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Sunday, 26 February 2012

Walk 59 Filey to Scarborough

Walk 59 Filey to Scarborough (Yorks)

(First leg of English coastal walk – Broadstairs in Kent to Berwick at the border with Scotland).

Map: L/R 101
Distance: about 10 miles
Difficulty: Moderate. Energetic cliff walking.
Terrain: mainly cliff paths, some pavements
Access: parking at both ends
Public transport: good train and bus services at both ends

Re-join the coastal path at Filey. The path continues to Filey Brigg to the north of the town. This finger of gritstone projects one mile into the sea and protects the beaches at Filey. According to local legend it was the beginning of a bridge that the devil planned to build so that Yorkshire could be joined to Europe. A Roman signal station once stood near here to help keep out the Picts coming down from Scotland.

On the land near Filey Brigg is a white jagged pole. It is a copy erected by a local community group in 2001 and commemorates the many similar ‘rocket poles’ which were once placed along the Yorkshire coast. These were used to simulate rescues from stricken cargo ships. The Filey Volunteer Life Saving Rocket Company was formed in 1872 and they practised techniques such as firing a rescue line from the pole. They practised this until 1964 – it is not clear to me whether their skills were ever used for a rescue.

The path passes some interesting collections of rocks before Cayton Bay. The cliff formations here are dramatic but care needs to be taken on the sands as there is a risk of getting stranded. The walk continues along to the South Bay of Scarborough, England’s first holiday resort. The most striking landmark is The Grand Hotel, a Grade 2 listed building. It was built in 1867 and is in the shape of a ‘V’ in honour of Queen Victoria. The hotel represents the calendar year: the four corner towers represent the four seasons, the twelve floors the months, fifty two chimneys the weeks and three hundred and sixty five rooms the days. If you get a chance, pop into the entrance to look at the impressive staircase. A plaque on the side of the building marks the death here of Anne Bronte in 1849. There is also a memorial stone in the churchyard near the castle. It was for medicinal reasons that the town originally expanded. The properties of the spa here were expounded as early as the 1620s when water from a local stream was described ‘as a most sovereign remedy against melancholy and windiness’.

The area around south bay has the feel of a typical British seaside resort including a ‘fair’ type amusement park. Cafes, fish and chip shops abound including one with the interesting name of Winking Willy’s. The harbour is worth a stroll around. Marine Drive sweeps from the south bay to the North Bay. It was a venue for many events when it was built in 1908.

The Norman castle which has dominated the town for more than 800 years stands on the headland between the north and south bays. Although it has been besieged six times the castle has never been taken by military force. The worst damage was caused by the Roundheads in the English Civil War and by German bombing in World War 1.

Photos show: Scarborough Castle, Scarborough South Bay including The Grand Hotel, Filey Brigg and a feature in the clifftop gardens at Filey.

Monday, 13 February 2012

Walk 58 Flamborough Head to Filey (Yorkshire)

Walk 58 Flamborough Head to Filey (Yorks)

(First leg of English coastal walk – Broadstairs in Kent to Berwick at the border with Scotland).

Map: L/R 101
Distance: about 11 miles
Difficulty: Moderate. Energetic cliff walking.
Terrain: paths and pavements with the option of walking on the sand.
Access: parking at both ends
Public transport: 510 from the village of Flamborough (a couple of miles extra walking from the Head) bus and train service in Filey. Parts of this walk may need diversions as the cliffs are eroding and access may be restricted.

Start from the finishing point last time at Flamborough Head. There are two lighthouses on the head. The oldest one, made of chalk, was built in 1673 and is the oldest surviving light tower in England. It is thought by many to have been a lookout tower rather than a lighthouse. The iron grill at the top was designed to burn wood which could warn of an invasion although there is no evidence of it actually being used. The newer lighthouse was built in 1806 to warn of the dangers of the rocky coast – many ships have floundered on the rocks over the years. The lighthouse keepers left in 1996 when it became automated. The lighthouse is open to the public during the summer.

A couple of miles walk northwards is North Landing. Before descending to the attractive inlet you can see an area has been devoted to Yorkshire Cancer with messages and a collection box. There are many plaques with various comments, for example: Please drive carefully in Flamborough we have two cemeteries and no hospital; when I want a peerage I shall buy one like any honest man; there’s one good thing about being poor it costs nowt. There are many more to ponder over. North Landing was originally the centre of the Flamborough fishing industry.

The area from Flamborough to Bempton supports England’s largest seabird colony and Britain’s only nesting gannets. A little further along is Thornwick Bay. Many caves can be seen along this stretch and they are a source for tales of smuggling. Until the early twentieth century men used to be lowered down the cliffs along here to collect the eggs of guillemots, kittiwakes and razorbills – a practice known locally as climming. As many as 400 eggs were collected daily and sold locally for food or sent to the West Riding of Yorkshire for use in the leather trade. Remarkably few men were injured even though their only protection was a cap cloth stuffed with straw. The area has been managed by the RSPB since 1971.

The walk continues along Bempton Cliffs which tower up to 420 feet. About 10% of the UKs Kittiwake population live along here. There is a large puffin population which relies on the sand eels. These are plentiful at the moment but global warming could threaten stocks. The puffins fly 25 miles out to Dogger Bank on fishing trips. After Buckton Cliffs a choice needs to be made between walking along the sand (tides need checking and access to the beach is limited). I walked inland via Speeton , Reighton and back on to Hummanby Sands, along Muston Sands then into Filey. The town has an elegant frontage.

