to those of you that know Whitby and it’s one that won’t have changed all that much through the generations. Flanked by the wilds of the North York Moors in one direction and the tempestuous North Sea in the other, Whitby is a place like no other.
Straddling the mouth of the River Esk its steep slopes are a living history book, a patchwork quilt of fisherman’s cottages, storied Georgian town houses, cobbled streets and nooks and crannies that wouldn’t look out of place in a Harry Potter novel.
As a harbour town Whitby’s history has been shaped not so much by the land as the sea which residents were reminded of recently when tidal surges battered the seafront and harbour.
It is a history rich in shipbuilding, fishing and exploration and one that’s immersed in tales of heroic sea rescues as well as tragedies. At one time Whitby was the sixth largest port in Britain and for well over half a century up to the mid-1830s it was the capital of the country’s whaling industry.
Fishing is not only a large part of Whitby’s heritage it remains a key component of the seaside town’s economy, even though today you’re perhaps as likely to see a pleasure boat chugging out of the harbour as you are a fishing vessel.
But rather than being usurped by tourism the local fishing industry has embraced the opportunities it has brought. Fishing from the harbour walls and nearby beaches is hugely popular and so, too, are the chartered boat trips and the chance to spend a few hours angling out at sea.
Whitby has retained its unique character which is why so many people flock here year after year. As well as its seafaring heritage, the town has dramatic views and is also home to the best fish and chips – though I’ll leave it to you to decide where it is I’m talking about.
Technical details: Fujifilm X-T1 camera with a 16mm lens and an exposure of 1/200th sec @ f8. ISO200.