(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.