In the past well known people such as Charlotte Bronte and Fredrick Delius enjoyed the quiet surroundings of Filey. It was transformed from a fishing village into a planned town in the 19th century. The cliff tops are very well presented and looked after. It was from here in 1779 that locals watched the fierce battle of Filey Bay between the English and the navy led by John Paul Jones fighting for American independence. It resulted in a win for the Americans. There are 5 miles of sandy beaches to enjoy. To the north of the town is The Coble where Coble boats (flat bottomed fishing boats) are launched.

Photos show: Flamborough Head, the modern lighthouse at Flamborough Head, messages near the Yorkshire Cancer site near North Landing and North Landing beach and cliffs.

Sunday, 5 February 2012

Walk 57 Bridlington to Flamborough Head

Walk 57 Bridlington to Flamborough Head (Yorks)

(First leg of English coastal walk – Broadstairs in Kent to Berwick at the border with Scotland).
Map: L/R 101
Distance: about 8 miles
Difficulty: Moderate cliff walking
Terrain: paths and pavements
Access: parking at both ends
Public transport: 510 from the village of Flamborough (a couple of miles extra walking from the Head) return to Bridlington; about every 2 hours Mon-Fri and hourly on Saturdays.

Walk southwards out of Bridlington to the car park near South Sands or, if going by car, start at this point. Looking south there is a good view of Fraisthorpe beach and sands. The cliffs at the back of the beach are typical of this area – they were deposited by melting glaciers at the end of the last ice age 10,000 years ago. Looking to the north, Bridlington, the cliffs and Flamborough Head are clear.

The walk northwards to Bridlington can be partly on the sands or you can drop down to the promenade that passes Hildenthorpe. In 1940 Winston Churchill ordered the building of pill boxes here as Bridlington was deemed to be in the front line of a possible invasion. Look out for any remains. A land train travels along the promenade and in to Bridlington. On a February night in 1643 (near here) Queen Henrietta Maria landed with arms and aid for Charles 1 (her husband) during the English Civil War. Roundhead ships were sent down from the River Tyne to head her off but arrived too late. They shelled the quayside where she was sleeping and she was forced to jump out of her bed and shelter in a ditch (or so the story goes).

At the southern end of the town work has taken place to refurbish Bridlington Spa. It is now a major venue for concerts and many other events. The building and the area around it are very attractive. Further along there is a pleasant walk along the harbour and quayside. In 1871 a great storm suddenly blew up around here catching dozens of mainly coal carrying vessels making their way between Newcastle and London. They tried seeking shelter in Bridlington Bay but sadly 30 ships were lost leading to the drowning of 77 men and 6 lifeboat men. As a result of this tragedy Samuel Plimsoll introduced a new law requiring all merchant vessels to make a mark on their hulls indicating maximum cargo loading levels – The Plimsoll Line.

Like many other resorts Bridlington was made popular by the coming of the railway; here it arrived s in 1842. The town had been largely built by wealthy Yorkshire families who put elegant houses along the seafront (some can be seen on the walk out of the town). They were dismayed when the railway brought hordes of day trippers from the mills and steel making towns of West Yorkshire. I suppose things have changed but I still find access to some beaches around the country cut off by rich private owners who feel they own, what is surely, a public space. These people and the military restrict access at various points around the coast.

On the cliff walk northwards out of the town the path passes by Sewerby cricket ground – there can’t be too many pitches on top of a cliff! Sewerby Hall can be spotted behind the pitch, it sits within 50 acres of garden, was built in 1714 and is now owned by Bridlington Council. It was opened to the public in 1936 by the pioneer aviator Amy Johnson (a resident of Hull). In 1958 her father presented a collection of memorabilia for display in the Hall. A little further along, the path passes the area around Danes Dyke which, evidently, has nothing to do with Danes. It is a 2 mile long ditch of Bronze age origin near the cliffs. The surrounding woodland area became a nature reserve in 2002. Look out for the wooden sculptures which include a traditionally dressed woman looking out to sea.

A few miles further along is South Landing. This part of Yorkshire is known as Little Denmark because the Danes sacked it several times before they settled here in AD 800. It is said that a peculiar accent deriving from the Danes existed here till quite recently. Look out for the memorial stone near the path. It is in honour of the patron saint for fishermen, St Brendan. If you go back into the village of Flamborough look out for the fish weather vane on St Oswald’s church. Buried here is Marmaduke Constable also called ‘The little’, he was a distinguished soldier fighting with Edward V1 in France and at Flodden. An engraving on his grave states that he died when swallowing water with a toad in it and that this ate his heart.

The noise from the thousands of birds on Flamborough Head was amazing. The trip is well worth it for this alone. From this point Lands End and John O’Groats are both 362 miles away. A naval battle was fought off the headland in 1779 during the American War of Independence. The American John Paul Jones (born in Scotland) led 3 ships in an attack on the British convoy. He claimed victory even though his own ship sank and then he escaped to the Netherlands. This area is of special scientific interest because of the geological formations, fossils and wildlife habitats. Great for bird spotters - even a bird ignoramus like me spotted a Canadian Goose waddling along near the path.

First photo Bridlington harbour, second a view of the cliffs near Flamborough.