(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.